Irrational outbreak

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Why do some of us still reject everything experts tell us about vaccines and genetically modified foods?

There was Dr. Noni MacDonald on the ground in Tajikistan in 2010, in the middle of something that shouldn’t exist in modern times: A polio outbreak.

Hundreds of sick children, many paralyzed, some dead.

These children hadn’t been vaccinated.

MacDonald is dean of medicine at Dalhousie University and a pediatric infectious disease expert active with the World Health Organization.

Tajikistan is a neighbour of Pakistan and Afghanistan, one of only two regions in the world where polio remains endemic (the other is Nigeria). These places sound far off, but as MacDonald says, they’re all only a plane ride from Ottawa.

Skip forward to this month, with the United States facing the biggest series of measles outbreaks since the 1990s.

Lucky it’s just measles, right? Some itching and it’s all over? Hardly.

Written By: Tom Spears
continue to source article at ottawacitizen.com

18 COMMENTS

  1. I wish RDF would stop mocking resistance to GMOs equating it to resistance to vaccines. GMOs have not been tested. Vaccines have. Vaccines don’t escape into the planetary genome, GMOs do. It is easy to recall vaccines. You can’t recall GMOs. GMOs are closely associated with Monsanto, perhaps the worst behaved corporation. GMOs become impossible to avoid even if you have an unusual allergy. You can avoid vaccines if necessary.

    I have a conjecture that the explosion in gluten intolerance is actually intolerance to genetically modified wheat. To my knowledge, this has not been tested.

    Klebsiella planticola is a micro-organism found on the roots of every plant species on
    earth. It helps them absorb nutrients. A company in Oregon decided to genetically modify the organism to produce
    alcohol from plant waste for biofuel, then sell the remaining sludge as fertiliser. By happenstance, Michael
    Holmes, a student needing a project for his PhD thesis, decided to test the new lifeform for toxicity, and
    discovered that it killed any plant it touched by producing twenty times more alcohol on its roots than it could
    withstand. What looked like such a great green idea on paper turned out to be a bioweapon that could have killed
    all plant life on earth.

    Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in
    selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.

    ~ Philip Angell Monsanto’s director of corporate communications.

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      Klebsiella planticola is a micro-organism found on the roots of every plant species on earth. It helps them absorb nutrients. A company in Oregon decided to genetically modify the organism to produce alcohol from plant waste for biofuel, then sell the remaining sludge as fertiliser. By happenstance, Michael Holmes, a student needing a project for his PhD thesis, decided to test the new lifeform for toxicity, and discovered that it killed any plant it touched by producing twenty times more alcohol on its roots than it could withstand. What looked like such a great green idea on paper turned out to be a bioweapon that could have killed all plant life on earth.>

      Absolute rubbish, and another example of somebody citing a “source” without considering whether it’s true. If the poster had bothered to look into this frankly astounding claim , then he/she would have realised how unsupported and ridiculous the claim is and how much more there is to the story (including how Michael Holmes’ scientiic papers don’t actually exist). Really, do you think that a bacterium excreting alcohol would kill off all types of plant life on earth? Did you question how such a bacterium could survive in all soil types, in all environments etc. how could it not kill itself if such large quantities of alcohol (necessary to kill off plant roots) were produced, given it cannot metabolise the alcohol itself, and many other questions? Your posting of this ‘meme’ simply reinforces the anti-vaccine mentality of people basing their decisions on hysterical media articles.

      My stance on GMO – I’ll consider the evidence, and I have concerns about untested material damaging the eco-system, but I’ll base any objections on scientific principles, not hysterical media articles peppered with journalistic license.

  2. Why is it that every time an opponent of GMO starts a rant they drag Monsanto into the conversation as if Monsanto is the sole source of everything GMO and that the first line in Monsanto’s business case refers to a dedication to cause the most possible harm in the largest number of ways?

  3. I agree with Roedy,

    I generally trust what the experts say about vaccines, pure science etc, I do not trust the experts for GM crops, tobacco, the nuclear/energy industry, etc. The common factor is that the latter experts are driven motivated by commercial short term profit and they have a history of exploiting and/or lying to the public.

    Take GM crops, whether it is safe for human consumption is only a minor mater, Humans are not the only species on this planet, The real question what will harm GM crops do to all the other species on the planet? and has that been tested accordingly? Even if GM crops really can help feed the human population without harming any other species, it is only delaying facing the problem of an infinitely expanding human population. And another thing, If Monsanto think GM crops are such a good idea, why don’t they give the technology away?

    Yes, I know you cannot have an infinitely expanding human population on a finite planet, It is ultimately terminated by global war, or even worse, extrication of all complex life forms. Not a good idea.

    • In reply to #3 by old-toy-boy:

      I agree with Roedy,

      I generally trust what the experts say about vaccines, pure science etc, I do not trust the experts for GM crops, tobacco, the nuclear/energy industry, etc. The common factor is that the latter experts are driven motivated by commercial short term profit and they have a history…

      What constantly appears to get conflated in this debate is the unimpeachable integrity of the scientific method with the reputation of profit driven unethical corporations (often enabled by government of which they are the majority shareholders) -vectors of the most craven sleaze this side of organized crime who won’t hesitate to cook the books -falsify or deny facts, anything to maintain if not boost market share.

      That would include, in addition to those you already mentioned, the pharmaceutical/medical/insurance industrial complex, the oil/mining industry, gun makers, the food industry e.g. meat packing, infant formula makers etc.

  4. One thing I can never understand is why science wants to make anything compulsory. Why !!!! We must give everyone a choice. A choice not to be vaccinated and a choice not to eat GM foods. Simple isn’t it ! Only that certain Big companies want it compulsory and it seem to me that RD supports compulsion. It is called Money !

    • In reply to #4 by ikinmoore:

      Big companies want it compulsory and it seem to me that RD supports compulsion. It is called Money !

      You want to read up on what vaccinating only 1/2 the population does for the spread and resilience of infectious diseases, or how the world was before the mandatory vaccinations.

      Oh and BTW, would you really go on a trip in Africa, tropical South America without getting your shots?

    • In reply to #4 by ikinmoore:

      One thing I can never understand is why science wants to make anything compulsory. Why !!!! We must give everyone a choice. A choice not to be vaccinated and a choice not to eat GM foods. Simple isn’t it ! Only that certain Big companies want it compulsory and it seem to me that RD supports compul…

      Vaccination is not a mere lifestyle choice, nor is compulsory vaccination a capitalist plot to get money. The procedure can’t work if you don’t vaccinate as many of the population as possible, or else the disease has a chance of evolving a resistance to it and can spread. Freedom of choice doesn’t trump other people’s safety, especially since freedom of choice is about ensuring people’s safety (for instance, the safety of knowing that they won’t be discriminated against or targeted merely because of their differences). Your right to practice what you want stops the instant it runs a high risk of getting someone else killed.

  5. There are lots of reasons, of course. But right now, probably the biggest and strongest reason is that people in 3rd world countries believe that vaccination programs are actually espionage attempts funded by the U.S. government’s various spy organizations. Some of them think that the science behind the program is fake in an attempt to get them to drop their religion, some of them think the program is actively trying to sterilize or kill them, and some think the vaccination is just an excuse to get spies into the country and the actual vaccine being used is just a placebo.

    Sound crazy? Well, guess what: the U.S. government did more or less that third one in Pakistan while searching for Osama Bin Laden — they sent spies out under the cover of a vaccination program, and although the vaccinations were real they were of the sort which need a follow-up which of course was never provided. So the vaccination did nothing at all but give pain to the locals.

    Yet another example of good, smart policy being undermined by the willingness of the thuggish right-wing warmongers in our governments to turn anything into a tool for their idiot goals. If you really want people to stop being suspicious of government motives and measures, get rid of those people first, and then we’ll talk.

  6. ” Why do some of us still reject everything experts tell us about vaccines and genetically modified foods? “

    My position is clear on both these issues but this is a bit of unfair yoking.

    One at a time bashing is fair here and the two things, vaccines and GMO’s, do not stack up equally in the woo department.

    • In reply to #8 by Neodarwinian:

      ” Why do some of us still reject everything experts tell us about vaccines and genetically modified foods? “

      My position is clear on both these issues but this is a bit of unfair yoking.

      One at a time bashing is fair here and the two things, vaccines and GMO’s, do not stack up equally in the woo d…

      Yes, but GMOs aren’t by themselves dangerous. Genetic engineering is essentially directed mutation, since it involves introducing new genes into an organism’s gene pool, which happens naturally anyway (though on a longer timescale). The problem is when any particular genetic engineering program is done without regard for its effect on consumers and/or the local wildlife and ecosystems, which is why almost all valid criticism of genetic engineering comes down to the greed and carelessness of the companies and consumers using it.

      If vaccinations were so badly managed that they were unhygienic (reusing unsterilized needles, putting in chemicals without testing their safety, etc.), we wouldn’t blame vaccination itself so much as how it’s being conducted by the people entrusted to do it.

      • In reply to #9 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #8 by Neodarwinian:

        ” Why do some of us still reject everything experts tell us about vaccines and genetically modified foods? “

        My position is clear on both these issues but this is a bit of unfair yoking.

        One at a time bashing is fair here and the two things, vaccines and GMO’s, do…

        ” Genetic engineering is essentially directed mutation, “

        Do you know how they used to induce mutation? Rather more Frankenstein-ish than today’s engineering.

  7. “Yes, but GMOs aren’t by themselves dangerous. Genetic engineering is essentially directed mutation, since it involves introducing new genes into an organism’s gene pool, which happens naturally anyway (though on a longer timescale). The problem is when any particular genetic engineering program is done without regard for its effect on consumers and/or the local wildlife and ecosystems, which is why almost all valid criticism of genetic engineering comes down to the greed and carelessness of the companies and consumers using it.”

    In other words: until companies and consumers can be prevented from exhibiting greed and carelessness, you freely admit that GMOs are too dangerous to be permitted. Well, good. We’re in at least 90% agreement. So, I take it you’re going to crusade against greed and carelessness? You’re not? You’re going to continue telling people we should permit GMOs despite the danger which you freely admit exists? Okay, then you’re not a skeptic, you’re a hopeless optimist offering bad advice.

    • In reply to #10 by The Vicar:

      In other words: until companies and consumers can be prevented from exhibiting greed and carelessness, you freely admit that GMOs are too dangerous to be permitted. Well, good. We’re in at least 90% agreement. So, I take it you’re going to crusade against greed and carelessness? You’re not? You’re going to continue telling people we should permit GMOs despite the danger which you freely admit exists? Okay, then you’re not a skeptic, you’re a hopeless optimist offering bad advice.

      Look, I want to focus on where the source of the problem with GMOs actually is in this debate because I think there’s too much misunderstanding over it. To that end, I don’t want either of us substituting argument with moralistic name-calling. I don’t appreciate it, you don’t need to do it, and it ruins your (admittedly worth airing) position because it just makes you look like a bitter jerk.

      If you choose to reply, then that’s great. I won’t mind; it’s good for discussion. Just please don’t be rude about it. We’re not enemies here.

      No. I’m saying the companies are too dangerous to be entrusted with it. Obviously, some risk is involved, but only a subset of GMOs are actually capable of harming people, and that’s because of the chemicals produced and how they interact with the body’s systems, not because the actual process of genetic engineering is harmful. If you understand what genetic engineering actually is, and how genes work, you see there’s no inherent risk in merely doing it. That’s not the same as, say, nuclear industry, which always produces harmful byproducts as a necessary result of the process.

      And while you’re at it, why not point out that pharmaceutical companies suffer from similar problems; a potentially beneficial process gets perverted because of inadequate safety tests and malpractice. Yet, I doubt drug development would get half the flak GM does, nor would anyone fail to realize that the problem lies with regulation in case of harmful side effects rather than with all drugs and any application of them. GMOs, like drugs, are only dangerous if the protocols for separating the good genes from the bad ones are slap-dash. And let’s keep this in perspective: scandals involving pharmaceutical companies are already happening. The sensible call is to do what Ben Goldacre is doing: demanding that companies publish all results and don’t conceal or ignore risky drugs. The non-sensible call would be to boycott drugs altogether, and this lesson can be applied to genetic engineering.

      If you want to campaign to ensure safety protocols are in place for any genetic engineering companies, then that’s great. I won’t stop you. If you want to lie about the actual risks involved or botch the case with bad arguments, however, I won’t help you. The risk of “crying wolf” is too great, and it doesn’t help the case in the long run.

  8. We (humans) have been genetically engineering crops since the advent of the agricultural revolution. (hypothetical) Case in point: I have an orange grove in Florida and one year there was a late late frost that decimated my entire grove —— EXCEPT one tree. So, I took the seeds from the oranges on that one tree and repopulated my fields with those frost resistant seeds. There, I just genetically engineered oranges.

    It reminds me of Ray Comfort’s take on the banana, (standing there like a smug car salesman) all the while, not realizing that the banana he is using as proof of creation is NOT a natural banana but rather a human controlled version of a banana. The “real” banana are just about inedible.

    Now, i know that the argument/discussion that is ongoing about GMO’s is about a “deeper level” of engineering. But, technically the two are not different. It is like all the stem cell opponents who do not understand that we have been doing stem cell therapies for decades in the form of bone marrow transplants. Why does bone marrow help a patient? Because it is full of erythropoeitic cells and the like…. It is a sloppy stem cell treatment (because you get lots of cells in addition to the stem cells….)

    I fucking wonder how many stem cell opponents would deprive their child of a needed bone marrow transplant to save their lives. The answer is somewhere between zero and zero.

    • In reply to #14 by crookedshoes:

      We (humans) have been genetically engineering crops since the advent of the agricultural revolution. (hypothetical) Case in point: I have an orange grove in Florida and one year there was a late late frost that decimated my entire grove —— EXCEPT one tree. So, I took the seeds from the oranges…

      Probably an atavistic human essentialism is the real opposition to GMO’s with Monsanto a convenient ( dare I say deserving ) whipping boy.

      The way they used to blast plants with radiation and chemicals to induce mutation ought to give those that oppose GMO on other than thin grounds, financial for instance, pause and allow them to reflect about ” the good old days ” of plant engineering. “

  9. “Why do some of us still reject everything experts tell us about vaccines and genetically modified foods?”
    This is because the noun, “Expert” can at worst be used as a substitute for a real argument,
    or to a lesser degree can be used as a proxy to a real argument.
    The term is too influential and could make one susceptible to deception.

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