Thursday, July 18, 2013

When McCarthyism Meets Science

Last week I was boycotted because of my scientific opinions.

About 6 weeks ago I was approached by the producers of a radio station in the Bay Area about interviewing me about my book WHAT A PLANT KNOWS. The producers defined their program as "a politically left, investigative, health/science show on the Pacifica station KPFA", I've done many such interviews since my book was published, for a variety of genres, including shows geared for science, current events, kabbala, Christians, and even kids, so I gladly accepted this invitation as well. In no case did the orientation of the station greatly influence the content. The interview was scheduled for July 9th at 11 PM Israel time, 1 PM in California.

Six hours before the scheduled interview I got the following email from my publicist  at FSG/SA books: "So sorry about this, but she has canceled the interview (upon realizing you’re in favor of genetically modified food). I’m so sorry! Now you don’t have to go on air at midnight, at least."

At first I found this amusing, especially as I wasn't even supposed to talk about agriculture and genetic engineering! It was even funny as a stereotype of Northern California.

But upon further consideration, I've realized that this censoring based on scientific opinion is very disturbing with dangerous implications.
Yes, the producers of this private radio show are not obligated to interview me or anyone else. But once having invited me about an issue completely unrelated to genetic engineering, to cancel this invitation based on other opinions, smacks of McCarthysim. Indeed as I did not at all relate to genetically modified food in my book, the producers of this show must have carried out a McCarthy-like background check to uncover my support of genetic engineering in agriculture. Having found a few posts in this blog (e.g. here ), or an interview about the use of GMO technology, decided to ban me (and my book) from their enlightened show.

If my book was interesting enough to warrant an interview with me before this information was revealed, why was it not after they found out that I think the genetic engineering is an essential tool in our arsenal to feed the world?

The answer I must come to is that the producers of this show are no different from other fundamentalists. I am sure the producers would shudder at this comparison, and they would likely be among the first to deride attempts to promote creationism in the public schools, or to silence scientists in the discourse on global warming. But the producers of this show with their anti-GMO agenda are truly no different from those who are anti-evolution or anti-climate change.

Both are based on deeply rooted beliefs. Both delegitimize anyone with an opposing opinion. And most disturbingly for our future, both are anti-science and technology. Both ignore, or dismiss as irrelevant, accumulating experimental scientific evidence that go against their beliefs. Both groups also often use the same types of convoluted thinking that includes argumentum ad ignorantiam.

In a separate blog I'll layout the reasons I happily eat genetically modified foods and feed them to my children. Any I welcome any debate on the matter. I would never boycott anyone who's willing to engage in scientific discourse.