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An open letter to the Food Babe

Greetings Ms. Hari,

We are writing to you as a group of students, scientists-in-training if you will.  Collectively, we study all different aspects of the science of food: food microbiology, food chemistry, functional foods, food processing and variety of other disciplines that make it possible for people to have safe and healthy food. The contents of this letter outline several of the concerns we have taken with your movement, and in the spirit of intelligent debate, we implore you to read this letter in its entirety.  Our passion for the field of food science and the awareness of how food can affect health, among other aspects of human life, are what have motivated us to reach out to you.

Because we believe everyone should be involved in an open discussion on food, we would like to congratulate you on the movement you have been able to cultivate. You have amassed an impressive number of followers in a short time.  We would also like to thank you for highlighting a problem involving the science of food and the food industry, because we believe there is an incredible lack of communication.  Everybody eats, and our food supply is growing to be more diverse and complicated than ever.  Thus, it is important that individuals, like yourself, ask questions about food and how it arrives to our plates.  It is the responsibility of food developers, microbiologists, engineers, nutrition professionals etc.–experts in the field– to answer these questions, and it is unfortunate that until recently these questions were met with relative silence. It is our hope that this situation improves, and you can bet that many of us contributing to this letter will attempt to address this problem in the future.

We read with great interest your recent post in which you responded to those who have openly disagreed with you.  It truly is deplorable that some of your critics choose to rebut in such an inappropriately personal manner. However, because we believe in open discussion on food, we do take issue with your oversimplification of science and how you portray the next generation of students trying to feed a growing population. You have claimed to appreciate the work of food and nutritional scientists, but the language in your posts is insulting and attacks our profession—without really understanding what we do. In a time when sound science is needed more than ever, why do you so openly choose to ignore and vilify it?

As students of food science, we have chosen to train extensively in a field that is under growing pressure to feed a projected world population of 9.6 billion by the year 2050.  There are few other professions that have the sheer capacity to impact literally every human being on this planet.  Feeding this many people will be a challenge that we must solve in a sustainable and healthy manner that is both socially responsible and based on actual scientific consensus. We would like to point out some examples of how your approach is not practical for achieving this goal:

You preach organic and “non-GMO” eating as the only option for healthy living.  This may have worked for you as you transformed your lifestyle, and it may work for others.  There has been no substantial evidence proving organic products provide greater health outcomes than their conventional counterparts, and no credible study has shown that GMO crops, proven to be substantially equivalent to native crops, are deleterious to one’s health. Buying these usually higher-priced food items may be a possibility for you and others, but the majority of consumers do not have the means to purchase these products. These consumers need to know that organic/non-GMO food is not a necessary component of healthy eating, as scientific consensus has gathered thus far. An example of a more realistic, and impactful, message to spread is the importance of eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

There is also something to be said about your reductionist approach to interpreting food labels. Perhaps the most famous example of this was when you concluded that eating Subway’s bread was equivalent to eating yoga mats due to a chemical commonality between the two. To this same end, you point out that the U.S. permits certain additives which other, mainly European, countries have banned. We can just as easily list additives banned in the U.S. that are not banned in other countries- cyclamates (a sweetener) and amaranth dye to name a few. These types of arguments honestly prove nothing, use no science-based evidence, and represent a flawed logic that is misleading to your readers.

We do applaud your more recent efforts to use peer-reviewed literature in some of your posts.  However, we must point out that your interpretation of scientific data is not always justified.  Truly, this is an incredibly difficult skill to master, as correlation is so easily interpreted as causation.  It is always tempting to cite epidemiological studies, work done with cells and animals, or even personal anecdotes as definitive proof.  However, designing a study that accurately represents real-life practices of a diverse population is a difficult task. Therefore, it takes a large body of work to build scientific consensus.  While a degree is not a necessary requirement to interpret and share your opinion on scientific data, it takes a well-trained eye to discern what is fact and what is conjecture being portrayed as fact. Please continue to use these types of peer-reviewed sources, but be critical as you do so.

It is all too tempting for us to use this opportunity to pick apart your investigations individually.  Instead we will take your attacks in stride and use them as motivation to further our scientific prowess and do a better job in communicating good science to the public.  Imagine the impact you could have if you did the same. Instead of being known as a fear monger or sensationalist, you could be someone who institutes real, meaningful, and lasting changes to the food supply.  The battles you have picked thus far do not even begin to tackle the REAL issues challenging the future of food. You don’t need to change your opinions, but you could make more progress in your efforts by understanding and working with, not against, the scientific community and food industry.

 

Sincerely,

Matt Teegarden               John Frelka        Diane Schmitt

Stephanie Diamond        Jacob Farr          Diana Maricruz Pérez-Santos

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96 Comments

  1. As a food scientist myself, I think this open letter to the “Food Babe” is needed. For me it is often frustrating to read her articles. In general I do believe there needs to be a better open dialect between food scientists and consumers. We often get left out of the conversation in the discussion about the use of food ingredients and food safety. As food scientists we should be doing more to educate.

    • I think you mean “open dialogue” Sarah 😉

    • Thank you for your letter. I have left the reply here at the top of this post: http://foodbabe.com/2014/12/06/food-babe-critics/

      • Edie Diaf Reply to Edie

        Too bad you ban anyone who asks you even mild questions or dares to disagree with you. For all your talk about being willing to engage in “honest debate” you run as quickly from it as you can.

        Your response to these people is, as usual, banal and lacks any substance. You continually rely on “But, but Europe!”, provide no studies to back up the claims you’ve made, are wrong again on the supposed pesticide load due to GMO crops, write in all-encompassing generalities, and generally do every single thing that caused these people to write their open letter in the first place. You even manage to squeeze in “toxic” in your reply. Congratulations.

      • Ms. Hari,
        Thank you for your response. What I find unfortunate is that we can’t have more open discussions. The reason I say this is because some of us have been banned from commenting on your posts. I don’t think there’s ever a need for hateful comments. However, banning someone because they state facts contrary to your beliefs isn’t helping the discussion. I am banned because I pointed out that silly putty also contains water. If you don’t believe me, I took a screen shot of my comment before it was removed. Please consider re-opening the dialogues that we tried and continue to try to initiate.

      • Erik James Reply to Erik

        Vani, do you realize that many of the statement you present as facts in this letter are just plain false?

      • My favorite part of the response is the condescending “Dear Future Science Students In Training,” right on the very top. Because her degree in computer science allows her to belittle the fact that these people are active students in fields directly related to the subject at hand.

      • Verna Lang Reply to Verna

        Vani, why do you not have a place for comments on the page directly below where you posted your reply? That would be the best place to enter into a true dialogue, but once again, you have sidestepped discussion. You have made some extraordinary claims without backing them up with even ordinary, let alone extraordinary, evidence. For example, you brought up Europe as an argument against GMOs. It would be better if you pointed out Europe as an example of politicians and activists ignoring and trying to silence the scientific evidence supporting the safety of GMO crops. The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, has the task of evaluating the evidence of the safety of what goes into the bodies of Europeans. You applaud them when they sometimes use extreme caution in regards to food additives and colors, but you ignore the fact that they have examined GMO crops and concluded over and over that they are as safe and nutritious as conventional crops. Do some of that research that you say you are constantly doing. Look up the EFSA files on GMOs!

      • Terry Bursey Reply to Terry

        Ms.Hari,

        I hope you read this comment and I promise in advance that its nature will not be malicious. I feel that you have started a great thing in opening up better communications with food producers and consumers and I have been interested in it for quite some time. I want to congratulate you on that. Where before there was apathetic and carefree consumption, people are now beginning to ask the right questions and companies held responsible. However, it light of how powerful the movement is, I do have a request. I am like you in many ways. I don’t have a degree in food science or anything like that but I have always had a sharp curiosity and try to learn as much as I can about the universe, big or small, as I can. I never really grew out of being a student, just grew out of teachers and institutions. This being said, I am always adament about making sure that the things I learn are credible. I make sure that they not only make sense logically but are peer reviewed or if they’re my own hypothesis or epiphanies that they are rigorously tested and thought about to determine how likely they are in being true. What troubles me about your work is that unlike myself, your claims are often brandished as truth without much evidence or authenticity to back them up and some are well, just plain incorrect. As hard as it is for any human being to admit that they’re wrong, in my experience it is the only way to ever really improve one’s viewpoint and understanding.
        I hope you don’t see this as a personal attack as I’ve noticed you’re oft to do with criticisms but instead see it as an opportunity. Again, I congratulate you for creating your movement and opening up these much needed dialogues, shining a loud light into the darkness of silence…but if that ignorance is to be replaced with incorrect information than it doesn’t propel us forward, but backward instead. I’m not asking you to get a degree in food science (although that would be awesome, I’d like one myself) but I will ask two things of you out of respect for truth: Please think your claims through and make sure there is a clear, scientific consensus on the subject before posting about it. And the hardest thing of all for any human being, please, Ms.Hari, admit you were wrong about many of your claims such as GMO’s being detrimental to health and the like. I know that is hard to do for anyone but being as intelligent as I think you are I’m quite sure you figured out that you were wrong about the subject (and perhaps others) a long time ago and people deserve to know the truth. If you do this for humankind, you will gain the full respect of myself, those like me, as well as the scientific community. I promise you, everyone from Bill Nye to Stephen Hawking will congratulate you and offer you their respect. For that is how science progresses. It progresses when in light of better information, people admit they were wrong.

      • I find it interesting that on your website you have the quote, “When you resort to attacking the messenger and not the message, you have lost the debate.” and yet the first words in your response to these students are “Dear Future Science Students in Training”. It seems as though you are unable to take your own advice. That tells me just about all I need to know about you, but I read on anyway . You seemed to dodge the whole premise of their statement about GMOs not being proven to cause problems by just repeating the typical rhetoric found on your website. I do appreciate the fact that you cleared up what “teratogenic” means, though. Of course they wouldn’t know what that word meant and neither would anyone else who happened to come across this article. The problem is you give no scientific evidence to support these claims, which is the reason these food science students brought it up in the first place.

      • ProfessorMoore Reply to ProfessorMoore

        I am disappointed that after this generous, well thought out letter you would reply with a link to your general rebuttal page and completely pass over all of their points.

        What a sham.

        As for you students who wrote the letter. I applaud you. Your approach was professional and generous. I hope you will continue to help people see the truth and avoid such deception as Vani promotes.

      • I like your high and mighty approach, calling those who would ask a simple question “bullies” and allowing the followers you choose not to ban to wish cancer on me and my children.

        Ms. Hari, actual learning for any amount of time means being wrong sometimes. Suck it up and make yourself better, otherwise, you’ll run out of blind agreement.

      • Wow, delusional much? Your scam won’t last forever. What a shame you choose to focus all your energy on deceiving people to make money. You are truly a horrible person.

  2. I’m an exercise physiologist and budding food science enthusiast as well. This is a field that deserves its due. Letters like this represent a push in the right direction. I hope that Bani Hari reads this and makes an earnest, respectful effort in her reply.

  3. Dhriti Nayyar Reply to Dhriti

    This is such a well-written letter. I couldn’t agree more to each and every line mentioned in this letter.

  4. Dale Greene Reply to Dale

    Thanks for posting this open letter. Keeping with the established tone, I would like to ask commentors to refrain from name calling and insults. If the previous post was a typo, please correct.
    Always welcome open dialogue!

  5. Nicky Castillo Reply to Nicky

    I applaud the authors’ efforts here. Yet as a former Food Babe staff member, I can guarantee that she won’t respond or engage. I often wonder if people think she believes all of her cockamamie information. Answer: she does not. She’s not an idiot, she’s just a liar. She sells these lies to pay the bills and the only manner in which to maintain this web of lies is to protect her airtight bubble of ignorance by never engaging experts. She has been so successful with her lies that her husband even quit his banking job to run the site full time. The point is, it’s all just a facade for a business. In fact, we used to debate with her about how ridiculous some of her claims were, but she would respond in a flippant manner and state that her crazy advice will bring more eyeballs to the site and more money. In the end, I resigned as I was disgusted by the entire business. So that being said, and back to my original point, you’re not going to receive a response.

    • Nicki,
      Thanks for your insight. Although disappointing, I can’t say this is surprising. I do think this letter is as much a directed defense against FB as it is a statement that as students we are open and interested in engaging in this discussion. We seek transparency but we also believe in science and aren’t willing to sacrifice either.

    • Wow. I’m not surprised. Have you considered blogging about your experiences? Like another commenter mentioned, there needs to be accountability. Hold her accountable, publicly.

    • Hi Nicky,

      I am interested to learn more from your experience as a staffer for Ms. Hari. Would you be interested to do an interview? Your anonymity will be protected, assuming that you may be posting under a pseudonym. Feel free to email me at karl@biofortified.org if you are interested.

    • Hi Nicky,

      I know a reporter for a big national publication working on a piece about Ms. Hari. Please contact me via message at fb.com/Ksenapathy if you’d be willing to speak with this reporter.

      Best,

      Kavin

    • There’s something about this post that seems fishy to me. It is very easy to say you worked for someone
      Just wanted to bring that to people’s awareness… That a post like this can paint a picture that isn’t necessarily true

      Just sharing my feelings.

      • Nicky Castillo Reply to Nicky

        Alright. I didn’t expect what I had intended to be a satirical comment to get so many responses as the goal was to elicit a response from Food Babe, not others. Of course, I am not using my real name so how could I have been contacted by attorneys so quickly? I thought that comment would make it clear that I was writing in jest and would not be taken seriously. In any case, I never worked for Food Babe. Again, I just wanted to push her to engage. I’m glad so many people are interested in dialog with Food Babe such that she can embrace science. My actions indicate just how frustrated I am as well about this topic. My apologies for misleading anyone.

  6. Leah McGrath Reply to Leah

    Great well written & thoughtful letter.As a dietitian I agree & thank you .

  7. Wonderful letter. Thank you for promoting science. It is much admired and appreciated.

  8. Melissa Dolan Reply to Melissa

    As a dietetic student, thank you for writing this letter!! All the things I’ve imagined saying to her if I could. The point about her needing to understand that she is not equipped to evaluate research due to a complete lack of a scientific background, etc. I wish there were more regulations about responsibility in dealing with the public and spreading false information. It’s a public health issue and I strongly believe there should be accountability.

  9. Jaideep Sidhu Reply to Jaideep

    A really nicely written letter, absolutely professional, containing facts and not opinions, and hitting the nail right on the head.
    Many thanks, and I do hope that consumers being to understand the perils of baseless fear-mongering.

  10. Dear Authors,

    I’m writing to thank you for a clairvoyant and thoughtful letter. I have been personal friends with Ms. Hari and we have even travelled together with her husband and my wife. After significant friction between us on this exact topic, I feel quite sad that our relationship has fallen apart. Nonetheless, our last correspondence captured exactly the words you used in the final paragraph of this letter. Thus, it struck a chord with me. In particular, I have written to her and shared nearly this identical concept: “do a better job in communicating good science to the public. Imagine the impact you could have…” Those are the authors’ words, not mine, though mine were nearly identical.

    I genuinely believe Ms. Hari is a good woman with good intentions and a heart in the right place. Yet I am so disappointed that our relationship broke because I challenged her to do exactly what you are asking of her in this letter. Consistent with that, I definitely believe she can leverage her success to be a voice of reason where science is embraced and not shunned. I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor.

    Regards,

    Dr. Michael S. McCorquodale

    • Maybe she meant well at first and then fame and money hit.

      Now, despite a fairly weak promise to correct mistakes, she continues to tout the same claptrap about organic this and toxic that without actually researching a single thing for herself even among the freely available literature.

      I’ve personally created over 40 memes debunking her – with the most recent series B/W all now following a common theme but in a recognisable flash-card format that can easily be retweeted.

      If only one or two go viral, it will be the beginning of the end for this quack.

  11. Incredibly well thought-out and well-written. Thank you for this. I’ve watched with dismay as her message continues to grow a larger audience, despite the fear-mongering and inaccuracies. I wonder if she realizes that she influences so many lives negatively– from the people who feel guilt at not being able to afford expensive organic/”designer” food for their children to the employees of the companies she boycotts to the cancer patients who eschew modern medicine for her “natural cures.” It’s scary that people are so gullible. I wish you all the best in your undoubtedly bright futures.

  12. Dear Matt, John, Diane, Stephanie, Jacob, and Diana,

    I read your open letter to Vani Hari. I’m one of the people she refers to in her diatribe, and she calls me the “spokesperson of a hate group” quoted in the NPR article “Is the Food Babe a Fear Monger?”

    Thank you for such a thorough, diplomatic, and tactful message. While I doubt that she will respond, this message corroborates that fact that the vast majority of her critics are not personally attacking her, but are questioning her logic, her messages, and her motives.

    Indeed, GM foods are demonized without evidence-based arguments while organics are touted as something they’re not.

    As a science advocate, writer, outspoken woman, and mom, it shocked and offended me that Ms. Hari conflated criticism against her tactics with misogyny and harassment.

    Keep up the good work, and best wishes with your studies!

    Regards,

    Kavin Senapathy

  13. Kevin Folta Reply to Kevin

    Hi Everybody,

    Thanks for taking the time to address this issue with class and a firm foot in science. I have been critical of Hari for a long time, and applaud your efforts to reach her. I agree 100%. Someone with her megaphone could do a lot of good– if she paid attention to science and reason. Unfortunately, a message of listen to scientists, exercise and eat right doesn’t sell books like appeals to nature and monsanto bashing.

    I don’t expect her to change. In fact you’ll probably join me as a list of people she loathes, a group she knows is composed of paid operatives seeking to spread corporate food poison and a yoga mat in every pot.

    The trick is, how do we make the real science of agriculture and food production as exciting and compelling as her wacky claims? That means innovative communication, clever thoughts, and thoughtful public engagement. Your letter is a great step.

    Best wishes in your research and studies, keep reaching out to those that want to learn.

    Kevin Folta

    • Jonathan Wilson Reply to Jonathan

      Hi Kevin,

      I strongly believe personality and approachability have a lot to do with it. A lot of information that the general public encounter about eating a decent diet is wrapped up in too many big words and unapproachable terminology.

      Credit where credit is due to Vani and her ilk, they are good at getting their message out there and engaging with their target market/fans/army/whatever. They are personable, they make things understandable, and they aren’t scary scientists. Obviously the underlying message and information is shockingly incorrect, and they use fear as a tool as well, but I’m trusting you’re understanding my point.

      I think there we have a perfect opportunity as a group to come together and work something out collectively which could be rather impressive. From what I’ve seen of the membership base of Facebook groups like Science Babe, Chow Babe, BBFB etc, we have a range of people with a broad range of professions all perfectly suited to countering the challenge in an endearing, informative and potentially brilliant way. I’m not talking just sciencey people either. There are dieticians, fitness experts, communications and advertising people and so much more.

      Imagine what we could all achieve if we worked together!

      Some genetically modified food for thought for everyone 🙂

      Jonathan Wilson

      • Jonathon, I agree wholeheartedly! Working together to get the correct message out there, in a way that resonates with consumers, is our best defense. One group you forgot to mention however, are the food producers themselves. We have a powerful story to tell. And groups like Common Ground are doing a fantastic job of telling the food story. Perhaps that would be a place to build from in creating a unified front.

        To the authors of this letter,… my sincere thanks for crafting such a thoughtful, effective response. Whether FB engages or not, you’ve given the rest of us a great tool to share!

    • Your food science is a joke, going in opposite directions every few years. Asserting that GMOs are risk-free and organics are pointless is ridiculous. Humanity has always been able to feed itself without all your new age potions. Food babe advises whole, unrefined foods and wariness of GMOs and unpronounceables. Hardly outlandish.

  14. To the chemist, food is chemistry. To the biologist, food is energy. To the human, food is Sacred. We will never understand food through one lens alone- diet is cultural, not individual. Diet is cultural, not man made. What passes for food in our processed food reality is a chemistry experiment.

    There is plenty of evidence (of the reductionist, mechanistic worldview type) giving myriad health reasons (at the organism/ ecosystem and societal levels) telling us foods grown without -cides are healthier. If you don’t believe food grown without the use of synthetic, persistent toxic chemicals is healthier, what you are saying is that pesticides are perfectly healthy to consume. And that, my friends, is a laughable statement.

    You may not like the Food Babe’s style, and I have always urged advocates for a sane, humane food system to 1) check sources, 2) be diligent and thorough and 3) speak respectfully. The content of much of th Food Babe’s analysis and concerns are not as easy to dismiss as her approach, and plenty of well respected researchers, farmers, thinkers scientists, and front line advocates would take issue with the substance of your letter’s complaints.

    Your discipline would do well to take a holistic world view, see the value and need for traditional foods (and not the chemistry experiments isolating “active” ingredients, fractions and “nutrients” to put in all manner of corn and soy derived crap), and focus our precious resources on better understanding the whole food/ health/ soils connections that will help us feed a growing population locally grown, culturally relevant food!

    • Jodi – re your comment “what you are saying is that pesticides are perfectly healthy to consume.” No one is saying this – stop being silly. No one is recommending eating spoonfuls of pure pesticides, herbicides, etc. What scientists (99% of them) are saying is that judicious use of regulated “cides” at the recommended doses provide great benefit to agricultural production (yield AND quality – preventing natural toxins like ergot) whilst causing NO issues in the food chain. Although just a blog, this link gives some perspective on the lack of toxicologic concerns. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2014/01/organic_vs_conventional_produce_for_kids_you_don_t_need_to_fear_pesticides.html

      • Kevin Folta Reply to Kevin

        Plants make their own -cides. Never discount a chemical because it helps a plant survive and produce. In these days of chemophobia it is convenient and fashionable to forget that we actually know things. Yes, we understand how chemicals work, relevant threshold and safe use. They help farmers farm. These are good things that save loads of labor, fuel and environmental impacts.

        • One of the best known ones – and something we should point out to Vani herself – is solanine. Produced entirely naturally by the common potato – just by leaving it where daylight can get to it. This is the plant’s protection to prevent attack from pests if it gets uncovered by something.

          That’s right – 100% natural and deadly too. Fear not the chemicals, fear those who don’t understand how to harness them!

        • Just as the food babe equates yoga mats with bad, mr folia equates natural origins with good. Food science is basically an oxymoron conducted by bozos.

      • As a person who grew up in the agricultural industry and is currently pursuing a degree in Animal Science (Biotechnology) with a minor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a Minor in Agronomy (planning on pursuing a Ph. D in genetics), I can shed some light on some of your concerns. “-cides” and related chemicals are a great way to help manage pests (bacterial, insects, weeds, etc.). Fertilizer is also a great way to increase yields in crops. While you might be concerned about eating -cide residue, you have to remember that it is only lethal short term or dangerous in the long term once it meets a certain concentration threshold (given as the LD rating). Did you know that dihydrogen monoxide is one of the most abundant toxins in the world? Dihydrogen monoxide (aka water) is lethal in doses of about 6 gallons if I remember correctly. Our bodies are able to deal with varying amounts of most any chemical or radiation as long as it doesn’t exceed a certain concentration over a given time. Looking at research journals, we have one of the safest food supplies in the nation that rarely has any negative effects on us humans. So, in essence, -cides are perfectly safe to consume at very low concentrations (though obviously it is still best to avoid them if possible). Something else I might add: if we didn’t irrigate and use -cides, some crops (such as sorghum) will produce toxins like prussic acid (hydrocyanic acid; aka cyanide acid) as a natural defense while they are in a stressed state. Thus, chemical application can sometimes be beneficial and prevent you from eating high concentrations of more serious toxins.

        • one of the safest food supplies in the world*

          also I might clarify that when I say chemical, I refer to compounds as I think in terms of chemistry; I would consider water, for instance, to be a chemical

          • Dede

            I think water’s LD is only 6 litres actually. I can recall the ‘6’, I live in metric Australia, and recently saw a great poster on a variety of LDs of things that humans love, e.g. coffee. Given the other items were metric, I’m sure water was too. And 6 litres isn’t many gallons! Roughly 1.5 quarts I think.

    • Jodi, could you provide us with a single example of a “well respected scientist” in a relevant field who would take issue with the substance of this letter’s complaint?

    • Edie Diaf Reply to Edie

      “There is plenty of evidence (of the reductionist, mechanistic worldview type) giving myriad health reasons (at the organism/ ecosystem and societal levels) telling us foods grown without -cides are healthier.”

      Are you in the group of wildly misinformed people who believe that organic production does not use and “-cides”, as you term them? The FDA maintains a roster of things approved for organic production. Amazingly, Ms. Hari never seems to point this out when she is posting against conventional ag practices, or demonizing Monsanto or the producers who use things like RoundUp – one might wonder why that is.

      “The content of much of th Food Babe’s analysis and concerns are not as easy to dismiss as her approach, and plenty of well respected researchers, farmers, thinkers scientists, and front line advocates would take issue with the substance of your letter’s complaints. ”

      Which people would those be, exactly? Most people educated in the fields to which Ms. Hari pretends absolutely do not agree with either her methods or her conclusions most of the time. Who, precisely, agrees with her that water molecules are altered in some fashion when microwaved or as they are altered when “Hitler!” or “Stalin!” are yelled at them? Who, precisely, agrees with her that the Evil Airlines are shafting their passengers by not providing 100% oxygen in the cabin (and sometimes “even less than 50%!”)? Who, precisely, does not see the gigantic hypocrisy in which Ms. Hari engages when she fixates on trace amounts of caramel coloring in a Starbucks drink as a potential carcinogen when she readily demonstrates a willingness to consume alcohol, a known carcinogen, in amounts greater than said coloring?

      These are not idle questions, and given her track record on other items – her post about beer, for instance, when she cannot grasp the difference between propylene glycol and propylene glycol alginate – and her obvious ignorance on the way things work on real farms and ranches (the KS Farm Bureau has repeatedly invited her, yet she continues to ignore them), it is clear that you are putting her on a pedestal atop which she does not belong.

      • I find extremely interesting that copper, a heavy metal, is allowed in organic production and nobody says anything about it. I mean, I don’t mind it’s use, it’s the first fungicide invented, but seriously? Heavy metal versus easily degraded chemicals and people get upset? And people demonize GMOs as if the other foods we eat have no DNA whatsoever inside. I simply can’t understand how majority of people side with a person that offers no credible information and just dismiss everything else scientists have worked on. It’s sad…

    • I’m sorry to have to break this to you: most of the pesticides you eat were made by some of the top organic chemists on the planet: http://www.pnas.org/content/87/19/7777.abstract Yep. Plants have been in this game for a very long time.

      And humans have been working with the plants to get us both to the place we are today, also for quite a while. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9431670

      Have a cup of tea and think about this.

    • Lynn A Kuntz Reply to Lynn

      Jodi as you are a marketeer of organics I understand your position, But you seem to forget that “chemists” and food scientists are also people with their own relationships to food. And no doubt some have elevated it to a religion, also. However, we feed our loved ones the very products we work on, because we (with the backing of science) know they are safe. We also have the education to know that natural is not a synonym for safe or even healthy. As Dr. Folta mentioned, plants make pesticides–Perhaps you’ve heard of this “chemical” called pyrethrum? Google “natural toxins (or natural pesticides) in food” and you’ll find more. And realize that calling a scientific fact “laughable” not only borders on the disrespect you seem to find off-putting, it doesn’t bolster confidence in any of your comments. In that, you and Food Babe may have something else in common.

  15. Great and thoughtful post! Hope it’s able to generate some more meaningful, civil dialogue between those concerned about the food system and those working within the food system. Keep it up!

  16. Jenn van der Schee Reply to Jenn

    You six will go far. Your eloquently written article has more substance in it than everything that Vani Hari has written.
    I think that’s part of my issue with her – it’s hard to take someone seriously who writes with a social media voice (click-bait titles and Lots of Exclamation Points!!!) OMG!

    All the best to you, and good luck with your careers.

  17. Neva Cochran Reply to Neva

    Bravo! As a registered dietitian nutritionist I share your frustration with the plethora of non-science based food and nutrition opinion parading as fact on the internet and social media. This makes the job of qualified food and nutrition professionals more difficult than it’s ever been in my 30+ years of practice. We must all be more vocal in our #stand4science.

    Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

  18. Nicely put and very gratifying to see the response.

  19. Well done to the authors of this post – what a great example of measured, well-thought-out science communication. As others have said, I doubt Ms Hari will respond, but in communicating the way you have, you have the potential to reach those who are still making up their minds on this issue.

  20. Keith Schneider Reply to Keith

    Thank you for your letter. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see such a thoughtful, well-crafted letter from future food scientists.

  21. I’m not a food scientist, but I am married to one and the food babe drives her absolutely nuts. If there is one thing I would love to see come out of this debate, it’s a more open dialogue about what’s in our food and why. I don’t believe that food scientists are trying to poison consumers, but until recently that whole community has been very silent. I’d love to see more active engagement to dismiss her misinformation and to give credit when she’s got a decent point. I want to hear from scientists! Maybe I’m in the minority of the general public, but I think it could go a long way to calm everyone down.

    I also feel that the food babe is very short sighted with food. The thought of a population growth to 9+ billion people on the earth scares me a little. I fear that in the year 2050, organic and all-natural foods are going to be a luxury only the truly rich can afford and that GMO foods and pesticides are going to be more important than ever as we struggle to figure out how to feed all of those people (considering that we already struggle with it now). In 2050, the food babe will most likely be a forgotten distraction and food production could be a global crisis.

    • Jeff, for all of human history we’ve managed to feed ourselves. Don’t fall for these self-absorbed bozos that we now need their genetic modifications and carcinogens to survive.

  22. Why am I not surprised that Monsanta is a sponsor of this organization!

  23. Mrs. Morales Reply to Mrs.

    If the food we are eating is good and is healthy, how can you food scientist explain the obesity crisis in US? how con you explain the elevated number of sick people with autoimmune diseases is growing so fast? Can you?
    And, Don’t worry much about feeding millions of people in 2050, most of them are going to be dead before that, thanks to the tons of chemicals/additives/poisons YOU scientists are putting in Americans food.

    • Simple answer re obesity: Eating too much in general, eating too much junk food, not exercising enough, kids not outside playing but inside on Nintendos, etc. Nothing to do with GMO’s, chemicals, pesticides, etc. The solution is simple but requires willpower and good role models.
      Re elevated number of sick people: Much of this is related to obesity (see above). Also due to better diagnostics and the fact that we are living longer (which contradicts your last point).

  24. Mrs. Gough Reply to Mrs.

    That is a good question Mrs. Morales… there are more things to consider than just wondering about the chemicals/additives that are put into the foods and the elevated number of sick people… Have you considered the strides in which medicine has advanced over the years as well, both saving people and being able to directly identify diseases better and how that has affected the numbers? What about the fact that we are less active as a society and the portion sizes have increased at restaurants so now you get 3+ times as much food as you need for a meal? How about the fact that food stamps (at least in Indiana) only provide $26/week… can you eat off that without choosing low cost, high calorie meals (aka junk foods) that tend to be low in nutrients? Many low income families have similar budgets for food. I am more concerned about the addition of sugars/sweeteners and sodiums to much of the prepared and shelf stable food in our grocery stores and the portions found at restaurants.

    I applaud the food scientists & engineers who are trying to develop a safer more affordable food source for all and would like to challenge these young folks find ways to provide a healthy and affordable food source for all.

    • You link the Environmental Working Group…a dubious start.

      Well at least the paper is published in an open source.

      The argument I see in the paper is that Organic food is “more nutritious” in certain areas and less nutritious in others.
      Of course when the EGW gets a hold of the study they announce with a headline as above. Cherry picking the facts from the study they want to emphasize and ignoring the data they don’t like.
      With my brief look at the study I find in fact that conventionally grown foods, especially cereals, are higher in proteins and amino acids, than their organically grown counterpart, therefore to sum up the study I would conclude that conventional agriculture produces more nutritious food.
      Regarding the Cd claims: “Cadmium levels in the soil, principally derived from natural sources, phosphate fertilisers and sewage sludge will naturally impact upon this cadmium uptake. However, this effect is secondary to the type of crop grown and the agricultural practices followed with respect to tillage, Aiming and crop rotation.” from cadmium.org.

      Also, even though they did a meta-analysis on 343 papers it looks like they used only 10 studies to come up with their findings (n=10). Maybe others from the community here will comment further.

  25. Kathleen Hallal Reply to Kathleen

    The American public is sick- and health conditions are rising at a rapid rate. I am grateful for Vani’s work, and for bringing to the attention of the American public the importance of knowing about additives and ingredients. A nutritionist just told me the other day, the best foods are those with only one ingredient; meat, banana, tomato, etc. If I cannot read the ingredients, I am not eating them. Vani is to be commended for pointing out that ingredients used in American products are banned abroad because those ingredients have been scientifically proven to cause harm. For example, the coloring in Kraft’s Mac and Cheese. They could leave that out, and they should, if it harms kids. American companies are hypocrites to sell products with ingredients that they KNOW have been proven to be toxic to children. GMOs are a big pesticide-fest. Coming to your plates soon, not only the glyphosate, fungicides, etc. that they are currently using, but also the added “benefit” of 2,4-D and Dicamba. Great. And you are all defending this??? You should leave your computer and stand in the middle of a GM field in Iowa. Maybe you could experience the spraying first-hand. Really? Seriously? GMOs have led to weed and pest resistance with their Roundup. Now they are adding more toxic products to the fields, which everyone (farmers, scientists, everyone) already knows will lead to more weed resistance. You don’t have to be a scientist to see that that is a bad idea, you just have to have a brain. Continuing to do something that is failing is a bad idea. Published studies prove GM foods have lower yields, higher water content, and lower nutrition. Great hybrids actually do better- with a lot less chemical treatment and chemical fertilizers. But, there’s less money in that for your industry. I can see why you would want to denounce someone like Vani. You like chemicals in your food. We prefer foods without them, thanks! You are not arguing about science, nor are you arguing about feeding the world (the UN says small farming is best for feeding everyone). You are arguing for keeping the massive quantities of pesticides and chemicals in farming and our food. No thanks. I prefer good old hybrids, with no “herbicide baths.”

  26. This letter was immediately discredited in my eyes when they claimed we have to feed a growing world. It is well known Americans throw out nearly half of the food produced. You would think food scientists of all people would know this issue as central to the American food system landscape. I appreciate open dialogue, but if these students are so *smart* you think they would be aware of the growing food waste epidemic in this country.

    • The students said “to feed a growing WORLD” not “to feed America.” The wasted food in the US is irrelevant. If the world population continues to grow at the current rate, we won’t be able to feed everyone.

      The letter written by the students was excellent! Good work!

    • Sorry Robin, but the US is not the only nation in the world that wastes food.

      In the People’s Republic of China, Beijing *alone* wastes 725.84 metric tons of food per day. Shanghai wastes 588.33 metric tons of food per day. Guangzhou wastes 268.79, and Shenzhen wastes 300.26. It’s estimated that China loses 5-10% of its grains to agricultural losses, and loses a further 12.9% to 19.4% in post-harvest activities (storage, distribution). China loses an estimated 25% of its fruit and vegetable harvest in agricultural losses, and a further 25% in storage and distribution.

      http://www.oecd.org/site/agrfcn/food%20losses%20and%20waste%20in%20china_gang%20liu.pdf

      In India it’s been estimated that 40% of food doesn’t even reach the consumer, partly due to inadequate storage, spoilage and predation.

      I suggest that the “statistic” that “Americans throw out nearly half of the food produced” is blatantly false. Not only that, but that food waste in the developed world is dwarfed by the problems of food waste in the developing world.

      One wonders, then, what the real motive in presenting such “facts” truly is. It certainly isn’t to actually address the problem.

  27. Is there a website for food that is similar to SNOPES offering a definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation about food related issues? If not, I would love to see the food science community support one. However, I am sure it would be a huge undertaking. Just a thought.

  28. guys, i love your mail! we need more people like you, who speak up and try to dispel all these fears of GMO.. How are we going to feed us all as we keep multiplying..? and the good old days? ah.. this is when our life expectancy was 40? not so great. we never had it so good as now. i wish more people would realize it. It does not mean we have to stop improving but we should take a moment to give a word of thanks to scientific people such as yourselves.

  29. Self-absorbed much?

  30. I simply cannot believe anyone who asserts that GMOs are risk-free and organic provides no benefit.

  31. What the science/government/dictators of this world don’t get is that we don’t want Monsanto or any other business that poisons people, animals and the planet for profit. We don’t care what all “proof” you scientists demand. WE see it every day in children, our elderly and our land. so get off it with the what proof do you have???? Just take a look out your front door. I’m sure you will find it really quick.

    Barb Daniels

  32. I think you, mates, have only lost your precious time to invite this “expert” to a constructive discussion.
    Just ignore her and WRITE your own.

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