Open Letter From Cornell Undergrad On Their Pro-GMO “Debate” Course
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“My name is Robert, and I am a Cornell University undergraduate student. However, I’m not sure if I want to be one any more. Allow me to explain.”
This is how Cornell undergrad Robert Schooler began his recent open letter on Independent Science News about a GMO “debate” class at Cornell that masqueraded as unbiased, and what Schooler plans to do about it.
“Cornell, as an institution, appears to be complicit in a shocking amount of ecologically destructive, academically unethical, and scientifically deceitful behavior. Perhaps the most potent example is Cornell’s deep ties to industrial GMO agriculture, and the affiliated corporations such as Monsanto,” he said.
He describes his unconventional self, his academic aspirations and what happened when he took some time off Cornell the first time around. He expanded his interest in Science and discovered a whole other world of diverse, natural agricultural studies. He found himself, so to speak. He discovered Cornell Professor Emeritus T. Colin Campbell’s epidemiological research on nutrition and human disease and began a plant-based diet that cured his depression. He participated in agroecological crop production which yielded “incredible results.”
As you might imagine, his ecological-consciousness journey transformed him and when he returned to Cornell, he would find an entirely different world than the one he had just enjoyed. Here he was sitting with all this golden agricultural knowledge, only to find out when he joined the university’s “GMO Debate” course, that it wasn’t exactly a two-sided expansion of wisdom. He has left Cornell again and penned an open letter about what happened…
I came back to Cornell a changed person, with a drastically different perspective. I was in for quite a shock, however: I sat in on a course entitled “The GMO Debate”. I was expecting members of an intellectual community coming together, with proponents and critics of GMO food each giving the best verified evidence they had to support their cause. Given all that I had learned about GMO agriculture, I was excited to participate for the “GMO skeptic” side.
The GMO Debate course, which ran in the fall of 2015, was a blatant display of unscientific propaganda in an academic setting. There were a total of 4 active professors in the course, and several guest speakers. They took turns each session defending industrial agriculture and biotechnology with exactly zero critical examination of GMOs. In spite of the course’s name, there was a complete lack of actual “debate”. Here are some of the more memorable claims I heard that fall semester:
* GMO food is necessary to feed the world
* there is no instance of harm from agricultural GMOs
* glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is safer than coffee and table salt
* if you believe in science, you must believe in GMO technology
* the science of genetic engineering is well understood
* “what off-target effects?” … when asked about the proven biochemical risks of GE technology
* Vitamin A rice is curing children of Vitamin A deficiency (even though the IRRI, the research institute responsible for rolling it out, says it won’t be ready for some years)
* Current pesticides and herbicides don’t pose an ecological or human health risk
* Bt is an organic pesticide, therefore Bt GMO crops are safe and pose no additional risk
* Bt crops work just fine — but we are now engineering insects as a complementary technology — to make the Bt work better
* “Are you scared of GMO insects? Because you shouldn’t be.”
* GMO crops are the most rigorously tested crops in the history of food
* “If [renowned environmentalist] Rachel Carson were alive today, she would be pro-GMO”.
It gets better. During the semester, emails were released following a Freedom of Information Act request, showing that all four of the professors in the class, as well as several guest speakers, the head of Cornell’s pro-GMO group “Alliance for Science”, and the Dean of the College of Arts and Life Sciences were all copied in on emails with Monsanto. This was part of a much larger circle of academics promoting GMO crops on behalf of the biotech industry. Jonathan Latham PhD, virologist and editor of independentsciencenews.org, documented this in an article titled “The Puppetmasters of Academia”. I highly recommend giving it a read, for further context.
Perhaps saddest of all was the inclusion of several visiting African agriculture-academics in the course. They were brought here by the “Cornell Alliance for Science”. This organization was completely funded by a $5.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and appears to espouse only pro-GMO rhetoric. For those of you who are unaware, Bill Gates is a proponent of using agricultural biotechnology in Africa, India, and other developing regions. So in essence, a group of African representatives got indoctrinated into the industrial and GMO agriculture framework, and were sent home to disseminate this information … after all, who could question the expertise of an Ivy League powerhouse such as Cornell?
I then learned of Cornell’s deep historic ties to the biotech industry, which explained what I witnessed in the “GMO Debate” course. Notable examples include the invention of both the controversial bovine growth hormone, and the particle bombardment (“gene gun”)
method of creating GMO crops. Both of these cases are connected to Monsanto.
To say the least, I was completely stunned.
Cornell Student’s Plan to Stem the Tide of GM-Washing
Schooler made note that he wasn’t just going to complain or simply expose a “a pro-GMO, industry-sponsored Cornell,” but that he had devised a solution to this problem – hosting an independent course on the current GMO paradigm in return. His solution is very important as much public belief begins in the university setting – so, something needs to be done to stem the tide of propaganda. People are hungry for this information and they aren’t getting it which is unfair for all that they pay for.
The zero-influence-from-biotech class will start on Wednesday evenings September 7th to November 16 and will be online free to both the Cornell community and the public. (sign me up!). The classes will be published forever at his project: www.GMOWTF.com. Please help sponsor his projects.
Expert speakers will include:
Jonathan Latham PhD will be talking about Roundup and Bt crops. Will be heading an October debate alongside Michael Hansen PhD
Allison Wilson PhD, is a geneticist and editor/science director of the Bioscience Resource Project and will be teaching on how GMOs are actually created, dispelling any industry myths.
Belinda Martineau PhD was among the geneticists that created one of the first GM products – the Flavr Savr Tomato. She wrote First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Foods and will offer context on a historical and personal account of the science, regulation, and commercialization of GE foods.
T. Colin Campbell will offer more context on issues of related topics, i.e., academic freedom and scientific integrity.
Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva have open invitations to speak – on the table forever. Wouldn’t that be exciting?
Schooler describes his goal:
Remember the $5.6 million Bill Gates gave Cornell through his foundation, to push the pro-GMO propaganda? Well, to coincide with our course, we’re launching an initiative to raise the same amount of money or more to sponsor more appropriate forms of agriculture, educational outreach, and activism. Go to gmowtf.com for more information, but in essence, this would finance:
* Continued grassroots educational activism at Cornell, and similar programs in other compromised universities (UC Davis and Berkeley, University of Florida, etc.) across the country.
* A plant-based, NON-GMO independent dining hall for Cornell students. It would source as close to 100% organic and local food as possible. Ideally, it would be cheaper than Cornell’s plan (plant-based eaters won’t subsidize expensive meat and dairy for omnivorous eaters).
* gmowtf.com as a permanent, free, independent, constantly updated resource for GMO science, policy, news, etc. … also the GMO course would remain online
* My dream: a research farm focused on rigorous analysis of agroecological practices. There is an infinitum of fascinatingly effective agroecological techniques that are underrepresented in the scientific community (in favour of faddist, ineffective GMO “technology”).
* Completely paying off student debt for a group of 10-15 undergraduates who are willing to help spread this message to the Cornell community.
He then levels a challenge at Bill Gates:
Bill, feel free to reach out to any of the experts in our course, and don’t be hesitant to update your views on GMO agriculture in light of new understanding. A genuine scientist lives by this principle.
Robert Schooler closes his letter, signing it with love, and says:
We live in somewhat of a scientific dark age. Our universities have become extensions of corporate power, at the cost of our health, livelihoods, and ecology. This has to stop, yesterday. We cannot afford to spread lies to our undergraduate students. Cornell, please reconsider your ways. Until you do, I will be doing everything in my power to counter your industry GMO propaganda efforts with the facts.
For the full, extended text of the letter, please see Independent Science News.
Schooler invites you grow with him at GMOWTF.com, where you can also reach him at contact (at) gmowtf.com. He could use any kind of support! Natural Blaze thanks him for his efforts and activism.
His one-of-a-kind class should be a truly exciting unfolding to witness – will you be attending his class this fall? See you there!
This article (Open Letter From Cornell Undergrad On Their Pro-GMO “Debate” Course) can be republished with attribution to authors and Natural Blaze.com, keeping the bio intact.