Archive for January, 2015

The GMO debate and the rise of anti-science

Guest post from Dr Geraint Parry.

Over the past few days, the EU passed legislation that changes the ability of member states to grow genetically modified (GM) crops. As with most EU legislative documents this new declaration is not light reading but essentially reports that member states will have more power to decide whether they individually wish to grow GM crops in their territories. This alters the present situation where any GM crop needs EU-wide approval. Currently only a few GM crop varieties are approved including an insect resistance maize/corn called MON810. However many members states including France, Germany and Italy have individually banned MON810 and so it is only grown in warmer climates, the majority of which in Spain.

The new ruling will allow countries to develop crops that are more appropriate for their climates as long as, importantly, all the necessary safety checks are carried out and contingencies are put in place to ensure no unintended spread of these GM plants. In some countries this new ruling will make little difference as there currently is little political will in France or Germany to accept this technology and it will be difficult in countries surrounding these European powerhouses to make a strong case that there will be no spread across land-locked borders. Read the rest of this entry »

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Yes to life Chief Executive responds to criticism

In November 2014, myself and two other Merseyside Skeptics Society members attended a seminar hosted by the charity Yes to Life in Manchester. Yes to Life is an organisation that offers advice to people diagnosed with cancer with a focus on “integrative therapies” – that is, a combination of conventional therapies with alternative therapies including diet, detox and lifestyle modification. Despite the latter being supported by little to no evidence, the talks at the seminar suggested a scientific basis for a number of alternative therapies to an audience of cancer sufferers and their loved ones.

I wrote of my concern about this for the Guardian Science Blog, which elicited an email response from Sue De Cesare, Executive Director of Yes to Life. I reproduce the email in full below Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #139

Charlie Hebdo, ibuprofen, nematode worms and Gerson Therapy. Plus Sonic 2, turkey leftovers, giblets and really bad sound quality. With apologies, on many levels, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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AIDS Denialism – by Myles Power

When:  Thursday, January 15th, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

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In the early days of the AIDS epidemic many bizarre and dangerous ideas were advanced regarding the origin of the disease and its cause. Since the discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) these conspiracy theories, which once filled the void left by the lack of information, have all but vanished. Over the past three decades HIV has been the subject of intense scientific research which has resulted in effective treatments, rapid HIV tests, and promising cures. Yet unbelievably there are a small number of people who are sceptical of the “official story”. Although these people are small in numbers they are extremely well funded and can pose a very real threat to public health. Many have chosen to spend their money on spreading their harmful theories, defend people who have irresponsibly infected their partners, and funded the documentary House of Numbers.

The documentary encourages people to come off their medication, tells them that HIV tests don’t work, and that anti-viral drugs such as AZT are the real cause of AIDS. To do this the makers of the documentary make liberal use of out-of-context quotations from scientists interviewed for the film, deceitful editing techniques, and flat out lies.

YouTube vlogger Myles Power has dedicated a large amount of time to exposing some of the more insidious claims in the documentary. In response there have been multiple Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation claims filed against Myles in an attempt to silence his criticism.

In his talk Myles will discuss some examples of the dangerous assertions in the documentary and explain how they have led to the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people. He will also talk about the failure of the DMCA and how it can be exploited by the proponents of pseudoscience.

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #138

Happy New Year! Featuring milk, muesli, teddy bears and brown sauce.  Plus ebola, MMS, apples and jaundice. Supplementing milk with cow poo, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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