Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai is an impressive figure - at least to environmental activists, and as of this month. Because he has a Dr. title and they think they finally have a "real" scientist against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - plants that have been optimized to use a natural benefit in one plant in another plant.
But that is not the case. Dr. Avyadurai certainly claims he has a smoking gun about GMOs, much like French activist Dr. Gilles-Eric SÃ©ralini did a few years ago. Unfortunately, like Dr. SÃ©ralini, he had to resort to a pay-to-publish journal - and did not include his data.
It won't matter. He has a degree from MIT so the fact that he knows nothing about genetics will be irrelevant to people who want to believe GMOs have formaldehyde in them and will "embalm" the public. As added credibility, he also claims to have invented email, which means he thinks he got hired by DARPA at age 6 and led the ARPANet team for government and academia before he finished first grade.
What does that have to do with food? Well, nothing, much like his article in Agricultural Sciences (never heard of it? Neither had anyone else.)
Regardess, he co-authored a paper which sounds science-y to the Organic Consumers Association and GMO Inside and NRDC and other groups who raise money selling chemophobia - the belief that a natural chemical is not a chemical but a synthetic chemical is bad. If you want to learn more about how chemophobia is marketed by fundraising groups, see the American Council on Science and Health's book Scared to Death, by Jon Entine, the founder of the Genetic Literacy Project.
On Genetic Literacy Project, Kavin Senapathy details the whole messy story, including how numerous scientists, intrigued by his provocative claims, would like to replicate his findings. But it it is not to be, he claims that science can't be trusted to see his evidence.
Avyadurai has been wise enough to delete all of his Tweets promoting people saying he discovered something that actual scientists did not, but these things never really die on the Internet:
Various independent experts have asked him to participate in replicating his claims but he has ignored all of them.
Dr. SÃ©ralini was also so convinced that there was a vast, pro-science conspiracy against him (anti-science groups love to claim everyone in the field is being bought off by Monsanto yet oddly those same groups think much larger Exxon somehow can't buy off climate change researchers) that he refused to show his data, even to the sympathetic European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), so all we are left with are some screenshots and hundreds of refutations by people without an agenda against food science.
Will this latest effort at promoting fear and doubt work? Unlikely. The American Council on Science and Health has been combating this kind of hysteria for 37 years, and much of the time our efforts have been successful, despite being 1% of the size of well-funded groups lined up against us. When science wins in this case, as it often has in the past, look for anti-science groups to find a sympathetic journalist to claim everyone on the side of evidence is corporate-funded ... but not to ask any awkward questions about the dark money feeding those environmental behemoths.