We’ve noticed a rising tide of online activism against safe food ingredients, especially genetically improved foods (GIFs). You might recall the “Food Babe”—who peddles a, um, creative combination of pseudoscience and “food bimbo” sex appeal—to warn against the evils of microwaves and very seriously cautions that water feels sad when you call it mean names like “Hitler” and “Satan.” So how exactly does an Internet blogger offering advice on the emotional stability of water manage to strong-arm food companies and attack a scientific consensus that GIFs are just as safe as conventional foods?
The unfortunate answer is that “Food Babe” is the face of a much larger activist movement that has dangerously stumbled upon a way to translate kooky conspiratorial online ranting into actual policy change. Reporting on the trend Monday, Politico explained:
In a different era, a stern letter from an angry customer might be answered by a corporate form letter, and that would be the end of it. But now consumers can leverage hundreds of thousands of like-minded people in a short amount of time, and companies are finding that it’s smart business — and politics — to respond quickly and decisively.
Posturing as consumer watchdogs and nutritional experts, alarmists-turned-bloggers like “Food Babe” manipulate language and coin hysterical catchphrases—like “yoga mat bread”—to earn hordes of petition signatures that are only a click away.
Surgical oncologist David Gorski shrewdly observes that the strategy of these cyber food campaigns to “name a bunch of chemicals and count on the chemical illiteracy of the audience to result in fear at hearing their very names.” So we get scares against genetically improved foods, even though there is little to no evidence that GIFs are harmful. It’s time for misinformed quacktivists to step away from the Internet and let science prevail.