Penn & Teller claims organic food is "bullshit", fails to mention that their expert is paid by Monsanto

Penn Jillette and Teller, from the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! TV show, calls in the latest episode organic food for "bullshit" (see video below). Penn and Teller's main point why organic food is "bullshit" is simply because it "might mean you're getting your food from giant corporations or China."

But what Penn and Teller fail to mention is that the so called â"Food Policy Analyst Expert", Alex Avery, is paid by the Hudson Institute. The Hudson Institute is an American conservative, religious and free market think tank. Simply put, they are corporate lobbyists. And the prestigious-sounding Hudson Institute is funded by giant corporations such as Monsanto, the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) food.

You also shouldn't forget that Penn and Teller are members of the Cato Institute, which is another libertarian corporate think tank funded by such fine corporations as ExxonMobil. The Cato Institute is known for spreading and funding anti-scientific climate denialism and misinformation.

But this is not the first time Penn and Teller's "Bullshit!" show receives criticism, and especially not when they cover environmental topics. In season one, aired 2003, Penn and Teller claims that the global warming crisis was created by â"hysterical hippies and environmentalists". Their biased and misinformed global warming episode has since then been criticized and debunked. Logical Science has listed and debunked the claims Penn and Teller made in the episode:

"In Episode 13, season 1 of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! they try to prove the global warming crisis, among other things, was created by the out of control imagination of hysterical hippies and environmentalists. This is why the episode is titled "Environmental Hysteria". We would just like to point out that Penn Jillette is a research fellow of the ExxonMobil and Industry funded CATO institute which has strong minarchist leanings. This gives Penn Jillete a conflict of interest when it comes to any topic that might require government regulation. During the show he puts Tobacco and Oil funded lobbyists against hippie college protesters. Â If a fair match was their intent they should have those lawyers up against any of the scientists on this massive list. Granted the show was officially about "hysteria" and not science itself but that doesn't excuse them for grossly misrepresenting a very strong scientific consensus and providing facts thats are demonstrably false. The following is a quoted, sourced, and time stamped point by point analysis of their show. It will focus on the facts presented by Penn & Teller's "experts""

Another debunked claim by Penn and Teller is that recycling paper would pollute more than making new paper. This is a false claim:

"Recycling also helps prevent pollution. For example, recycling paper instead of making it from new material generates 74 percent less air pollution and uses 50 percent less water."

Simply put: Don't trust a magician!


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Simon Leufstedt
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Guest thinkst

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Actually, the Cato Institute is funded almost entirely by individual donors. The amount of money ExxonMobile contributes is a very tiny fraction, by comparison. This is because Cato specifically does not want anyone to reach your incorrect conclusion that they're being influenced by any particular business or party. You can't just go to sourcewatch and jump to a conclusion -- read the annual reports.

In fact, Cato is probably the only think tank out there that attacks Republicans, Democrats, lobbyists, special interests, and big business (as in corporate welfare -- big oil included).

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Guest meanagreen

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I love that the author criticizes people who are lobbyists. He/She makes you believe that if you are part of a lobby that you are evil Of course there are no "Green" lobbyists. And this website isn't funded by anyone or anything but free love and the "corporate" sponsors. When are the Organic Gurus going to admit that Organic Foods is just another type of big business just like Exxon Mobil. And I really don't like when people take one part of an argument and find fault in it and then exclude all the other parts of the argument. There was more than one expert on the show.

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Guest GreenBlog

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Corporations like ExxonMobile and lobbyists like the American Petroleum Institute funds the Cato Institute. And the Cato Institute funds climate denialism. What more is there to say?

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Guest davidcog

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thinkst:

> ...Cato Institute is funded almost entirely by individual donors. The amount of money ExxonMobile contributes is a very tiny fraction, by comparison.

True - but who are these individuals? ExxonMobil board members, perhaps?

Regardless, Cato's global warming denial agenda is blatant and undeniable. They (like most / all libertarians) are anti-science when it conflicts with their religious / political ideology. Getting climate science from Cato is like getting information on race relations from the KKK.

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Guest davidcog

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> ...Organic Foods is just another type of big business just like Exxon Mobil.

So who is going to benefit from organic farming - apart from individual farmers and the environment that we all need for a healthy life? Which mega-corporation is going to rake in millions of $$$s from organic produce? How does it compare to the profits of Monsanto and Dow Chemicals?

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Guest meanagreen

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David

Come on..you don't really believe that the organic revolution isn't about big business do you?

It may not have started that way...but it sure has ended up that way....

Nothing against people who grow and consume their own...

www.wholefoodsmarket.com

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Guest Jeffsam9

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Even better than recycling; Save money and the Earth and be clean at the same time. All businesses can do this. Get serious and add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms. Available at www.bathroomsprayers.com with these you won't even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! Don't worry, you can still have toilet paper, you can even make it the soft stuff and not feel guilty since you're using so little. It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain. As for water use a drought is always a concern and must be dealt with prudently but please remember that in the big picture the industrial water users always far exceed the water use of household users and in the case of toilet paper manufacture it is huge. The pollution and significant power use from that manufacturing process also contributes to global warming so switching to a hand bidet sprayer and lowering your toilet paper use is very green in multiple ways.

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Guest thinkst

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You're committing the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. You're alleging that because some people give money to Cato, then Cato publishes material to back their position. Do people give you money to publish the content on this blog, or do they give you money and subscribe because they agree with you?

Isn't it possible that those people give money to Cato because they agree with Cato's libertarian position, and that your conspiracy theory is nonsense?

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Guest thinkst

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Cato's climate change publications are primarily from Pat Michaels, a UVA climatologist who publishes a wealth of peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate change; he's a former state climatologist from Virginia (for a very long time) and a member of the IPCC, and very much a scientist. They've also published stuff from Richard Lindzen, an MIT professor of meteorology. He's a scientist, too.

The problem isn't Cato's lack of science. Indeed, Cato's scholars acknowledge that man made climate change is real. The problem is government (and an uninformed public) accepting absurdly worst-case computer models as fact when there is a lot of contradictory evidence, or when opportunity cost isn't considered.

The same thing happened 50-odd years ago when a lot of very smart people convinced the government and the public of some scientific 'facts', and the state took the ball and ran with it. That was the 'science' of eugenics.

Ideas have consequences. There are thousands of scientists who don't think climate change should be a priority of government. The costs of things like cap and trade or reducing green house gas emissions to certain levels will cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars (at least) and *might* curb climate change by a degree or two in a hundred years (no one really knows). What if that fervor (and cost) were used to something proven to actually help people, like fighting off malaria, which kills between one and three million people every year?

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Guest DavidCOG

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Michaels produces only a wealth of distortion and lies: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/06/pat_mic...

Lindzen has no more credibility: http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Lindzen.htm

Yeah, I hear about these "thousands of scientists" a lot - both from global warming deniers and creationists. Never seen any evidence though.

I'll listen to the massively overwhelming scientific consensus and peer reviewed science before paying attention to a libertarian propaganda organisation. In fact, I can't imagine anything that I would listen to libertarian on: http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/libe...

It's absolutely clear what the issue and what we must do to solve it: stop pumping billions of tons of carbon pollution in to the atmosphere every year. And we need to do that *now*. Your Bjorn Lomborg-approved shtick about malaria is not persuasive.

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Guest DavidCOG

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Is that your evidence that "Organic Foods is just another type of big business just like Exxon Mobil."? A small organic grocer?! Are you serious? By that logic anyone that sells anything is evidence of a conspiracy.

No, the only multi-billion corporations involved in this game are the GMO companies - and they have a long and sordid history of doing whatever they can to protect their market and increase their profits. They sue farmers, bribe officials, run false advertising and pollute the environment - all in the name of the mighty dollar and the quest to control our food: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto_Company

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Guest DavidCOG

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P.S. While we're waiting for my first reply to clear moderation (includes links): 'Denier' means more than just denying that global warming is real. It also means those who deny the consequences or the urgency with which we must act. Cato and the lying, astroturfing propagandists it employs are *Deniers*.

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Guest DavidCOG

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Nice try, but Exxon admitted they'd funded deniers and said they would stop.

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Guest meanagreen

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Sorry David you are obviously far more educated than me on the subject. Not sure if you know that Whole Foods that "small organic grocer" did 2 Billion Dollars in sales last year.

I bet they gave all their profits to an Ashram in Portland. I love the people at Whole Foods they've even got the Davids of the world fooled.

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Guest DavidCOG

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As compared to Safeway at $10 billion for one *quarter*. Or Wal-Mart at $400 billion for 2008.

Regardless, there's no *evidence* of any unethical behaviour from anyone apart from Monsanto and the GMO industry.

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Guest meanagreen

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wow...Safeway's been around for 50 years and Wal Mart almost as long....Whole Foods has just started...you'll see them grow to 10 billion a quarter in no time at all...

Your logic is flawed..

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Guest Santtu Luopajärvi

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So, basically, if one sells food that is organically grown, he or she is forbidden to make a big buck out of it?

I don't mind companies racking in big profits, I mind their methods of achieving them. I don't think all big-profit enterprises are corrupt on the outset; I find it entirely believeable that Whole Foods makes money because there's enough people who feel that buying organic foods is better than the alternatives.

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Guest DavidCOG

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Let's remind you of what you said: "...Organic Foods is just another type of big business just like Exxon Mobil."

Your example of 'Organic Foods' is *tiny* in comparison to Exxon - which is a nonsense comparison anyway - they're different industries.

Whole Food Markets is *tiny* in comparison to any of the established names in grocery - so your comparison fails again. You've shown no evidence of corruption from the organic industry, whereas there is mountains of it for the GMO industry as they pollute, litigate and muscle their way around the world. Again you fail to demonstrate what you claim to be true.

It's not *my* logic, reasoning and evidence that is flawed.

P.S. Amongst other things you've failed to work out: there's a 'Reply' button under each comment so that you can respond directly - that way people will know that you've commented to them.

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Guest DavidCOG

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One other thing: if the organic markets are growing, it's because that's what people want. The organic industry is up front and proud. The GMO industry hide themselves, lobbying against food being labelled as GMO. They hide their products through a network of seed companies that have no labelling that tells you they are GMO products.

Why do you think that is?

People do not want GMO.

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Guest DavidCOG

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One other thing: if the organic markets are growing, it's because that's what people want. The organic industry is up front and proud. The GMO industry hide themselves, lobbying against food being labelled as GMO. They hide their products through a network of seed companies that have no labelling that tells you they are GMO products.

Why do you think that is?

People do not want GMO.

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Guest sue_29

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I didn't see as against lobbyist only that their were hidden agendas to the video

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Guest jschultz84

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"Penn and Teller’s main point why organic food is “bullshit†is simply because it “might mean you’re getting your food from giant corporations or China.â€"

Wait. Did you watch the same show I watched? I'm pretty sure they had more main points and I'm also pretty sure that they DID tell us that Alex Avery works for the Hudson Institute.

To me the important point they made was about the fact that if we switch to organic, we won't have enough food to feed the world. Is this important to anybody else?

I'm sorry if the Magicians who are smarter than you hurt your feelings, but instead of providing evidence to support your claim, all you've done is attack their credibility. Be nice and then maybe I'll try your less delicious apples.

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Guest DavidCOG

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> ...if we switch to organic, we won't have enough food to feed the world.

and then:

> ...instead of providing evidence to support your claim...

Spot the hypocrisy?

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Guest jschultz84

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First, I'm writing a comment, not a blog, so I'm not going to provide pages of citations. And second, the support of my claim is in the video being discussed...or maybe you didn't watch it?

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Guest DavidCOG

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> First, I'm writing a comment, not a blog...

So, one rule for others and a different one for you.

> ...I'm not going to provide pages of citations.

Just one would do. A single, credible citation that provides evidence for your claim - "if we switch to organic, we won't have enough food to feed the world."

Just one.

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