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 jschultz84

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How about we just use logic. Today people are starving in parts of the world. This would tell us that we already don't have enough food to feed the world in combination with the food supply being poorly distributed. Many genetically engineered plants provide a higher yield and thus, more food. These foods are also sometimes made to have longer shelf lives, which allows us to distribute them over wider spread areas if necessary. They can be altered to grow in environments where they wouldn't normally grow.

Now as for you personally wanting to eat organic, I really don't care. I want people to eat whatever the choose to eat and if your local area doesn't provide enough organic foods for your personal needs then feel free to work to change that, you won't hear a single complaint from me. All I ask is that you stop caring more about WHAT I eat more than IF I eat.

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Guest DavidCOG

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Ah yes - 'common sense logic' in place of evidence and science. No, thanks.

> Many genetically engineered plants provide a higher yield...

Evidence? Monsanto sales literature does not count. Try this:

"The use of genetically engineered corn and soybeans in the United States for more than a decade has had little impact on crop yields despite claims that they could ease looming food shortages" - http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/AL...

You've been fooled by the GM propaganda - or you're trying to sell it.

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Guest Santtu Luopajärvi

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I know "I read about this somewhere" isn't the most powerful of arguments, but as I understand it, GM soy, wheat, corn and whatnot are basically grown on license from Monsanto and their colleagues. I recall that this means that farmers have to buy their seeding crops from the company, and are forbidden to save any to use "for free". My memories of the details are hazy, but the whole operation had the latest private sector policy "you don't own it, you're just renting it" all over it.

And who wouldn't love a constant, uninterrupted, 100% guaranteed cash flow? If you own the patent and therefore the right to license GE crops, and you manage to get your crop all over the place... Loads of cash. Feeding the world is a side effect, and developing countries would probably be *far* better off for not having to deal with license fees for their food (or, as it often tends to be the case, for their export crops).

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Guest DavidCOG

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Good points.

I'm too busy with global warming deniers to really get stuck in to this GMO issue, but the little digging that I've done has produced a *lot* of dirt. E.g. http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=monsanto+sues+... This is a corporation that will do anything to increase profits.

Also, the environmental impact of GMO is very bad. There seems to be no benefits to GMO - other than massive profits to a few chemical corporations.

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Guest HankTheCat

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This "rebutal" of Penn and Teller has no supporting evidence. The only arguments it uses are full of ad-hominem attacks. Using that logic I could say the author can't be trusted because he is a filthy hippie. But wait, he probably is....

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I love how the hippies get all up in arms when they are ridiculed.

End of the day, your "advantages" of organic over GM where pissed all over in this episode. get over yourselves. you are morons.

and the MORON who said that GM arent higher yield just lost all credibility by saying that. do you even KNOW the POINT in GM?? dumbass. i dont care what you do with your money, but i do care that you may reproduce and have kids as stupid as you.

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Guest Santtu Luopajärvi

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The POINT in GM is probably to get gengineering firms money. Obviously the product has to have some advantages (such as better resistance to chemicals that would basically kill your regular, unaltered plant), otherwise you wouldn't be able to sell it.

But I have seen little evidence of markedly increased crop yields that are attributable to GM. This, in itself, is not a problem. The problem is that GM has been marketed as the Holy Grail of food production, plus the side effect of GM companies owning the patents to their products (again, not a problem, unless they end up controlling the market where commercial-level farming becomes impossible).

As a side note, what I find very suspicious is that there are lobbyists (in EU, for example), who want any markings of GM taken off from the food packaging. As a consumer, I would like to choose how exactly my food was grown and produced...

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Guest GreenBlog

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Comments with profanity, personal attacks or objectionable material will be edited or deleted. Feel free to refute someone's points or offer counter arguments, but please do not engage in name calling. If you don't want your posts to be deleted then please participate in the discussions in a friendly and constructive way.

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As a big James Randi fan, I've traditionally been rather supportive of Penn&Teller personally and enjoy their acts, but the way they try to debunk what they perceive to be threats to their idealistic view of libertarianism is really getting on my nerve nowadays.

Of course, there are still many things to be discovered regarding the use of GM and other various methods of improving the way we feed ourselves, and it might as well be in the future we'll need to make a value judgment regarding these issues, carefully weighing pros and cons. Not everybody or every nation will come to the same conclusion about this, yet by belittling those on the other side with legitimate scientific evidence, Penn&Teller really hurt their credibility and rob their considerable number of followers a chance to think over such complicated problem.

In any case, it's kinda ironic that Penn&Teller would be the first in line to laugh at creationism/intelligent-design fringe scientists like Michael Behe and like-minded think-tanks like Discovery institute, yet they use the same tactic to discredit topics like environmentalism because they feel it's a threat against their ideology.

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Those deniers have been denying that "the world will end in 10 years unless we act IMMEDIATELY".....for about 30+ years or so?

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Guest Simon Leufstedt

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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."

If you are a member of a lobbyist group that spreads lies, misinformation and climate denialism then YES I do believe I have the right to criticize he or she.

"And this website isn't funded by anyone or anything but free love and the "corporate" sponsors."

Green Blog is funded from my personal pocket as well as from the ads displayed on this website.

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I would suggest that you watch episode 111 before you judge them. From about 11 minutes onwards it is pretty obvious that they are pro-science, and compassionate people. On the other hand, Environmentalists that support organic foods are anti-government, willing to have 2 billion people die, and completely uninformed.

FACT the FDA regulates all food produced.

FACT a noble prize was give to Norman Borlaug for apparently saving a billion lives with his GE crops.

FACT organic foods are produced by corporate farms because they have larger margins than traditional farming.

FACT its selfish to eat organic as its a waste of land

FACT technological advancements should be utilized to save lives through the larger crop yields.

FACT according to Terri Lomax the professor of botany at Oregon State University GE crops are tested more extensively than any other crops

Question: why do green supporters push sciences in all sectors except farming? Why do we want to go back to a time of massive crop failure? Why is it assumed organic foods are pesticide free or herbicide free

If you care to deny the fact GE crops produce better yields look at what Norman Borlaug accomplished in his lifetime on his wikipedia page.

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Guest Poppa Big Poppa

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Are you just angry because you have a tiny weeny? Or maybe a stick is lodged in your ass?

Another guestion, because I'd rather find out more about yourself than what you believe in, considering you can learn a whole lot more, have you ever seen a vagina? Do find yourself better than others, because you eat organic food, or because you chose to "help the environment"?

Maybe, just maybe, all those websites you shown your evidence from is organic food industry propaganda?

You want my opinion? Or evidence? I won't waste my time, but I will leave you with this:

Go fuck yourself, you pompous ass.

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It is interesting just how keen people are on questioning and attacking more environmental ways of producing food. But what is it? Are you afraid of having to pay for your food what it actually costs, instead of the current, on-loan-from-nature price?

Selfish to eat organic because it's a waste of land. Right. And have you ever heard of the little fact that the current, modern, nice, efficient and just dandy farming methods tend to make the soil poorer, so that the available arable land around the world gets less and less every year? Yeah, in industrialized nations we sure get record crops, but not because GM companies have managed to increase crop yields (googling "gm crop yields" results in a bunch of links claiming that GM has all kinds of problems, including producing more food). Why we get loads of grain and soy and all? Farming methods. And fertilizers. Especially artificial fertilizers. The annoying thing is that oil has thus far been a pretty important part of producing artificial fertilizers (they give the greatest boost to our crops), and oil is what I'd call a non-renewable resource.

The only real difference between organic, regular and GM farming is that organic tries to keep the land useable without the need of articial fertilizing, and in respect to GM, tries not to introduce unexpected and possibly harmful elements to nature (one of the problems is that the effects of GM on regular plant life are not very well researched or understood). Regular farming without GM crops tends to rely on them, and why? Because then you can plant on the same field every year, and while fertilizers help, they do not replace the soil's nutrients, but when you put in enough of that stuff, the soil can get as poor as it likes because it's the chemicals that are feeding the plants. And when you run out of it, the land is left unusable for a long, long time.

Now, GM crops might help in this a lot. But so far they don't. Does this mean that researching GM should end? Of course not. What it does mean is that it is slightly odd to defend a product that is in effect in beta stage, and which has not kept those promises we've been told to keep.

What Borlaug did was to develop a high-yield grain by cross-breeding, and giving it away. What Monsanto & Co. are doing is developing high-yield soy, which doesn't apparently work very well, plus the stuff is basically the company's private property. Wouldn't want to get tangled with that mess.

Yours,

Your Friendly Environmentalist Propaganda Office.

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Guest DavidCOG

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Excellent points. "On-loan-from-nature prices" is particularly on target.

Also, as you say, soil depletion is a massive issue - http://www.tjclark.com.au/colloidal-minerals-li... - once the oil runs out and we don't have tons of chemical fertiliser to dump on the fields, crop yield is going to plummet.

The other non-scientific indicator that organic = good and GMO = bad is the type of people on either side of the argument. The pro-GMO are very often ranting and abusive with no substantive arguments. They simply hate people who are against a product that might improve their country's GDP or take away their 49 cents burgers.

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Guest GreenBlog

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Your comment was deleted. Why? Because comments with profanity, personal attacks or objectionable material will be edited or deleted. Feel free to refute someone's points or offer counter arguments, but please do not engage in name calling. If you don't want your posts to be deleted then please participate in the discussions in a friendly and constructive way.

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How can you possibly argue that GE is not good after looking at the benefits brought about by it by Norman Borlaug - in developing countries mind you. All that has become clear through your responses is that you are anti Monsanto & Co. Alright, I can get behind hating a company for one reason or another but hating a means of producing more food is ridiculous.

You claim that GE crops do not produce more efficent yeilds. Well in 2005 Norman Borlaug begged to differ, and, to be honest, I perfer to trust the internationally recognized scientist over you.

http://openvideo.dailymotion.com/video/x9kqel_b...

I know you probably wont watch this but figured I would post it anyways.

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Guest DavidCOG

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Excellent points. "On-loan-from-nature prices" is particularly on target.

Also, as you say, soil depletion is a massive issue - http://www.tjclark.com.au/colloidal-minerals-li... - once the oil runs out and we don't have tons of chemical fertiliser to dump on the fields, crop yield is going to plummet.

The other non-scientific indicator that organic = good and GMO = bad is the type of people on either side of the argument. The pro-GMO are very often ranting and abusive with no substantive arguments. They simply hate people who are against a product that might improve their country's GDP or take away their 49 cents burgers.

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Guest GreenBlog

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Your comment was deleted. Why? Because comments with profanity, personal attacks or objectionable material will be edited or deleted. Feel free to refute someone's points or offer counter arguments, but please do not engage in name calling. If you don't want your posts to be deleted then please participate in the discussions in a friendly and constructive way.

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How can you possibly argue that GE is not good after looking at the benefits brought about by it by Norman Borlaug - in developing countries mind you. All that has become clear through your responses is that you are anti Monsanto & Co. Alright, I can get behind hating a company for one reason or another but hating a means of producing more food is ridiculous.

You claim that GE crops do not produce more efficent yeilds. Well in 2005 Norman Borlaug begged to differ, and, to be honest, I perfer to trust the internationally recognized scientist over you.

http://openvideo.dailymotion.com/video/x9kqel_b...

I know you probably wont watch this but figured I would post it anyways.

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Guest website design

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I will say that, re: global warming, I recall Penn saying something recently to the effect that his opinion on global warming is that he's not sure. To me, that is a sign of intellectual honesty.

In the end, nutritionally speaking, I'd take locally grown stuff over organics from who knows how far away. But that's just me.

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Guest wrerwere

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all you guys are paranoid and uninformed looneys just beuacse extra stuff is added into the non organic food does not make it bad you just hear oh no pesticides and oh no genticly modified and freak

fuck you

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Guest Who Cares?

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Who cares who funds whom? At least they are backing it up with some numbers. The only scientists who will work for free are kids in high school who have homework to do.

Fact: Big corporations are in on organic farms

Fact: China supplies the US with organic food. I'm not touching that.

Why is it such a big deal that a guy who is paid through a corporate organization (oh noes1!!1!) is saying it? Would you be more comfortable if some 14 year old was presenting it in a school fair?

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