Tuesday, July 11, 2017

X is connected to Y which is connected to Monsanto. Therefore, I am a shill...

Hey everyone,

As some of my readers may know, I'm going to be featured in a movie called "Science Moms". It all started when I joined forces with a group of awesome women to write a letter to Sarah Michelle Gellar because she was against GMOs. Readers of this blog may also know that I'm a super Buffy fan, so SMG's ad about GMO labeling was like a stake through my heart. HAHAHA!!! GET IT?? BECAUSE BUFFY???

The letter was also written to a bunch of other people who were in the ad, but frankly, when I was writing/editing, I was doing it for Buffy/Sarah. Once we had written it, we sent it to some other awesome women who signed onto it and gave suggestions/edits. After that, we started getting requests from a bunch of people who wanted to sign it, so we just left it open so anyone could sign on.

I tagged SMG in a bunch of my tweets about the article. I wonder if she read it? Sigh...

One of the readers of the letter was an awesome woman named Natalie Newell. She thought that our story was pretty unique (I tend to agree :) ). She and her husband decided to make a movie about us, and gave us the name "Science Moms", which is infinitely better than #Moms4GMOs!! She took it upon herself to launch a Kickstarter for funding. It got fully funded and she traveled to our homes to do filming. They're currently working on final editing and it will premiere in October. It stars Kavin Senapathy, Alison Bernstein (Mommy PhD), Anastasia Bodnar, Jenny Splitter, and myself.

Since the movie is funded by normal people, we don't have a PR department or anything. So last week, we snagged a twitter account and have just started using it. We "premiered" the account to promote a letter we published on Medium. Immediately, the shill-cusations started coming in.

It seems that it is not sufficient that the movie was funded independently. It is not sufficient that Natalie is not paid for by the nebulous "big Ag". It is not sufficient that none of us receive funding from Monsanto/Syngenta/Dow Agro/Dupont. One dude seriously wanted to know if the people who chipped in for the Kickstarter worked for biotech.

I'm not sure what they're looking for. So we're going to play 6 degrees of separation to Monsanto. Because in the end, that's all it takes for a shill-cusation. Here we go:

  • As an infant and toddler, my dad worked for Corning. Corning makes labware. Monsanto probably buys labware, possibly from Corning. Therefore, I am a shill.
  • As a child and youth, my dad sold computers. Monsanto uses computers. Therefore, I am a shill.
  • As an undergraduate, I got a full scholarship. I have no idea where the scholarship money came from, but a lot of the buildings on my campus had industry names, so I'm assuming that there were industry donations there, particularly the Labatt brewing company. Monsanto employees in Canada probably drink Labatt's. Therefore, I am a shill.
  • As a graduate student, I received provincial and federal scholarships for all the years of my PhD. That money comes from taxes. Monsanto pays taxes. Therefore, I am a shill. 
  • During my PhD years, my husband worked for McDonald's for a few years, before he got laid off due to restructuring. McDonald's buys food from farmers. Farmers buy seeds, probably from Monsanto. Therefore, I am a shill.
  • Since my PhD ended, I have spent my time working in companies that develop DNA sequencing instruments and assays, and have changed jobs 3x since the inception of this blog. Most of this time has been spent developing assays for targeted analysis of the human genome. Plants have genomes. Monsanto probably sequences DNA from plants. Therefore, I am a shill.
  • In my 401K plan, we have invested in the total stock market (i.e all 4000+ stocks on the market). Monsanto is publicly traded on the stock market. Therefore, I am a shill.
There you have it folks. 

Moral of this tale: if someone wants to find a COI where there's no misbehaviour or misconduct, then they should check their biases. Because odds are that if you look into that person's background, you can also play 6 degrees of separation from Monsanto.


  1. Probably the best way to neutralize a 'label to negate' approach is to label and negate the approach. Give it some sort of acronym or catchphrase (LTN, LAN or something) and hope it catches on.

  2. The shill card. Only played by those that don’t have the facts on their side, are too lazy to look them up, or both. Loved your response.

  3. Great post. When they have nothing, they attempt to disqualify any compelling speech with shill accusations, even in the complete absence of evidence. Frankly, I'm sick of it.

    It is amazing that you can't be pro-science without being accused of some sort of motivation by collusion. It needs to stop, and we're going to have to stop it. Nobody wants to cover it for fear of career retribution.

  4. I'm going to call myself a science mom too. It will make me sound like what I say is scientific.

    1. Except that I'm actually a mom. And I'm actually a scientist. So I'm literally a scientist mom.

  5. Besides being silly and childish, the shill gambit is an ad hominem. Even if someone is being clandestinely paid to say something, that has no bearing on whether it's true.


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