What does a woman with a degree in computer science have to say about food additives and nutrition? Enough to fill a blog, meet President Barack Obama, and rub shoulders with many other famous and influential individuals all without having even the most basic credential in nutrition or medicine.
Vani Hari, also known by her blog name “The Food Babe,” earned her bachelor’s degree at UNC Charlotte in 2001 with a degree in computer science. Last time I checked, people generally do not take nutrition advice from computer scientists. Vani Hari is a special computer scientist.
Hari says on her blog, “My typical American diet landed me where that diet typically does, in a hospital.” Why was Hari in the hospital exactly? The Charlotte Observer reported in July 2014 that Hari’s diet induced emergency was… appendicitis? The medical community is fairly consistent when it comes to the causes of appendicitis, and diet is not on the list. Hari, a woman with no nutritional or medical background, embarked on a journey prompted by appendicitis to educate the public about nutrition and health. Hmm. Something smells like McCarthy.
Many in the scientific community and in the blogosphere are now calling Hari the “Jenny McCarthy of food.” Her lame-brained scare tactics and poor research skills have earned her a similar infamy in widening circles to the woman who created the anti-vax movement and contributed to the resurgence of measles, whooping cough, and chicken pox. That’s right—the Food Babe is a scaremonger, too. Hari even calls her flock of uninformed devotees the Food Babe Army, which is equipped to boycott, sign, and scream about whatever nonsense Hari cooks up next.
In response to the madness, another blogger, “The Science Babe,” is investigating the claims of Vani Hari and other pseudoscientific screamers and weighing them against actual scientific evidence. The verdict? Vani Hari is full of … well, it isn’t science. I could go on about all of the ridiculous claims Hari, McCarthy, and others like them have made, but since there are a plethora of places to find this information, I want to direct your attention to the trend, the wider issue.
Let’s think globally for a moment. Like McCarthy’s deleterious effects on the acceptance of vaccines throughout the United States, Hari is creating a virtual firestorm around modern food technology. Lest we forget, GMOs have made it possible to grow large amounts of food quickly and with little risk. As a result, we have more food and cheaper food. When was the last time a famine hit the United States and people starved to death because of a lack of edible food? While I know this opinion might not be a popular one, GMOs have helped make famine (at least in the United States) an archaic concept. To be clear, I am not advocating GMOs are amazing in every situation. I recognize there are potential problems. However, as with vaccines and the advent of Jenny McCarthyism, GMOs have become the newest foe to humanity at large.
This vilification of things we do not understand is a dangerous trend. What’s worse is the tendency of the American public to gullibly believe every loud voice yelling about something scary. Yet, Hari, McCarthy, and others like them continue to sell the lie that the scientific community is untrustworthy at best or a tool in the hands of a powerful conspiratorial elite aimed at keeping the public uninformed and sick at worst. I won’t ask you to take my word for it. Read the research. Educate yourself. Don’t be fooled by every charlatan preaching sickness and imminent doom. Only by educating ourselves and making rational decisions based on scientific evidence and fact can we end the reign of Jenny McCarthyism and the Food Babe Army.