“Food Babe” vs. “Science Babe”

lh6dpf6ihthiuqnlqogxThere was an article in Gawker, titled, “The Food Babe is Full of Shit,” written by The Science Babe. It brutally takes down Vani Hari as someone who peddles pseudo-science. The Food Babe responded.

So what to believe? What’s true? They are both right and wrong.

Yvette d’Entremont, aka “Science Babe” says, in reference to Hari’s suggestion that a certain Starbuck’s drink had a ‘toxic’ dose of sugar: “The word ‘toxic’ has a meaning, and that is “having the effect of a poison.” Anything can be poisonous depending on the dose.”

Then there is this quote:

According to Hari, the problem with most of them, including Girl Scout Cookies: GMOs and pesticides. She’s even alleged that an apple can be worse for you than a hot fudge sundae, if it’s not organic.

The basic problem with this whole debate is that it’s about acute (and sometimes carcinogenic) effects of certain chemical additives in food in individual people. Yvette focuses entirely on that aspect of this argument, and, frankly, that is Hari’s focus mostly as well. But the argument is much, much bigger.

First, there is the difference between acute toxicity – something that an amount of sugar in even the most sweet of drinks most certainly does not have, and chronic toxicity. Most scientists who study this stuff agree that excess sugar over time has very deleterious health effects, and is also addictive. And yes, Hari is wrong about the apple. A non-organic, GMO apple is a lot better for you than a hot fudge sundae.

But the real argument, the one we should be having, is about our food system – how food is grown, how large companies control it, how companies add ingredients (mostly sugar) to make processed food tasty and addictive. (As well as look  good and last long.)

Also very important are the ecosystem questions – d’Entremont doesn’t address the massive problems our modern food system (including GMOs.) In fact, although I try my best not to buy non-organic or GMO food if I can help it,  I don’t really worry so much about the effect of those foods food on me. I worry about the effect of those crops on the ecosystem.

I will not defend Vani Hari’s psuedo-science – there is plenty of it. That said, people that question the food system are needed, because the food system is broken, and d’Entremont’s takedown of Hari doesn’t really substantively help the debate.