Sunday, January 25, 2015

For ****'s Sake, Cite That Site Right!

So off I went, and sure enough there was a website called “12160: Resisting the New World Order” with an article about soybean workers in Brazil suffering genetic damage as a result of spraying Monsanto herbicides.  Haha, another smoking gun, thought I, and set out to read it.  BUT…

The site said that the original article had appeared in the journal Mutation Research/ Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, but gave no further information.  I first looked up the journal’s impact factor, because Monsanto trolls have been blogging a lot about impact factors.  (An impact factor is an indicator of a journal’s prestige—it’s a figure obtained by dividing the number of articles published in a journal by the number of times those articles have been cited in articles in other journals).  The trolls were saying that anti-GMOers were pushing such “junk science” (another troll meme) that they could only get published in journals with low impact factors, i.e. junk journals.  So I was relieved to find that this journal had a five-year average of 2.814—not Nature by far, but at least better than the 0.something IFs that anti-GMOers usually publish in.

The trouble was, when I looked for the paper, it wasn’t there.  I wasted a half-hour on Google Scholar and on the Mutation Research website trying to find it, and so far as I have been able to find out, no such paper exists. What does exist is a book chapter that has the exact same subject matter.  How 12160 got this so wrong remains a mystery.

Why is all this anything more than a petulant rant over something so trivial that only some irascible old fart besotted with his own self-importance could give a **** about it?  I’ll tell you.

The whole strategy of Monsanto-lovers is based on framing the GMO issue as one of clear-headed defenders of Reason, Progress and Science battling manfully against hordes of clueless, overemotional, sloppy, ignorant, propeller-capped dingbats.    Trouble is, this picture, largely uncontested in our own literature, is one that strongly appeals to the vast majority of the uncommitted.  Almost everyone would rather be on the side of Reason, Progress and Science than on the side of looney-tunes losers.  So we have to convince them of the truth: that the pro-GMOers are the ones who are flying in the face of Reason, that their distorted notion of Progress will prove disastrous for our species, and that their “Science” is in fact twenty to fifty years out of date.

In order to do that, we have to look like we know what we’re doing, especially when it comes to the science.  All too often both in blogs and news reports you see things like “A recent article claims…” X, Y or Z.  Sometimes it’s correct, sometimes not.  Sometimes what’s claimed is true, sometimes it’s false.  How can anyone know?  How can you check?  So, how can anyone take such reports seriously?

So what I suggest is, every article cited in everything we write should be properly referenced.  It’s the easiest thing in the world.  Just go to Google Scholar, click on the “advanced search” button, put the article title in the “exact phrase” box and alter the setting “anywhere in the article” to “in the title of the article”.  Then when the article you want pops up, click on the “cite” button under it and you get the citation in three different formats (MLA, APA and Chicago).  Choose any one and cut and paste it into your own piece (put it at the end if you feel that in-text citations are too intrusive).
This procedure is fine so long as the article appeared in a journal.   If, as here, it’s a book chapter, you’re out of luck.  For some reason known only to its makers, for book chapters Scholar lists only book title and date—no publisher.   In this case I got only:
Benedetti, D., Da Silva, F. R., Kvitko, K., Fernandes, S. P., & da Silva, J. (2014). Genotoxicity Induced by Ocupational Exposure to Pesticides.

To get the full reference you have to click on the article title, which in this case gave me: Agricultural and Biological Sciences » "Pesticides - Toxic Aspects", book edited by Marcelo L. Larramendy and Sonia Soloneski, ISBN 978-953-51-1217-4.
Seems like an interesting book.  And it's free access.  I’ll look into it.

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