Science vs Garlic

A local garlic farmer by the name of Lenny Levine has staved off the planned erection of an Eastlink radio tower, out of fears that its proximity to his garlic farm could cause issues with his crop. His evidence for this assertion? Well, he believes strongly that RF waves are a form of pollution.

Levine believes that microwave tower radiation is a pollution and she does not want to grow crops in those conditions. Saying that, “I think over a period of time it will change the DNA of the garlic because it shakes up the molecules.” He added that he moved in the rural town because he dreads pollution in the city.

He goes on to say:

“I view it with dread, fear and panic,” he said. “I don’t want to grow food under those conditions.”

Yeah, that’s right, Levine has a “gut feeling”, and that’s about all. This is tantamount to me having a strong belief that people should pay me tons of money on a daily basis, and expecting it to happen earnestly. Eastlink has obtained proper permissions, the landowners surrounding that area have signed onto the petition, and it would benefit all local internet / wifi users and help catapult the more rural areas near here into the present digital age. Yet, the Kings County council decided against this particular tower, the Chronicle Herald reporting the vote passing 8-1 against, siding with the farmer despite a dearth of evidence. The Chronicle Herald avoids mentioning what the CBC has noted though:

Kings County Warden Fred Whalen said he expects council’s decision will be overturned because the radiation from the internet tower is 60,000 times lower than the government’s accepted limits for organic farms.

The ultimate decision is in the hands of the government, and they regulate how much radiation is acceptable for a farm to be considered organic. It’s very likely the local council’s decision will be overturned as a result, and frankly, I couldn’t be happier.

Interestingly, according to the FCC (yes, I realize this is a US body, but it’s relevant):

At relatively low levels of exposure to RF radiation, i.e., levels lower than those that would produce significant heating; the evidence for production of harmful biological effects is ambiguous and unproven. Such effects, if they exist, have been referred to as “non-thermal” effects. A number of reports have appeared in the scientific literature describing the observation of a range of biological effects resulting from exposure to low-levels of RF energy. However, in most cases, further experimental research has been unable to reproduce these effects.

So there’s no scientific basis for any concern about mutant garlic. I wouldn’t be surprised if the radiation from the sun or from the cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang (the same stuff that produces the snow on your TV when it’s out of tune with a proper channel) was more of a threat. Ultimately, this is an exercise in conservatism due to fear of change. Such exercises sadden me, as I’m almost certain they will ultimately be our species’ downfall.

Science vs Garlic
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16 thoughts on “Science vs Garlic

  1. 1

    We in North America have a rather poor infrastructure when it comes to the Internet. It’s not nearly as bad as most areas, but it’s not nearly as good as many other areas.

    The members of the Kings County council probably know Lenny, and sided with him for more personal reasons. They are probably all quite aware that it is likely to be overturned at a higher level, preserving their friendship, and leaving them off the hook.

    Still, the rest of the community, those who stand to benefit from the communications improvements, should take the council members to task for allowing friendship and/or gut feelings to override scientific evidence.

  2. 2

    One objection raised is apparently that they could theoretically run “a mere” 2km of cabling to service that area by fibre rather than wifi. There seems to be a misunderstanding that it could be done the same way as telephone wires. My understanding is that it’s a cable-burying job, and that 2km of buried cable is anything but a small task.

    I’m trying to find out when any such council meetings are coming up, and I have every intention of forearming myself with as much science as I have access to, not because I particularly like Eastlink (they’re yet another big telecom company that cares little about the consumer-class, though they’re at least not capping download/uploads like Rogers has been lately), but because I owe a debt of gratitude to science itself for how it has improved all our lives.

  3. dv

    foolish ignorant comments by blogger

    too many like him, unless they reform, are the real source of species downfall

    why not start with JH Heller et al, 1959, on garlic root tip chromosomal abnormalities after microwave exposure
    way below thermal induction levels that drive the idiot standards in force (as in forced upon us) in canada today

  4. dv

    what are you j? je m’appèle Daryl Vernon, voilà plus anonyme

    you pull one out of a hat like that about hamsters and can’t distinguish ’59 from ’79 and ay ay you like to toss around that grossly misused quasi-religious word, ‘science’

    tell me, how do you bring yourself to swallow your food every morning when you have no “scientific” account for its efficacy

    spend some time reading and wake up, if you have a flair for public controversy, use it well and aim in the right direction

    try Brodeur & Marino & Becker for “classic” source material, to lead you to early studies galore, better still look at Firstenberg’s assemblage of bioeffect studies ALL coming in way below blockhead standards — actually not blockhead at all, just for 50 some years deliberately setting at too high levels for purported legal self-protective purposes, you know, tell the truth openly and you’re liable, or, Heaven forfend, the public might panic, better they get all lobotomized, which fits in well with the age’s insanity

  5. 6

    You mean this one, dv? I doubt it, since it’s from 1979, and suggests that the abberations come from extremely high frequency fields, much higher than the ones in use in commercial cell phone towers… and you are aware of the body of work that’s come from the past 51 years of science, right?

    Foolish ignorant comments by anonymous commenter. Too many like him, unless they reform, are the real source of species downfall via the spread of fear, uncertainty and doubt in the face of well-founded science that proves exactly the opposite of their points.

  6. 7

    Well, if you really want to go to classic sources:

    Pedanius Dioscorides was an accomplished botanist, and his five-volume work, Περί ὕλης ἰατρικής (Regarding Medical Matters or De Materia Medica in Latin) should provide the information we require to determine whether or not the electromagnetic radiation measured at ground level would affect the garlic in any detectable manner. The book in question was in widespread use from the time of the author’s life (ca. 40–90) until about 1600. Surely over 1500 years of widespread use by learned men gives the work superior veracity over other, more modern works.

    I contend that your studies by Brodeur & Marino & Becker mean almost nothing when compared to such classic works.

  7. dv

    and what am i doing on this webpage? stumbled across it while looking for Levine garlic references, and find you two stumbling around…what are jt’s links for? i don’t know where to start trying to point you in that right direction, a hint of serious rationality is prerequisite, learn up & get serious, if you think the spectrum of low or no atmospheric opacity can be toyed with as youngish boys would incline to do and then foist that as public policy…even Schwann the grandfather of your Health (read, Death) Canada’s Safety (read, Danger) Code 6 admitted way back about uncertainties, grave ones which abide…if you “love debating” minus honestly rational tendency, have fun without me…you’d enjoy Lorne Trottier emfandhealth i think it’s called (can’t bring myself to dignify it by providing the actual link, but you’d find a home there, as long as you go on as you do so far, why deny a boy his fun)

  8. dv

    troll? you’re out to lunch, i just saw what i saw and can trot out something of a rebuttal quickly so i did, i’ve no interest other than to turn more heads the right way on this grave matter, i’ve dealt with guys such as you describe yourself before, it’s easy, can be fun, can actually be worthwhile even with long odds…i certainly searched you out not at all! i was truly looking for news references to Levine, found a bunch, had no idea yours was an unfavourable comment, maybe it had its own useful link or two, and here we are, and, you know, it’s always something of an exercise to randomly debate a bit, who knows how it’ll go

    my bringing those “classical” names was to maybe help orient yourselves, a bit of history to how the wool is being pulled over your eyes from way back, way back; read the Bioinitiative report if you want more recent damning stuff, there’s reference prob. to 1000s of studies, how would you dare impugn the scholarship of so many eminent in their fields, just how? there is the culture of it all, the corruption of course, there are political and clandestine underpinnings to the reigning madness, i can refer you copiously, if you will be honestly rational, and my language might seem disjointed to you for typing on the fly as your emails come in, how much time am i supposed to give?

    banned from trottier’s site? i had an email exchange with him where he proved he’s out to lunch, dangerously more than you because he’s got some status at mcgill or something, he tosses me out a german study which he must have not even read, which i took apart, and he waves bye, bye, i’m mr science — gevalt

    how am I making the positive claim??!! cell towers proliferate all around, and that’s not what’s “positive”? brain tumours on target to attain 10% of world pop per those who are counting– and that’s just brain tumours — and i am alarmist? check out what braver neurosurgeons are saying these days, maybe Teo in Australia

    what’s the safe standard for cell telephony & associated wireless? Olle Johansson said it best: 0 V/m

    je composerais en français mais c’est pas mal plus rapide pour moi en langue maternelle

  9. 10

    We are well versed in people like yourself — who pick a pet cause and search Google for people that believe otherwise, then troll their forums with your barely legible English. I mean, I understand French, dude. It wouldn’t be fair to the rest of my readers, but you could try posting in French first then translating for the other readers. I really honestly understand only about half of what you’re saying right now, but the half I do get, is alarmist claptrap unbacked by any evidence short of science done practically at the dawn of the wireless age which has since been superceded by better, more thorough studies that still lack any sort of evidence of what you’re asserting.

    You’re the one making the positive claim. You source the damn studies yourself.

    And you’re right — EMF & Health does indeed seem to be a relatively resource-filled website. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I assume this is someplace you got banned for being an anti-science troll recently?

    You might also want to read this post and the links on it.

  10. dv

    ok, this time it’s not stumbling by, but i could not help thinking of you guys i just encountered, and hope got thinking seriously, when this best yet mainstream media piece (it’s about time) came along (i can’t say i’ve ever picked up a gq nor read it online, but here it is, and sadly it takes such media, delinquent until now on this issue, to get enough people’s notice — better to learn about from it your blog,eh?):

    “Ever worry that that gadget you spend hours holding next to your head might be damaging your brain? Well, the evidence is starting to pour in, and it’s not pretty. So why isn’t anyone in America doing anything about it?”
    By Christopher Ketcham
    Photograph by Tom Schierlitz
    February 2010

    please, young men i sparred with briefly the other day here, other onlookers — this is no joke, you’ve all been had and lied to severely, on top of a deep cultural problem…like i said, use what good skills you have in a good direction

    i expect no response to this personally, but you owe it to those close to you to share this damning info with them and help them & yourselves get unhooked from wireless and work fast to remove it from almost everywhere

    pleasure meeting you (sort of…and it doesn’t matter if it isn’t mutual, the idea is to do the right thing! — go for it, please, save lots of grief, stop the bad guys)

  11. 12

    Okay, seriously, dv. You’re suffering from some HEAVY confirmation bias. You’ve already picked what the outcome should be, and you’re looking only at those articles that agree with your chosen outcome.

    I just Googled “cell phones brain cancer” to see what comes up. It was a seriously mixed bag. Taking a representative sample (e.g., only the very first page of the search results), let’s see where the chips fall.

    First, under “cell phones cause brain cancer”:
    – I found this Joe.My.God linking post that refers to the same GQ article you mentioned (which was written by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund).
    – I also found as the very first link, a personal opinion website rife with the language of conspiracy theory and fearmongering.
    – There’s also a piece from May 2009 declaring a link between cell phones and brain cancer in youths under 20.
    – And a piece where a neurosurgeon calls cell phones a worse risk for cancer than smoking — an argument from authority despite the fact that science has no authorities, only experts.

    On the flip side though:
    – there’s a Scandinavian study with a sample size of 16 million people taken over the past 30 years that showed no link whatsoever between cell phone use and brain cancer — looking either at people with brain cancer and seeing how much they used cell phones, or looking at cell phone users and seeing how often they got brain cancer. No link in either direction. The study was also covered at MSNBC.
    – This post at Scientific Blogging that looks at ALL the evidence gathered, and concludes that EMF radiation of the type used in cell phones doesn’t have the level of radiation possible to break the chemical bonds that holds your DNA together, a necessary step in causing DNA mutations that lead to cancer.
    – In addition, there’s a study that shows cell phone users are conferred protection from Alzheimers, completely contradicting the suggestion in your GQ article.
    – There’s another article at Ottawa Skeptics that talks about how the interphone study is attempting to correct for biases post-hoc, and looks to be too compromised to be useful. This is the study on which the “brain cancer in kids” article, and several others, is based.

    Have you even tried to search out articles from both sides? Because I have my doubts.

  12. dv

    Bizarre way to get “serious”, to purport to diagnose confirmation bias. And your’re an arch-skeptic? What kind of evidence could you possibly have first hand? Or rather, you almost certainly know many people stricken with the effects of cell phone & masts, wifi, cordless phones &c, but know not how to recognize the problem. With massive increase in the past few years of dependency on wireless applications, there is an acceleration of dire problems surfacing, thus the publicity — the kinds that were predictable had extensive research from E. Europe not been ignored for decades, and had Western research such as Frey’s, Lai’s, Bise’s & so many others not been buried or muscled aside. It is sick and sickening, and anyone interested in dispassionate “science” should be aghast. In E. Europe the methodolgy was eminently sensible: ask people occupationally exposed how they felt, and accept cumulative biological affect. The American-led way was to shut up or trip up dissent, discount the commies, apply extensive cruelty to animals, model a human body by undifferentiated sacs of saline, guesstimate in the dark for establishment of standards, maintain standards as lax as possible — here’s one for you from Brodeur’s excellent ’77 book, a constantly recurring trope re setting of standards (here in the words of a notorious and ubiquitous navy Capt. Tyler):

    “[…] if standards “must be set now, then try for as high a level as possible,” for the simple reason that “if adverse effects are determined in the future, it is far easier to lower the standards than to relax them”. (pg 260)

    Standards could not then be lowered, for to do so would be to admit adverse biological affect & open the door to myriad lawsuits. Are you even aware that insurance companies pulled out years ago? That fact alone should ring the alarm bells for you.

    Know anything about he Moscow American embassy affair? Look it up. The Americans knew full well long, long ago about the effects as did the Soviets (who set exposure limits about 1/1000 of ours — while this is to put it crudely, but get that, the massive problems now might have taken 1000 years to surface, instead of a mere 10, and what does that remind you of…1000-yr. Reich whittled down to about a dozen years, eh…buddy, the story behind it all is so ugly, the Nuremburg Code has been mentioned as applicable), and when their embassy staff kept getting sick and dying, they protested, but they were being irradiated at levels way, way lower than that captain’s “high a level as possible” for Americans in general. Talk about sick & sickening.

    Someone close to us suffers seizures when exposed to tiny doses, far below Cdn. standards. This person’s life & career, and that of very many we have become acquainted with, has been overturned. Read first-hand accounts, not way-too-late cancer studies. Morbid statistics
    regarding cancer, etc. eventually follow inattention to such matters (as the commies knew to care about, as indices of ill health), in our society obsessed with bullet hole forensics rather than listening to their own bodies.

    Khurana and another Aussie brain surgeon, Teo, know what they see and are a braver lot than sheepish North Americans.

    The Scandinavian study has been shown to be deeply flawed.

    Protection from Alzheimer’s — never check who’s saying what and who’s behind whom? That recent one has been commented on widely, I think it was mostly useless re our wireless because it was non-pulsed, it is acknowledged that radiation can have not well understood very short term apparent benefits (most likely as the body gets up to confront the invasion, until it wears out, this has been studied), so why give such publicity to a useless study? — to distract you so the monsters can get away it with it that much longer…naivete abounding, you should work harder to at least earn your title of skeptic.

    “science has no authorities, only experts” — that’s a very, very naive view

    all i can find time just now to trot out quickly here, i glanced at your links, i’ve been unfortunately dragged into this field this past year as a result of connexion with that severe sufferer, and boy has a lot of stuff become clarified…

    btw, how can anyone grasping that our bodies operate electrically at miniscule levels think that this is not affected by microwave radiation?!?!?

    you should examine the Bionitiative Report (’07); more recenly look up Andrew Goldsworthy as an example of an acccomplished scientist speaking out (not well, he’s retired now…)

    keep looking, you’ll have to go deeper, or just accept them “experts” …(have you no idea about how all human affairs are culture-bound, incl. “science”?)

  13. dv

    [your time limit for editing had me miss a few typos, but please correct one for me, and do delete this msg. after you correct in the 2nd last set of parentheses: “note well”, not “not well”; thank you]

  14. dv

    and just found from the gq article’s author,
    Hey all – I spent almost a year working on this piece about cell-phone radiation – find it online at:.
    or in the February hard copy of the magazine – interviewing dozens of sources, reading scores of reports, and the bad news is in: Cell-phone radiation, now being pumped directly into the brains of 4.5 billion handset users worldwide, is likely causing havoc in the electrical systems by which our brains and bodies operate. All biology is electric, as one of my sources tells me in the article. If you add massive levels of electropollution such as cell-phone microwaves into the environment, you’re going to disturb the functioning of living systems, with possibly huge ramifications over the long term: brain tumors, cancers, weird neurological disorders, sperm die-offs, genetic damage, behavioral changes, sleep changes, changes in learning and memory and mental acuity. Similar data is being gathered about the dangers of wifi radiation, which operates at microwave frequencies not very different and often exactly the same as those frequencies used in cell-phone technology. Anyway, read about it, weep, smash your cell-phone, or don’t. To quote one of the scientists in the piece: “The public should know if they are taking a risk with cell phones. What we’re doing is a grand world experiment without informed consent.”

    wake up, clue in , wise up, pitch in to reverse this disaster-in-the-making

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