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Conspiracy theories about Zika are breeding like flies


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NEVER let it be said that the Daily Mail isn’t balanced. Its coverage of the Zika outbreak certainly gave more than one side of the story. On 19 January, the newspaper asked, “Are GM mosquitoes the key to wiping out the Zika virus?“, enthusiastically outlining plans to advance a 2012 programme which released sterile genetically modified mosquitoes to combat the spread of dengue fever and malaria.

Soon the tables had turned. “Are scientists to blame for Zika virus?” the Maildemanded to know on 31 January, connecting the current outbreak to a 2012 programme which released sterile genetically modified mosquitoes to combat the spread of dengue fever and malaria.

Feedback is inspired to propose a quantum model of journalism: rather than bothering with the facts, might it be easier to publish all possible versions of reality in the hope that one of them is actually correct?

A viral story

WHAT happened to sway the Daily Mail? The rumour that Oxitec’s sterile mosquito programme had something to do with the current Zika outbreak appears to have been started by a single post on the community message board Reddit – in the “Conspiracies” subsection.

On 25 January, a user concocted a far-fetched and error-filled hypothesis connecting the release of sterile mosquitoes to the Zika outbreak. Although capably and thoroughly debunked by Christie Wilcox at Discover Magazine, this misinformation was quickly republished across the internet.

Science fiction

WHEN the conspiracy theory emerged in more respected news outlets, all the erroneous details had been cut, which didn’t leave much to say, except that fears of a link existed somewhere, experienced by someone.

This may be why Russian state broadcaster RT bizarrely chose to cite the British dystopian TV series Utopia as a source for claims that Zika was spread intentionally by scientists, concluding that the fictional programme “suggests it could be a deliberate plan to reduce the global population”.

A leap too far

AT THE green-inked Ecologist, editor Oliver Tickell attempted to further the case that GM mosquitoes were responsible for the Zika outbreak, dedicating a lengthy article to his hypothesis that the piggyBac transposon – the mobile DNA used by Oxitec – jumped into the virus via native mosquitoes.

Unfortunately, as readers were quick to point out, the Zika strain responsible for the current outbreak has been sequenced, and shows no trace of the transposon. What’s more, piggyBac is almost as large as the virus itself, and made of double-stranded DNA rather than single-stranded RNA like the virus, meaning the proposed combination would have made for a Nobel prize-worthy discovery.

A chastised Tickell added a footnote admitting that “the hypothesis set out above is probably incorrect”.

That’s no moon

FLAT Earth theories have been in the news recently, with celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson clashing with rapper BoB on Twitter over the latter’s insistence that “No matter how high in elevation you are… the horizon is always eye level.”

More loony ideas abound: Feedback is directed to a self-descriptive Facebook group called “The Moon is it real?“. Here, visitors can watch videos purporting to show evidence that the moon is indeed not real, alongside other strange phenomena, such as an irrigation canal strewn with foam pollution, or as the site describes it, “a strange phenomenon… the fall of a cloud on the ground”.

Cat treats

FINE dining for pets: David Cousins received some samples from cat-food maker Arden Grange, which are claimed to be “super-healthy, super-delicious and formulated to precisely meet the unique nutritional requirements of felines”.

However, the most notable selling point for David was the promise that the food was “guaranteed not tested on animals”. Does Arden Grange simply trust the food is “super-delicious”, or did someone there have to check for themselves?

A bit of a stretch

WOULD a rose by any other name be quite as tall? Feedback is left pondering this question after Graham Worthington sends us the packaging in which his “5-inch” plant labels arrived. This lists the contents in several other languages, each with their own opinion on the length of the stakes enclosed.

The etiquetas para plantas are 5 inches tall, whereas the etichette per plante are 12 centimetres. In the Netherlands, the plantlabels sprout to 12.5 cm, gaining an extra 2 millimetres across the border in Denmark as pflanzenschildchen, and finally topping out at 13 cm in France as etiquettes pour plantes. Is this some form of continental rivalry, or have standards in Europe gone to pot?

Exit stage left

FINALLY, many of you write to lament the departure of the Paris Opera Ballet’s director. Like you, Feedback cannot fathom where the organisation will find a more suitable candidate for a dance troupe than one named Benjamin Millepied.

 

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2077415-feedback-conspiracy-theories-about-zika-are-breeding-like-flies/

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Scientists debunk theory linking pesticide, not Zika, to birth defects

Experts debunked a theory this week that linked pesticides to an increase in birth defects thought to be caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Brazil.

The theory gained traction among social media users after Argentine environmentalists issued a report linking the surge to pyriproxyfen, a chemical that kills mosquito larvae.

 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/02/16/experts-dismiss-claims-pesticide-not-zika-causes-birth-defects/80451116/

 

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Interestingly, the Zika virus has been known for 60 years but never linked to microcephaly until recently.

 

Would it be the first time Monsanto has created a chemical compound that is highly toxic and causes birth defects? No.

 

Would it be the first time Monsanto is trying to escape being held accountable for defects and disease? No.

 

Would it be the first time Monsanto buys science in order to try to prove its innocence?

 

Sorry, but they can "debunk" as much as they want and cry "conspiracy theory!", but these types of corporations have been caught being guilty way too many times for me to trust them.

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