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Businesses Science Deals With Community Backlash Over PepsiCo Column 299

History's Coming To writes "Several writers for the collective have publicly resigned from the site, and many more have voiced concerns over parent company Seed's decision to include a paid blog under the nutrition category from PepsiCo. The blog was to be written by PepsiCo food scientists, detailing their work. The UK's Guardian newspaper has picked up on the story, and includes a letter from Seed editor Adam Bly which covers the company's rationale." The ScienceBlogs Team later canceled the PepsiCo blog and apologized, instead leaving their users with a few tough questions: "How do we empower top scientists working in industry to lead science-minded positive change within their organizations? ... How do companies who seek genuine dialogue with this community engage?"
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  • by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:37AM (#32859748) Homepage
    "How do companies who seek genuine dialogue with this community engage?"

    Not by paying Seed/Scienceblogs, that's for sure. How about publishing papers if you have a scientific point to make? Or, if you want to avoid the formality of those, how about a blog at Let the content speak for itself without paying anyone to get a ride on their reputation.

    But the real question Seed is faced with is probably "How are we supposed to make money from ScienceBlogs if you won't let us sell out to a company that's probably killing more people than Philip Morris ever did?"

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:41AM (#32859766) Homepage
    Carl Zimmer has a more detailed breakdown of what happened with a list of what bloggers are moving- []. Major bloggers leaving include Mark Chu-Carroll of Good Math/Bad Math, and Rebecca Skloot (who may be known to many more for her excellent book on HeLa cells and their namesake than for blogging). This wasn't a single isolated instance that is causing these people to leave, but for many the final straw in what they saw as very problematic and difficult to work with people at Seed Magazine (which runs Scienceblogs). Mike Dunford of The Questionable Authority discusses some of these issues here- [] (he's uncertain if he is leaving or not and so may be a moderate voice). Meanwhile Abbie Smith of ERV thinks that much of the reaction is hysterics and hypocrisy [].
  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Informative)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @10:25AM (#32859982)
    It never got off the ground because there was a bad reaction to it. It's not that the blog was necessarily going to be biased, it's that there was a very clear conflict of interest going on. It would've been very different had Pepsi not paid for the space and it was clearly disclosed who was writing it. That's how journalists have handled such things in the past, it would still have to be as unbiased as possible, but disclosure goes a long way.
  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @10:36AM (#32860038)
    Your mistake is in assuming that the FDA represents science. That's just silly. It is a political body, ostensibly charged with regulating the food and drug industries so that those products are "safe and effective". Politics, not science, drives the actions of that body. If science, defined as that body of research which is beholden only to the pursuit of knowledge (believe it or not that still exists, largely in academia), were allowed to make the rules that the FDA supposedly enforces, those rules would look very different.
  • Re:Asinine (Score:4, Informative)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @10:39AM (#32860060) Homepage Journal

    It's actually the government's fault, Nixon's fault to be precise.

    You should watch this presentation [] on fructose if you are interested to find out why exactly the fructose is a poison equivalent to ethanol (alcohol) and how it kills you slowly in the same way and causes obesity and other diseases in humans.

    What is interesting is how this came about, by the Nixon's government deciding that they want to eliminate food prices as an issue for reelection. Nixon - the same guy responsible for getting away from sound money (gold standard), they same guy setting up minimum wage laws, while opening the job market to China, the same guy who destroyed the working health insurance for people by getting government subsidies into it and causing the insurance prices to skyrocket, this guy is also responsible for the deteriorating health of the humans in this world through consumption of fructose.

    By fixing food prices to make them 'stable', he caused the food producers to start searching for new and exciting ways of using the cheapest ingredients available, obviously that would be the most subsidized ingredients - corn, soy, wheat, rice (cotton as well, but that's not food.)

    By getting government into health insurance (CHIP), he created a moral hazard for the medical establishment that allowed it to spike the prices up, which happens only when government guarantees to pay, same problem with government loans for higher education - prices shoot up.

    By creating minimum wage laws the jobs below the minimum wage disappeared, this increases unemployment and kills entire segments of jobs (does anybody check your oil and tire pressure at a gas station anymore?) Doing this while opening trade with the cheapest provider of labor is asking for destruction of your own production capacity, which is the real reason behind the economy going south.

    Nixon was an interesting fella, he allowed the special interests to dominate and to take over.

  • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @12:06PM (#32860468) Homepage

    A cheap plasticy pen is NOT a fountain pen. An optical mouse is NOT a trackball.

    And how did you decide that you needed the one and not the other?

    Even if you were the one person in the world that was personally totally unaffected by advertising, you wouldn't be free from it. Because you would be living in a society affected by advertising. Even if your choice of soap were totally unaffected by advertising, the kinds of soap your store would stock would not be.

  • Re:Asinine (Score:3, Informative)

    by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @01:30PM (#32860892) Homepage

    Some of us will pay more. Until I see a "Hecho en Mexico" sticker on a bottle of Coca-Cola, I won't buy it. The bottlers there use sugar, while US bottlers use HFCS.

    'course, they also use a different recipe, which is probably why you prefer it.

    I used to think Canada didn't use HFCS in it's Coke. "But I prefer the taste!" I would say, and that's certainly true. But it has fuck-all to do with the sugar, because they use HFCS here, too. What they *do* do is use a different recipe in Canada, though, hence the flavour difference.

    Incidentally, I've also had Mexican Coke, and guess what? It tastes pretty similar to the Canadian version... which is just further evidence that what you prefer is the formula, not the sweetener.

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @02:44PM (#32861280)

    If by 55% you mean 11%. [] So does white wheat flour []. Quinoa comes in at 15%, [] although it can be higher, so it's a good source of protein, and it has a lot more essential amino acids than most things, so it's a good crop for sure, but it is still akin to a carbohydrate staple food.

  • When you define things broad enough, everything can fall into that definition, meaning the definition has become meaningless.

    What kind of computer do you use? What kind of portable media player? I guarantee that you chose them because of advertising. You know which components to buy when you build a computer because of advertising. You know which cereal to buy because of advertising.

    Does spending a couple of hours on Newegg or Tom's Hardware count as advertising? Being aware of a brand itself doesn't mean much, I'm aware of a lot of brands and I don't have a compulsion to purchase them. When I recently bought a new harddrive, I was aware of Seagate, but didn't buy their product, instead buying a Hitachi (I wasn't even really aware they made HDDs, really), after spending a couple of minutes on Tom's looking at benchmarks. Is this an epic win for Hitachi's advertising department, being that I have never seen an advert for their HDDs? As for what type of computer, in general, I am using, it is a piecemeal bunch of parts, most of them I only bought thanks to good old fashioned word of mouth, reading online user reviews, looking at the raw numbers, etc... Advertisements didn't have a damn thing to do with my purchase. The metric for me was purely a ratio between performance (measured by 3rd parties) and price.

    I do own an iPod, but I only got it because it was cheaper than everything else out there (with a $150 discount). I wouldn't have based on the iPod brand, or the Apple brand, or any amount of "Apple is cool" advertisement. I was actually going to get the cheapest HDD player there was at the time, but Apple beat them on price.

    Even if you buy the cheap store-brand of corn flakes, it's because the store-brand is piggy-backing off the effect that Kellogs' advertising had on you or you wouldn't even know to buy corn flakes.

    All my friends eat cornflakes, I like my friend's tastes, therefore I will eat corn flakes. I grew up eating corn flakes, therefore I eat them. My culture likes them, therefore I do. There are tons of reasons to choose anything that are not based on corporate wishes.

    I bet you know the names of Apple's laptop computers. I bet you know the names of the individual programs in Adobe's Creative Suite. I bet you can tell me the names of car models made by the biggest car companies. All because of advertising.

    Or by just living in a world surrounded by them. I know a lot about Apple because I researched them awhile ago when looking to buy a computer. I know about them because some of my friends swear by their products. I know about them because of their reputation, etc... I don't know all the products they make, much less Adobe, though, since it isn't relevant to my life. Same with makes of cars. I have no clue. Don't care one bit.

    There's a long game in advertising too. Even if you aren't directly influenced to run out and buy a product, you learn the names, you learn the qualities that made one brand better than another. Eventually you will make a decision, and though you think you're making the decision based only upon your own independent thinking, the marketing plays a bigger role than you think.

    Yes, marketing often has a role, but it doesn't ALWAYS have a role. There are many products that I have bought where there was NO marketing whatsoever for. There has been even more products that I've bought that were not directly influenced by an ad agency, because I did due diligence and researched the product on my own. There have been tons of products I've discovered the old fashioned way, word of mouth. There have been tons of items where I've gone and incrementally bought all of the different brands until I found one high on the holy cost/quality curve.

    Advertising works, sometimes, on some people, and in some circumstances. Not always, universally, and on everyone.

    There have been studies showing that if your aware of the gimmicks, advertising has a much lower effect on you, for example.

  • Re:Asinine (Score:3, Informative)

    by StopKoolaidPoliticsT ( 1010439 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @03:41PM (#32861522)

    Nixon - the same guy responsible for getting away from sound money (gold standard)

    Nixon gave it the final death blow, but FDR killed the gold/silver certificate in 1933. Truman later agreed to the Bretton Woods Agreement, in which foreign currencies were fixed to US dollars, effectively making the dollar the world's standard. During Vietnam (which France had actually helped cause), France ended up draining the gold reserves backing the US dollars, ultimately leading to Nixon's decision to permanently cease the gold standard.

    they same guy setting up minimum wage laws

    Again, minimum wage laws, as well as wage and price controls, started under FDR as part of the New Deal. You can also thank union organizers, who wanted to use the government to encourage people to join the unions in order to get a job (mostly because the union bosses wanted more dues to put in their pockets). People were desperate to earn money and would willingly take pennies just to do some type of meaningful work to take care of their families. The unions didn't want to be undercut and have their workers put out of work, so they cozied up to FDR and used the government to harm non-union workers (the entire National Recovery Act was built largely on helping the unions while harming business owners and non-union workers).

    the same guy who destroyed the working health insurance for people by getting government subsidies into it and causing the insurance prices to skyrocket

    Health insurance didn't exist prior to the New Deal. It was a way to get around the imposed wage controls in order to keep good help. In 1965, Medicare and Medicaid were passed because "it wasn't fair" that working people had their health costs paid for but poor and elderly people didn't. Thus, it wasn't Nixon that started subsidizing health care, but LBJ as part of the Great Society as a reaction to an unintended consequence from the previous government interference under the New Deal. Ted Kennedy created the HMO system, which Nixon signed, as a result of Medicare/Medicaid destabilizing the existing insurance market. Another side effect of that, was Social Security reform in 1967 which allowed the government to use the Social Security surplus to cover up the exploding budget deficits caused by Medicare/Medicaid (which had greatly exceeded cost estimates) and the escalation of Vietnam. Oh, and, of course, today, we need a new government health care system to save us from the existing problems that government health care caused. As an added bonus, Social Security is running in the red already and we'll have to borrow money to pay it. Forget the $13 trillion debt, that's small potatoes; We owe $109.5 trillion in unfunded liabilities and they start adding to the debt NOW as boomers start to retire. Doubly so if the rumored legislation to get people to retire early to "create" jobs for younger people happens.

    By fixing food prices to make them 'stable', he caused

    Again, it goes back to FDR, the New Deal and the Great Depression. Did you know that FDR ordered tons of food destroyed, while people were starving, to prop up the price? Did you know that under him, it became illegal to grow wheat for your own consumption (see Wickard v. Filburn)?

    By getting government into health insurance (CHIP), he created a moral hazard for the medical establishment that allowed it to spike the prices up, which happens only when government guarantees to pay,

    Nixon signed Ted Kennedy's HMO system into law. Clinton signed CHIP into law and it was expanded under GWB and Obama. And, again, it was Medicaid/Medicare which drove up the costs, making existing insurance plans insufficient, resulting in more government interference in health care to shore up the private plans.

    same problem with government loans for higher education - prices shoot up.

    Again, thank FDR for that, passing th

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @04:37PM (#32861776) Journal

    Low-fiber foods that don't make you feel full? Sure.

    Fat and protein make you feel full. What's left? Carbs.

    Overly-refined foods packed with excessive sugar? Sure.

    What do you think sugar is? It's a carbohydrate.

    Beverages (including milk, but namely soda and "diet" soda) with as many calories as a meal? Sure.

    Milk? If you're drinking half and half, sure.

    Soda? It's sweetened with glucose and fructose. Carbohydrates.

    Diet soda? How many calories are in a diet soda? Go ahead, look it up.

    Anyay, carbohydrates aren't bad for you. But too many carbohydrates are. All these factors that you readily admit are contributing to the obesity epidemic are in fact directly related to the abundance of cheap carbs in the American diet.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.