52 Quotes of Michael Specter

” All the food we eat – every grain of rice and kernel of corn – has been genetically modified. None of it was here before mankind learned to cultivate crops. The question isn’t whether our food has been modified, but how. “
” When people say they prefer organic food, what they often seem to mean is they don’t want their food tainted with pesticides and their meat shot full of hormones or antibiotics. Many object to the way a few companies – Monsanto is the most famous of them – control so many of the seeds we grow. “
” One morning every spring, for exactly two minutes, Israel comes to a stop. Pedestrians stand in place, drivers pull over to the side of the road, and nobody speaks, sings, eats, or drinks as the nation pays respect to the victims of the Nazi genocide. From the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, the only sounds one hears are sirens. “
” It doesn’t seem to matter how often vaccines are proved safe or supplements are shown to offer nothing of value. When people don’t like facts, they ignore them. “
” If caught early, Lyme is easily treated with antibiotics. But activists, and many researchers, have long contended that tens of thousands of people remain unaware that they have been infected – sometimes for years, during which the bacterium can spread to the heart, nervous system, and brain. “
” All the food we eat, whether Brussels sprouts or pork bellies, has been modified by mankind. Genetic engineering is only one particularly powerful way to do what we have been doing for eleven thousand years. “
” There is a major problem with reliance on placebos, like most vitamins and antioxidants. Everyone gets upset about Big Science, Big Pharma, but they love Big Placebo. “
” The history of agriculture is the history of humans breeding seeds and animals to produce traits we want in our crops and livestock. “
” If people want to believe that our ancestors were riding around on dinosaurs or that the protracted, increasing, and devastating warming of the Earth is just nature doing its thing – I guess I feel I have more useful battles to fight. “
” When most members of a community are vaccinated, they protect those who are not by eliminating the viral reservoirs in the population. The effect is known as ‘herd immunity.’ “
” There are people who could watch a hurricane like Sandy blow out of the Atlantic every other day and blame it on anything but human activity. They are like those who, having been diagnosed with diabetes, eat donuts for breakfast. There’s not much to do about them. “
” The Maldives, a string of islands off the coast of India whose highest point above sea level is eight feet, may be the first nation to drown. In Alaska, entire towns have begun to shift in the loosening permafrost. “
” We’re all in denial from time to time. We all see things that are too painful to really deal with. But this has consequences, and the consequences of not vaccinating your children are not only just that those children are exposed to illnesses; it’s that everyone else they go to school with and they hang around with are, too. “
” Much of modern molecular biology and microbiology has been based on the effort to decipher the basic code of life, which is made up of four nucleotides: adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. “
” Universal vaccination may well be the greatest success story in medical history. “
” Consumers deserve the right to know what’s in their food – and obviously, most people want that choice. It’s hard to see how more knowledge about the products we eat every day can hurt us. “
” Even a two-degree climb in average global temperatures could cause crop failures in parts of the world that can least afford to lose the nourishment. The size of deserts would increase, along with the frequency and intensity of wildfires. “
” Clearly, some of the reason people embrace alternatives and reject vaccines is that they are angry and mistrustful of government and of pharmaceutical conglomerates. More than that, we pay too much for health care, it’s not good enough, and the system is too complex. We need alternatives. “
” Throughout the United States, at the dawn of the Progressive era, dozens of laws and regulations were established to empower police officers, public-health officials, and even the armed forces to vaccinate at will, and, if necessary, at gunpoint. “
” Most people prepare for travels by reading about their destination; it always seemed an odd approach to me. I find it much easier and more pleasant to focus with the sights and smells of a place rattling around in my mind. “
” The passengers in our microbiome contain at least four million genes, and they work constantly on our behalf: they manufacture vitamins and patrol our guts to prevent infections; they help to form and bolster our immune systems, and digest food. “
” It is a remarkable fact that smallpox, a scourge for thousands of years, has now vanished from the earth, except for two tiny vials, one locked in a highly secure facility at the Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, and another stored in a similarly secure vault in Siberia. “
” Although it may seem callous to say so, millions of Americans are lucky that Magic Johnson was infected with H.I.V. There is no way of calculating how many lives he has saved. No advertising agency could have invented a better, or more effective, role model. “
” Until the Nineteen-Eighties, when Deng Xiaoping designated the area as China’s first special economic zone, Shenzhen had been a tiny fishing village. Suddenly, eleven million people appeared, seemingly out of nowhere; factories sprang up, often housed in hastily constructed tower blocks. “
” Now, as the world’s scientists focus with increasing intensity on transforming the genetic codes of every living creature into information that can be used to treat and ultimately prevent disease, Shenzhen is home to a different kind of factory: B.G.I., formerly called Beijing Genomics Institute, the world’s largest genetic-research center. “
” With a hundred and seventy-eight machines to sequence the precise order of the billions of chemicals within a molecule of DNA, B.G.I. produces at least a quarter of the world’s genomic data – more than Harvard University, the National Institutes of Health, or any other scientific institution. “
” Now, as the world’s scientists focus with increasing intensity on transforming the genetic codes of every living creature into information that can be used to treat and ultimately prevent disease, Shenzhen is home to a different kind of factory: B.G.I., formerly called Beijing Genomics Institute, the world’s largest genetic-research center. “
” With a hundred and seventy-eight machines to sequence the precise order of the billions of chemicals within a molecule of DNA, B.G.I. produces at least a quarter of the world’s genomic data – more than Harvard University, the National Institutes of Health, or any other scientific institution. “
” I have covered wars, before the epidemic began and since. They are all ugly and painful and unjust, but for me, nothing has matched the dread I felt while walking through the Castro, the Village, or Dupont Circle at the height of the AIDS epidemic. “
” Why do people refuse to vaccinate their children against measles or whooping cough? In many cases, because they have never seen measles and have no idea what it might do. “
” By themselves, genetically engineered crops will not end hunger or improve health or bolster the economies of struggling countries. They won’t save the sight of millions or fortify their bones. But they will certainly help. “
” The numbers matter: underreporting of Lyme disease obscures the true burden of the illnesses, on individuals as well as on health-care systems. It also makes it harder to convince Congress to fund research. “
” For decades, Barbara Walters has been described as a broadcast pioneer – and with good reason. In 1974, Walters became the first female host of the ‘Today’ show. In 1976, she became the first woman to serve as a network-news anchor. In 1984, she moderated the first presidential debate between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan. “
” There has never been a verified scientific report that chelation therapy, a gluten-free diet, or anything else can cure autism. “
” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established highly specific criteria for the diagnosis of Lyme disease: an acknowledged tick bite, the appearance of a bull’s-eye rash, and, for those who don’t live in a region where Lyme is common, laboratory evidence of infection. “
” Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States, and the incidence is growing rapidly. In 2009, the C.D.C. reported thirty-eight thousand cases, three times more than in 1991. Most researchers agree that the true number of infections is five to ten times higher. “
” Industrial agriculture freed many people to pursue lives their parents and grandparents could never have. It made America modern. “
” Some people will deny anything that displeases or scares them: unusual pain in their chests, unwanted lumps beneath their skin, or the fact that humans share ancestry with apes are a few examples. Another is climate change. “
” The best way to deal with climate change has been obvious for years: cut greenhouse-gas emissions severely. We haven’t done that. In 2010, for example, carbon emissions rose by six per cent – the largest such increase on record. “
” There are many theories about the best way to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere – some are ludicrous, others are at least worth study. The most commonly discussed plan is to lace the sky with reflective chemicals. “
” Most reputable scientists agree that climate change is real and that the effects are likely to be bad. But nobody can say for sure exactly what ‘bad’ means. The safest and most equitable way out of this horrific mess is simple: cut fossil-fuel emissions. “
” We inherit every one of our genes, but we leave the womb without a single microbe. As we pass through our mother’s birth canal, we begin to attract entire colonies of bacteria. By the time a child can crawl, he has been blanketed by an enormous, unseen cloud of microorganisms – a hundred trillion or more. “
” We are inhabited by as many as ten thousand bacterial species; these cells outnumber those which we consider our own by ten to one, and weigh, all told, about three pounds – the same as our brain. “
” If left untreated, Lyme disease can be crippling, yet it is a difficult illness to contract: a tick needs to attach itself to your body for at least twenty-four hours. Even then, two weeks worth of commonly prescribed antibiotics will kill the bacterium. “
” I moved from Moscow to Rome with my family and two bicycles in 1998, and spent a lot of that year- and the next – obsessed, I am sorry to admit, with the bicycles. Italy, after all, was a place where thousands of middle-aged men felt perfectly comfortable spending many hours a week in brightly colored spandex. “
” Deliberately modifying the earth’s atmosphere would be a desperate gamble with significant risks. Yet the more likely climate change is to cause devastation, the more attractive even the most perilous attempts to mitigate those changes will become. “
” Many climate scientists say their biggest fear is that warming could melt the Arctic permafrost – which stretches for thousands of miles across Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. “
” To suggest that organic vegetables, which cost far more than conventional produce, can feed billions of people in parts of the world without roads or proper irrigation may be a fantasy based on the finest intentions. But it is a cruel fantasy nonetheless. “
” ‘Natural’ is a word that has become unmoored by its meanings. If you go into a vitamin shop, things are natural, and people look at that, and they think it’s good. It’s no different than any other thing you swallow. “
” Someone told me that they didn’t want to take a flu shot because they didn’t want to put a foreign substance in their body. What do they think they do at dinner every night? “
” ‘Meat’ is a vague term and can be used to refer to many parts of an animal, including internal organs and skin. For the most part, the meat we eat consists of muscle tissue taken from farm animals, whether it’s a sirloin steak, which is cut from the rear of a cow, or a pork chop, taken from flesh near the spine of a pig. “
” Meat supplies a variety of nutrients – among them iron, zinc, and Vitamin B12 – that are not readily found in plants. We can survive without it; millions of vegetarians choose to do so, and billions of others have that choice imposed upon them by poverty. “