To celebrate the new year (and because I’d rather spend time with my family than create new content over the break), I’ll be posting the top 5 most viewed blog posts here at the Control Freaks over the next 5 days. But first, I want to thank everyone for reading our little blog. It is pretty amazing that a blog on such a niche subject (like weeds!) has gotten so much attention. We started this blog a little over 2 years ago, and since then we’ve been linked by media outlets like Slate, Forbes, The Atlantic, Popular Science, and the New York Times. This has far exceeded our expectations. I figured when we started we’d be lucky to get a few mentions from the Torrington Telegram or the Powell Tribune. So thank you! It has been very encouraging to learn that so many folks are really interested in the science of weeds.
Before we start the Top 5 list, I thought I’d throw in an “honorable mention” that didn’t quite make the Top 5. In July, I wrote a post called “Seralini Rat Study Revisited.” Although this one just missed the Top 5 most viewed posts in 2014, I thought it is worth mentioning for historical reasons. You see, the post on the original publication of the Seralini rat study was the first post at Control Freaks to receive much notice, and that post (“Why I think the Seralini GM feeding trial is bogus“) is still one of the top 5 viewed posts in the history of our blog. Sort of ironic that 2 of the most viewed posts here are only tangentially related to weeds.
Now, without further ado, the most viewed posts of 2014:
I was pretty surprised this post got circulated as widely as it did. It was in response to a post by the “healthy home economist” that was circulating on social media. There were already quite a few rebuttals by the time this got posted, and this one simply showed one additional reason why glyphosate sprayed on wheat was unlikely to be much of a health issue. In a nutshell, there is an idiosyncrasy with the way USDA collects pesticide use data that could lead to major misinterpretations of that data if it is ignored. The result is that most of the glyphosate that critics are complaining about being sprayed on wheat, is not actually being sprayed on wheat.
The 4th most popular post of 2014 was actually written in the middle of 2013. This post was a response to much of the media attention to glyphosate-resistant weeds. Although weeds evolving resistance to herbicides is certainly problematic, it seems that most of the media coverage of the topic is only focused on glyphosate resistant weeds. In this post, I use data on herbicide resistant weed evolution to try and put glyphosate resistance (and the use of Roundup Ready crops) into context. This was, I believe, the first time I ever used the term “superweed” in writing. Since then I’ve written a few more posts about superweeds, including this recent piece about how use of the word “superweed” mostly confuses the issues rather than informs. Since I wrote this post, I’ve done some more analysis on herbicide resistant weeds ( so many herbicide modes of action and posted some of the results to figshare.
The 3rd most viewed post of 2014 was written fairly recently, and was a response to scare tactics employed by Dr. Oz on his television show. This was actually the second post of the year where I tried to address off-site movement of pesticides that had been misrepresented in the popular media. I think most of the post can be summarized by this single line: “I can assure Dr. Oz that pesticide applications are quite a bit more precise than dumping feathers on a stage behind a fan.”
The second most popular post of 2014 was written in August of 2013. One of the reasons I wrote this post was the common conflation of GMOs, pesticides, and monocultures. There are many who think that the only reason monocultures exist is because we rely on pesticides to farm; but I think it is far more complex than that. If we removed all pesticides (and GMOs) from the market, my guess is we’d still be growing most of our crops in what we consider monocultures. In this post, I used Michael Pollan’s criticisms as a spring board to discuss monoculture, and I concluded this: “One could argue that Pollan is correct when he says “Monoculture is at the root of virtually every problem that bedevils the modern farmer,” but only because that is how modern farmers grow crops. If modern farmers universally adopted polyculture, a new set of (equally bad) problems would result. And then polyculture would be at the root of virtually every problem farmers faced. To paraphrase Churchill, monoculture is the worst possible way to grow crops, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.”
And the most viewed post at Control Freaks in 2014 was Salt, Vinegar, and Glyphosate. Not only was this the most popular post of the year, but it is the most viewed post all time on the blog. It currently has 5 times as many views as any other single page. I really wasn’t expecting this post to have such broad appeal, but it really seemed to take off on Facebook shortly after it was published. And a funny story about this one; almost the entire post was written in the back of a pickup truck driving to/from a research site in Powell, WY (12 hours, round trip). It’s a good thing I have graduate students to drive me around, I guess. To summarize this post: “the important thing to keep in mind is that both the homemade vinegar + salt mixture and Roundup are pretty darn safe when used properly, they’re both relatively inexpensive, and both can provide effective weed control in the appropriate situation.”
Thanks again for reading the Control Freaks Blog. Here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy new year!