Flu virus spawns crop of conspiracy theories

January 11, 2010 by  

We’ve heard it all: The moon landing was faked, 9/11 was an inside job, there are UFOs at Area 51. But have you heard that H1N1 flu was genetically engineered?

Dan Jason, a Saltspring Islandbased organic-seed farmer, thinks H1N1 was created. Jason, who studied seed growth for 20 years, knows a lot about genetically enhanced crops and is calling bullshit on the idea that H1N1 is a chance mutation.

But what does a lowly seed farmer know about all this?

“Genetic engineering creates things that wouldn’t normally happen in nature,” he said, recalling an experiment that introduced flounder genes into a strain of tomatoes. (Winter flounder, a species of fish which produces an antifreeze protein, have the ability to survive in subzero temperatures. Genes were taken from the fish and grafted onto tomatoes, in hopes of creating a crop that wouldn’t freeze.)

“It’s a very weird thing to take genes from a foreign species and bombard them onto a crop,” said Jason. “It doesn’t happen normally and it’s the same story with the flu.”

Jason, like many others, believes that H1N1 flu was engineered by combining viruses from birds, pigs and humans, a sort of grab bag of genes intended to create dependencies on pharmaceutical companies.

His explanation? Vaccines for the flu (which he believes will soon be mandatory) contain mercury, which some people believe causes autism in children and therefore creates a need for Ritalin and other medications used to treat behavioral problems.

Lee Moller argues a different point.

“If we really had the power to genetically modify, to create a flu, we’d create something much bigger than [H1N1],” he said.

Moller, the head of the B.C. Skeptics Society, runs a website that aims to debunk conspiracy theories, urban legends and folklore, ideas that Moller says are “based on faulty logic and paranoia.”

Moller’s website features links to articles that disprove or explain conspiracies , to a blog titled “Rational Enquirer,” and an organization called “skepticamp,” which hosts an annual conference that touches on paranormal claims, alternative medicine and cryptozoology.

“There’s conspiracy theories galore,” he said. “It’s almost human nature to assume a hidden cause.”

Kwantlen psychology professor Steve Charlton thinks there are two sides to conspiracy. “Often people aren’t skeptical enough,” he said, “but the other extreme of that is people who are overly critical without skepticism.”

Those would be the conspiracy theorists.

“There’s lots of conspiracy theories based on misunderstanding or [lack of ] probability,” Charlton said.

Alex Jones, head of InfoWars, hosts conspiracy-heavy radio broadcasts, which, despite perhaps farreaching and often exaggerated nature, has a substantial following. The InfoWars website (www.infowars. com) features an article that claims “[swine flu] originated at the army base at Fort Dix, New Jersey.”

“Coincidence becomes fact in people’s minds,” said Charlton.

Sidebar: Other myths about H1N1

Swine flu was a rumour created by the U.S. government to persuade people into buying sterilization products to stimulate the economy.

The U.S. made up swine flu because they hate Mexico and want to close the border.

Hand sanitzer can spread swine flu.

A new strain of H1N1 has emerged, specific to those who died from the influenza, called H1Z1 (or zombie swine flu). The new virus would be able to restart the heart and resurrect the victims as zombies.


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