A fine rant on Ben & Jerry’s CyClone Dairy hoax at The Huffington Post

April 1, 2009

Check out Diane Tucker’s stellar rant at The Huffington Post about Ben & Jerry’s CyClone Dairy hoax. And then, imagine a world where William K. Wolfrum clones roamed the land. All properly labeled, of course.


Ben & Jerry’s admits their CyClone Dairy April Fools hoax

April 1, 2009

Well, it took a couple days, but I’m pleased to see the proof that I finally got it mostly right:

“April Fools! Ben & Jerry’s is just kidding about Cyclone Dairy – but we’re serious about the need for a system to track cloned animals,” said Walt Freese, Chief Euphoria Officer for Ben & Jerry’s. “Americans should have the basic right to choose the foods they want to eat.”

My opinion on the campaign in two words: Scare mongering. But that’s neither here nor there. They do have a valid point, and hopefully honest discussion will follow.

While there were missteps in my research (particularly putting too much onus on Food & Water Watch, though they were involved to a point), ere are the stories that led to my conclusions on CyClone Dairy:

CyClone Dairy a hoax now unfolding; but to what purpose?

The CyClone Dairy Hoax leads to “Food & Water Watch”

April Fools - a final thought on CyClone Dairy

Ben & Jerry’s the final piece of the CyClone Dairy hoax?

Also, kudos to Vance Lehmkuhl of Earth to Philly who had the story well nailed down yesterday, and who compared notes with me on this the last week.

Now, feel free to discuss cloned foods and the fight to label them as such. Just try to keep it factual, if possible.


Ben & Jerry’s the final piece of the CyClone Dairy hoax?

March 30, 2009

Ben & Jerry's cloning cyclone dairy

Ok, while I know I promised I was done with this subject, I just received a comment that seemed to make one final connection in the case of the pretend “CyClone Dairy,” a non-existant dairy that says it produces its milk from cloned cows.

“There is a certain large socially conscious company involved that will make sense once it comes out,” said Joe Blow.

This sent my mind directly to one company - Ben & Jerry’s.

Earlier I had pointed out that a design company called Vermont Design Works had been involved on the project. So a small part of this is the fact that Ben & Jerry’s is in Vermont.

Another part is that Ben & Jerry’s is strongly opposed to cloning animals.

The final part is this: Ben & Jerry’s works with Food & Water Watch … on cloning issues.

Ben & Jerry's FWW

I have a call into Ben & Jerry’s but don’t really expect a response. And it doesn’t change my final conclusion about the CyClone Dairy PR campaign, it just means that I’ve come to believe that Ben & Jerry’s is the main cog in its engine. I still believe it’s an amateurish campaign. I still believe it will all unfold Wednesday, and I still believe that Food & Water Watch is involved.

But don’t be surprised if you see that Ben & Jerry’s is involved, as well.


Update: Oh, and I forgot to mention this: The first comment on the first post ever about Cyclone Dairy:

Posted by Ben & Jerry at 2009-03-24 15:16

It is satire.

Update: Well how about that.


April Fools - a final thought on CyClone Dairy

March 29, 2009

Over at Fair Food Fight, El Dragón has some very good points about the CyClone Dairy hoax.

It would have been far better to have construct a campaign that allowed people in on the joke immediately, to engage people in a way that would have allowed them to feel “in on the joke” and to inspire them to spread the word virally to others who might enjoy the joke, too.

Instead, the Cyclone Dairy campaign comes off as cynical by tracking down discussions like True Mosquito’s, creating sock puppets (“Melissa” is most likely a sock puppet — the profile was created shortly before the comment she made was posted, which, itself, seems a forced and unlikely argument — who takes the time to come on a site like this to defend cloned milk??), taking out fake ads on lefty social network sites that cloud the point of the campaign, and otherwise treating potential allies in a way that makes them feel like dupes, not allies.

As far as I’m concerned, El Dragón has hit the nail on the head. Food and Water Watch (as far as I’m concerned) has created a false campaign to fool people, in order to draw attention to cloned foods and the need to label them as such. And yes, they have fooled people.

By all means, it would have been much better to treat the liberal blogosphere and TV viewers like grown-ups and let them in on the joke. And while I do hope they achieve their main goal - to create more discussion about cloned animals and the issues that come with them - their decision to approach the subject by confusing people was amateurish and foolish.

And speaking of foolish, here’s a comment left on the blog Team Bettendorf by Margaret:

This is a hoax, I’d guess that they’ll advertise all week and then release some kind of public statement on April fools day to reveal the person behind it.

It’s an expensive hoax though, and I’m not sure what they’ll get from it—- they are counting on it to go viral I guess.

I must say that I agree with Margaret, and believe that come Wednesday, F&WW will get to their point. And regardless of the validity of that point, the expensive and shifty way they’ve went about it has made them look foolish before their point was even made, and will have made plenty of bloggers and viewers feel foolish for falling for it. And that’s no way to start intelligent and meaningful debate.


The CyClone Dairy Hoax leads to “Food & Water Watch”

March 27, 2009

Having already concluded that CyClone Dairy - a dairy that supposedly gets its milk from cloned cows - is a hoax, I was a bit flummoxed on how to find the anonymous hoaxers who were behind it. Luckily, a commenter on a DailyKos dairy seemed to unlock the secret. Here’s what Addison discovered:

Check out “Linda” here as compared with Claudia here and here.

The photos Addison linked to are:

“Linda” at CyClone Dairy.

“Claudia” at Food and Water Watch

“Claudia” at Food and Water Watch.

Clearly this is the same person, used in the same role on both sites. Addison also added that Food & Water Watch is in the middle of a “Know your milk” campaign.

Adding to the circumstantial evidence is the fact that Food & Water Watch are strongly opposed to cloned animals.

It is their interest in cloning technology that truly makes this recent blog post stand out, as writer SofiaB reacts to this remarkable new dairy (the site went on line in Jan. 2009) with absolutely no skepticism whatsoever:

You’ve got to hand it to the CyClone Dairy people. They’ve decided that, rather than hide the fact that they use milk from cloned animals and their offspring, they’ll brag about it instead and hope that people assume that their positive attitude comes from a product that’s been proven “safe.” Unfortunately, the reality is quite the opposite of the website’s cheerful photos and catchy slogans.

More circumstantial evidence from the above blog post: SofiaB’s post is the first to mention CyClone Dairy. First, period. There’s not a word about “CyClone Dairy” prior to that March 19 post. And, the two videos for CyClone Dairy on YouTube were both posted just four days ago.

While circumstantial evidence doesn’t prove anything on its own, a lot of circumstantial evidence usually gives one a good idea. I have made a couple phone calls to Food & Water Watch and sent an e-mail to them, as well. I hope to hear from them, especially if they have a denial (which thus far is apparently their stance.)

But unless that happens, my final conclusion on the matter is thus: CyClone Dairy is an invention of Food and Water Watch. There is no CyClone Dairy, and Food and Water Watch are using the site and the ads to drum up interest in the currently non-existent debate about using cloned animals in the food supply.

See update with Ben & Jerry’s info here.


The Huffington Post giving its readers an advertising fake out

June 26, 2009

Over the last year, I’ve worked on several stories involving Internet hoaxes, including the Martin Eisenstadt hoax and the Ben & Jerry’s “CyClone Dairy” hoax. On a couple of these stories, I’ve had the pleasure of working with journalist Diane Tucker of The Huffington Post. Tucker, who takes journalism quite seriously, has given Huffpo readers the inside scoop on some of these stories.

Of course, these days, Tucker may need to look at The Huffington Post itself, as the prominent liberal news site has taken to giving its readers a fake out of its own. According to Wired, Huffpo - as well as Salon - has taken to running “advertorials.” The only thing about these advertorials - which are generally plainly marked as advertisements in newspapers and magazines - is that they take the form of real stories from real news sites.

From Wired:

That “News5Alert” ran in a rotating ad spot on HuffPost last week, though it was not identified as an ad. Clicking on it took you to a story from “News 5″ in Sacramento — which is not a TV station — revealing how one Mary Steadman now makes $6,500 a month working from home, thanks to an internet course called Google Home Income.

The story has art, it has a sidebar, there’s weather, supposed reader comments — even ads. Steadman is described as “a mother from San Francisco” — at least, when I read the article. Thanks to cutting-edge reporting techniques perfected by News 5, she will automatically move to the geolocation of your internet IP address when you read it. Look, she lives right in your neighborhood!

Salon displayed a similar ad yesterday, showing a newspaper clipping with the headline, “Can You Really Work Online at Home? We Investigate This Trend.”

Read the whole story from Wired and decide for yourself whether or not Huffpo has crossed a line between news and hucksterism. Personally, I go with the latter. Because while making money in the news biz is no easy feat, tricking readers out of their hard-earned money is the stuff of low-brow tabloids, not for the biggest news web site on the planet.


Ben & Jerry’s cloned food crusade: “It doesn’t feel right” doesn’t trump science

April 2, 2009

Having cloned animals in the food supply is bad because it seems really yucky and people don’t like it. That, in a nutshell, is what Ben & Jerry’s recently spent a bunch of money on in creating a hoax Web site featuring a fictional company called “CyClone Dairy,” that made all it’s dairy products from cloned cows.

When Ben & Jerry’s unveiled the reasoning for this April Fool’s Day-inspired PR campaign, this is the reasoning they gave:

In January 2008, the U.S Food and Drug Administration declared milk and meat from cloned animals safe for human consumption, enabling cloned food products to enter the U.S. food supply. However, many Americans are not aware of this fact and are uncomfortable with the idea of eating cloned food products. In fact, a 2008 national poll conducted by the Food Marketing Institute revealed that more than three-quarters of Americans are not comfortable with eating foods from cloned animals.

This is the closest thing to a fact that Ben & Jerry’s produced on the matter. Because it is true that the FDA declared that meat and milk from cloned animals safe for human consumption. Which, apparently Ben, Jerry, and some people who were bushwhacked on a Manhattan street find yucky.

Some quick research on the subject, however, shows that at no time have any scientific studies been done to see what type of dangers “yucky” things present humans. But unfortunately for Ben & Jerry’s, studies have been done on the safety of using cloned animals for food. Thus far, the FDA, New Zealand, Japan and others have come to the conclusion that consuming food from cloned animals is safe.

“Their conclusion is that based on the scientific knowledge and information available at present, such food is as safe as cattle and hogs bred conventionally,” said Kazuo Funasaka in January.

On the opposite side of the coin are gut- and agenda-based opinions from such organizations as “Friends of the Earth.”

“The FDA study did not look at the long-term health effects of consuming cloned animal products. Eating genetically abnormal clones may cause human health abnormalities, leading to cancer and other late-onset degenerative diseases.”

While distrust of the government is normal, the International Food Information Council has made it clear that food from cloned animals is safe, and that the FDA did their homework on the subject:

FDA requires that all foods sold to consumers are safe. FDA analyzed more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific studies on animal cloning which include years of safety data involving multiple generations of livestock, before drafting their risk assessment statement, which determined these food products as safe to eat. They also took into account public comments that were received on the draft assessment. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published reviews in 2002 and 2004 and determined that there was no evidence of safety concerns for foods derived from cloned animals.

Nonetheless, for many, the “yuck” factor destroys peer-reviewed scientific research. Still, Ben & Jerry’s campaign is not to eliminate the possibility of having cloned animals in the food supply, it is to label the cloned food as such:

We believe you should have the right to choose which foods you eat - and not to eat cloned foods if you don’t want to. And that’s why Ben & Jerry’s believes we need a national clone tracking system, so people and companies can know where their food is coming from.

But with their vague CyClone Dairy campaign, that message has been quickly lost, and others have taken the debate in directions they want.

“While CyClone Dairy is a fictional creation, the potential for a company like this to emerge is dangerously real. The only thing that stands in the way of the livestock industry putting meat and milk from cloned animals or their offspring into the food supply is a voluntary moratorium. In other words, a supplier could easily go against the moratorium and put these products out into the marketplace – and FDA would not even require it to be labeled,” wrote Food & Water Watch, bypassing research for the much more convenient fear factor.

And from the blog Eat. Drink. Better.:

Ben & Jerry’s launched this fictitious dairy company last month to bring attention to the frightening reality of meat and dairy from cloned animals entering the nations food supply.

Basically, the point these posts make is this: Oh my God, you could be eating cloned foods right now! But, as FWW points out, there is currently a voluntary moratorium on putting food from cloned animals in the food supply. And with the exorbitant cost of cloning animals, that’s unlikely to change. From the FDA’s “Cloning Myths” section:

FDA has asked clone producers and breeders to voluntarily keep milk and meat from clones out of the food and feed supplies until we finish assessing their safety. To the best of our knowledge, they have been voluntarily keeping the milk and meat from clones out of the food and feed supplies. Further, clones are for breeding stock, so it’s not in a breeder’s best interest to put young stock into the food supply for sale as meat.

It should be pointed out, however, that in Sept. 2008, the Wall Street Journal ran an article pointing out that there is a tiny percentage of food from cloned animal offspring in the food supply:

Don Coover, a veterinarian, rancher and owner of SEK Genetics in Galesburg, Kan., estimated that “hundreds, maybe thousands, of offspring of clones” of beef cattle already exist in the U.S. — though that is a fraction of the nation’s 97 million head of cattle. He said he has sold about 30 offspring of clones to be slaughtered for food.

Animal cloning, which received world-wide attention with the replication of Dolly the sheep in Scotland in 1996, is done by injecting genetic material from the animal to be cloned into a donor egg from another animal. The resulting embryo is then implanted into a surrogate mother, which carries it until birth. Cloned animals can breed with other animals to produce offspring.

The technology allows farmers to replicate animals with desirable traits, such as immunity to certain diseases or the ability to produce more milk. But not many have used it because of the expense — about $20,000 a clone — and U.S. regulators’ call for the food industry to voluntarily refrain from selling products from cloned animals.

Interestingly, the very same WSJ article contains a quote from a consumer, which basically summarizes the entire anti-cloning movement:

“As a mom of two young children, it makes me very uneasy, very nervous that these things are in the food supply,” said Alexis Joyce, a 35-year-old homemaker in Arlington, Va., who shops mostly at farmers’ markets. “It just doesn’t feel right.”

In the end, it comes to this: The United States has emerged from eight years of Republican governance that not only ignored science, but actively fought it. With a pro-science administration in place, now is the time for real facts to dominate debate. And at this stage, the scientific evidence is all on the side of cloning. The onus is now on anti-cloners to prove why having unlabeled food from cloned animals in the food supply is either unethical or unhealthy.

And “it just doesn’t feel right” is just not an acceptable response.



March 31, 2009

Every now and again, I remember I have a journalism background. Here are a few Internet things I’ve looked into and debunked:

  • The Martin Eisenstadt Chronicles
  • Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne’s attacks on financial journalists are false
  • The Ammunition Accountability Act e-mail a hoax - It already failed in 2008
  • The CyClone Dairy hoax/PR Campaign
  • About WKW

    September 17, 2008

    William K. Wolfrum is an American writer now residing in Brazil. Contact him at wkwolfrum(at)gmail(dot)com.

    More about Bill

    I’m 43 years old and have been a writer/columnist/journalist for 20 years now, and have been published everywhere from the Adelanto Bulletin to the Boston Globe and lot’s of places in between. My life has been an interesting one full of highs and lows, and I’m honest about it all.

    My adult life began in Southern California, where I was a truck driver for three years. I then moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where I spent the better part of nine years. I worked in Alaska as a bouncer, bartender, carny and commercial fisherman. More than a year of my life has been spent on the Bering Sea.

    Retiring from fishing boats, I began attending the University of Alaska Anchorage, where I majored in journalism. I was sports editor and editor of The Northern Light at UAA, winning two Alaska Press Club Awards for my column writing.

    Following my university career, I lived for nearly two years in New York, where I worked as a copy editor at Professional Sports Publications. There I worked on the Official Rose Bowl Game Program, New York Yankees Magazine and dozens of other titles. I also did feature stories on such sporting luminaries as John Wooden, Bo Jackson and others.

    Returning to my home of California, I began working for daily newspapers as a copy editor, first with the Victorville Daily Press and then with the San Bernardino Sun. I also worked as a freelance writer for the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

    Moving to Brazil in 2003, I have concentrated on my writing as a blogger and journalist. I was the key figure in outing Martin Eisenstadt as a hoax in 2008, as noted by the New York Times and other publications. I also worked on debunking the CyClone Dairy/Ben & Jerry’s Hoax, as well as other new-media hoaxes and misinformation campaigns.

    Aside from my interest in journalism and new media, I have also worked hard to improve as a humorist and satirist, and have had several satirical blog posts “go viral” and earn kudos and laughter throughout the blogosphere. As a blogger I’m a contributor at Alan Colmes’ Liberaland and Dagblog.com and have been featured by such major blogs as Crooks & Liars and The Huffington Post.

    As a writer, over the years my work has been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Seattle Times, Dallas Morning-News, Conde Nast Portfolio, Time, The Washington Post, and many others. My career has been long and constantly evolving, and my vast experiences from Alaska to Brazil and beyond have given me a real-world view that has helped me as a writer and a person.

    My future goals are simple: I want to continue to strive to be the best writer, blogger, journalist, satirist and humorist that I can be.


    Where do Ben & Jerry stand on controversial camel cloning issue?

    April 15, 2009

    Two weeks ago, Ben & Jerry’s started a scare campaign over cloned animals in the food supply. Being that their April Fool’s joke lost all momentum on April 2, maybe they should head over to Dubai, where an insidious cloned camel now walks the land:

    A scientist says the world’s first cloned camel has been produced in the desert emirate of Dubai. Nisar Ahmad Wani, a senior reproductive biologist at the government’s Camel Reproduction Center, says the cloned camel is a six-day-old, one-humped female called Achievement or Injaz in Arabic.

    The horror.


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