How science can counter misinformation about ag biotech

Scientific innovations have streamlined and improved food production methods, but activist groups stoke fear through consumer misinformation, according to a new report from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.

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PeopleImages | iStockPhoto.com
PeopleImages | iStockPhoto.com

Scientific innovations have streamlined and improved food production methods, but activist groups stoke fear through consumer misinformation, according to a new report from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST).

“We wanted to look at the impact that innovations have on our daily lives, for example, food safety and vaccine development. All of these benefit our society. Yet, so many organizations and activists take the benefits of these innovations and turn them around to say ‘but there’s a fraction of the population that is being left behind or negatively impacted,’” Dr. Stuart Smyth at the University of Saskatchewan, one of the authors of the report. said during an accompanying webinar on September 23.

“The result is that advances in agricultural biotechnologies aren’t reaching some of the people and societies in dire need. The fact is that misinformation is having a dire cost on the adoption of new technologies that improve food security, not only in terms of the supply of food but also in terms of our health.”

What activists want

Activist organizations seek to cast technological breakthroughs in food production – from artificial intelligence to nanotechnology – in a dark shadow.

“Activist organizations are allowed to prey on society’s lack of knowledge about crop breeding, vaccine development and food development. Because of this, they’re able to create campaigns of misinformation that try to generate fear and uncertainty in the population about new innovations,” Smyth explained.

“They turn the table around by focusing on a tiny percentage of the population that may be harmed compared to rejecting the benefits to nearly everyone else in society.”

What scientists and agriculture can do

Agricultural researchers and scientists need more training in how to communicate the technical aspects of their research in a manner that aligns with how consumers want to receive information.

“As scientists and researchers, we need to think about what we can do to move forward to reduce consumer misinformation,” Smyth said.

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