Don’t Believe everything you see on the TV, but you’ve heard that before, right?

By Micah Shearer-Kudel, Environmental Coordinator, Farm & Food Care

Glossing over my Twitter feed, I stumbled upon an interesting article recently. A tweet shared an article by Tom Spears, a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen.

Intrigued by the title (which included the word gobbledygook so how could I resist) I opened the link and what I found was frightening. Spears explained how he and others at the Citizen wrote a ‘scientific’ paper (most of it was actually plagiarized) that he would attempt to have published by a peer-reviewed journal, made up of one part soil science, one part hematology, and the rest, utter nonsense (read the full article here).

The goal was to prove that anything could be published, even if it made absolutely no sense, for a fee. The sad truth is that within two days he had several offers to publish what couldn’t even be called ‘junk science.’

Sometimes, you don’t even have to pay to plaster incorrect information all over the place. Internet sensations such as the Food Babe or the March Against Monsanto cause make errant claims about agriculture and the environment (generally with an anti-corporate stance) and see their popularity increase.

You’re likely wondering, what does all this mean?

The amount of information available is growing exponentially, and there are no signs of a slow down any time soon. It is more important than ever to follow up on what you see, read and hear from any source. The advent of social media has made it simple to turn free speech into ‘fear’ speech. Questioning how the science was conducted, and perhaps if it was even conducted at all is crucial. It is also crucial to know more about the topic, how the research was completed, the length of the study, etc.

But let’s be honest with ourselves: do we have the time (or the interest) to be doing our own research about the myriad information we are bombarded with every day? Probably not.

Having a conversation with a credible expert is the best thing to do. Perhaps you read a study about how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) ruin soil and cause stomach disorders. Follow up with a credible soil scientist, chemist or nutritionist. Perhaps you heard that most farms in Canada are owned by corporations. Ask a credible expert, such as those of us at Farm & Food Care, who work with and for farmers every day.

The website, gmoanswers.com allows users to submit questions and receive answers from unbiased, credible experts such as crop scientists and university professors. These resources exist to provide credible information to the public, and are moderated by people who understand the science and are pleased to share the information.

The Centre for Food Integrity, based in the United States, provides unbiased research into building consumer trust in current food systems. The University of McGill Office for Science & Society (OSS) is a unique venture dedicated to the promotion of critical thinking and the presentation of scientific information to the public, educators and students in an accurate and responsible fashion. These are only a few organizations that back their information with credible experts and share their information freely so the public understands how their food is grown. Since the misinformation often outweighs credible information, it’s imperative to talk to the experts. After all, you wouldn’t hire a lawyer without a licence, would you?

Taking things at face value is an easy way believe that everything on earth is out to get you. Worst case scenarios are the bread and butter of many media outlets and organizations with an anti-farming agenda. Farmers and farm businesses are continuously working diligently to gain your trust and to improve environmental practices for everyone. The answers to many important questions are readily available – and they’re often only an email or call away.

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