November, 18 2015

(The Daily Northwestern) Clickbait Obscures Scientific Truths

Clickbait Obscures Scientific Truths
Alex Koh
The Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL)

During the ongoing presidential race, candidates have frequently made dubious scientific claims to support their platforms. Donald Trump recently cited that it was “really cold outside” as evidence against global warming, demonstrating a total lack of understanding about how both seasons and statistical trends work.
However, as much as Trump is generally derided on this campus, he is hardly alone in misunderstanding science. We have broad issues in the communication of scientific principles between scientists and the public in this country.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), are a scientific advancement that have been at the heart of much recent controversy. Most commonly used in food products, GMOs are genetically altered to attain any number of superior qualities, from virus resistance to improved nutritional content.

The concept of modifying an organism’s genome sounds scary. But the process of genetic modification is precise, and the organisms that are produced are well-regulated by the FDA before they reach the public. Despite safety measures in place and scientific consensus that GMOs are “no more or less dangerous than conventional crops,” the controversy is ongoing due to a disconnect between what the public thinks and what scientists know.

Only 37 percent of the U.S. population thinks GMOs are safe to eat, compared to 88 percent of scientists. This discrepancy manifests itself in meaningful ways. Chipotle proudly announced this year that they would be the first national chain to produce 100 percent GMO-free food. Such continued fearmongering against GMOs will continue to generate public misconceptions and hamper both research and production for years to come.

This issue is not just about people misunderstanding GMOs. There is a more fundamental issue of scientific communication at play. In an effort to draw readers in, news outlets frequently resort to blasting the catchiest headline they can come up with and cherry-picking aspects of scientific advancements.

Read more here.

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