Agricultural Myths and Facts

So says McGill University’s Science and Society’s Director Joe Schwarcz. Actually, it’s the Quacks who are coming home to roost as a result of the erosion in the quality of scientific education and literacy among the general public. 

In his presentation at Gentec’s One Genome One Health conference, Dr. Joe (as he is known informally) used his talk on Agricultural Facts and Myths to highlight how the scientific method of hypothesis, observation, logic and conclusion is, in many instances, being overpowered by hearsay, emotion and the Quacks pushing pseudoscience. 

If the public is to be truly informed, it must be encouraged and empowered to see through the misleading tactics (camouflage? – Joe’s word) employed by the “hucksters.” Part of this requires overcoming today’s chemical phobia and realizing that “nature” and “natural” are not necessarily benign; bacteria, viruses and storms are all naturally occurring, and the majority of the most powerful toxins (as well as medications) are produced in nature—and are often one in the same. “Naturally” occurring botulinum, for example, is the most acutely lethal toxin known yet is used as both a medication and a cosmetic. It is the dose that makes the medicine.

Some of Dr. Joe’s other insights and implications discussed in the short video that make you go “Hmmm” include:

Hazard and Risk. They aren’t the same thing, but do we know the difference?

Current technology allows us to detect the presence of parts per trillion (equivalent to the ability to detect 1 second within a 32,000 year period). Does this help or hinder our ability to make good decisions?

There are more trace amounts of naturally occurring acetone and formaldehyde in an apple than the pesticide residue many people lose sleep over. Should I really eat that apple?

Natural… Organic… Conventional – Who cares?  And do they really mean what we think they do?

The near-perfect correlation between autism and organic food sales. We are probably better off being vaccinated than eating organic food. Who knew?

Well-informed decisions need to be made on the basis of peer-reviewed scientific evidence. Being empowered to see through the fog that is deception is the best defence.

Thanks, Dr. Joe!

Posted in Consumer.