The History and Impact of Misinformation in the Agricultural Sciences
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Informing or basing public policy on misinformation in the agricultural sciences can have devastating consequences. Some high-profile examples include Trofim Lysenko’s belief that the environment alone shapes plants and animals, rather than genetics. Policy based on this belief ultimately contributed to the starvation of millions of Soviet citizens in the early 1930s. Likewise, the Great Leap Forward which was a five-year plan to modernize China’s rural and agricultural sectors through collectivism and industrialization begun in 1958, resulted in declining crop yields and a famine that killed millions of people. More recently, in May 2021 the Sri Lankan President banned all agrochemical imports including herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer in a bid to make that country’s farming 100% organic, against the advice of the nation’s agricultural scientists. The ban was hastily lifted in November, 2021 as a result of ensuing food shortages and rising prices for rice, vegetables and other market staples. The United States is not immune from such forces, as evidenced by the continued misinformation campaign that has convinced the majority of US consumers that genetically modified (GMO) foods are unsafe. Professor Van Eenennaam will discuss some of these modern examples of misinformation around the highly personal and emotive topic of food, and the role that institutions of higher education have had in both countering and amplifying the misinformation.
CAS Professors of Plant Biology & Crop Sciences Stephen P. Long and Donald R. Ort will moderate.
In preparation for this talk, Professor Van Eenennaam recommends watching the movie Food Evolution, available free of charge on Hulu
Professor of Cooperative Extension
Animal Genomics and Biotechnology
Department of Animal Science
University of California, Davis