Published today in Independent Science News: “Fakethrough! GMOs and the Capitulation of Science Journalism“, by Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director of The Bioscience Resource Project.
“The media is absolutely essential to the functioning of a democracy. It’s not our job to cozy up to power. We’re supposed to be the check and balance on government.” — Amy Goodman
Goodman, like many others, believes the role of a democratic press is that of public interest watchdog.
For the the science media it appears to be the role not taken. This failure is perhaps most evident in its coverage of the Ag-Biotech industry, where the gap between what the data supports and the press reports appears ever-widening. Especially telling are the articles describing ‘humanitarian’ GMO breakthroughs in which biotech crops are proposed, in the words of Canada’s National Post, to pull “the African continent out of decades of economic and social despair”.
These articles appear in all of the science media and beyond, including the New York Times, Time magazine, the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Guardian, the Economist, Slate, New Scientist, Forbes and hundreds of other news outlets. The Ag-Biotech industry has taken full advantage of a compliant media to put forth an image of itself as sophisticated, caring, and essential to the world’s survival. The mirror image, in fact, of that supported by both science and history.
This continuous flow of “good news for the world” stories originates from a very limited number of GMO biotech projects: edible vaccines, biofortified cassava, golden rice, and a virus resistant sweet potato. Based on preliminary research, unpublished findings, or already failed projects, what these stories primarily showcase is the failure of the mainstream science press to fulfill the requirements of rigorous and skeptical journalism. For the full story on this failure of the science press and its implications, read “Fakethrough! GMOs and the Capitulation of Science Journalism“, by Jonathan Latham, PhD.
“Well, there’s a question as to what sort of information is important in the world, what sort of information can achieve reform. And there’s a lot of information. So information that organizations are spending economic effort into concealing, that’s a really good signal that when the information gets out, there’s a hope of it doing some good.” — Julian Assange