Citrus study offers lesson in ‘irresponsible science’

Citrus study offers lesson in ‘irresponsible science’

SCIENCE IS A BELOVED ASPECT of agriculture, as it has long influenced agriculture in such a positive way. A shining example of science’s positive impact would be all the research that is ongoing on curing citrus greening. From biology to chemistry to earth science, science has helped agriculture to grow and raise more food with less land, water, environmental impact … you name it. Furthermore, the scientific method of testing, studying, and recording is at the root of most of our decisions.

However, like most things, science can also be used — and even interpreted — in an irresponsible way. Such is the case with a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, which links the consumption of citrus with skin cancer. As you can imagine, those in the Florida citrus industry were not happy. The Florida Department of Citrus took the study to task, pointing out flaws, inconsistencies, and limitations in the study. Florida Citrus Mutual Executive VP Mike Sparks called the study “irresponsible science regarding the nation’s food supply,” and he maintained that “consumers are smart enough to eat citrus, so I’m confident they’ll be smart enough to see through this study.”

Such sloppy science can spread harmful misinformation like wildfire via the Internet, and it can cause a lot of harm. People like to have science to back up their beliefs, but they don’t necessarily have the scientific background or the time and desire to differentiate real science from manipulated or misinterpreted pseudoscience. The ag and food industries both see such damaging misinformation all the time, especially concerning GMOs, organics, pesticides, the treatment of farm animals, etc.

Consumers need reliable information and the ability to tell the real McCoy from the pseudoscience in order to reap the rewards of health and plenty that science affords us.


column by MIKE MARTIN

BIO: Michael Martin of Martin Law Office in Lakeland specializes in agriculture and environmental legal representation. A native of Polk County, Mike attended college at Sewanee in Tennessee, before obtaining a doctorate in law from the University of Florida and has tried numerous cases nationwide since that time. Mike also serves as the director of the FFA Foundation and is the author of the novel, The Crestfallen Rose.

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