Episode 6: Trace A. Mounts Attacks!

Hazard-01-e1538793268634.pngTrace A Mounts fails to understand the difference between a risk and a hazard. Many items are hazards but not risks because we aren’t exposed to them either frequently enough or at concentrations high enough to pose a risk. Briefly, asteroids are hazards because they can be deadly, but they aren’t a risk because we seldom encounter them: we usually go about our days without worrying about “death by asteroid”. Formaldehyde is also a hazard: we know that it can be harmful. However, we do not consider pears to be risky despite the fact that they have formaldehyde because the amount in the pears is so low that it is considered to be safe.

Learn more about risk and hazards in our multi-part series on this topic.

Trace A. Mounts considers many items around us to be extremely dangerous. Of course, our aim should always be to create products that are safer for us and our environment, but this does not mean that the items we have are harmful. To read more, please explore the following posts from SciMoms and other sources:

 

Episode 5: The Jargon Juggernaut – Part 2

Sue-Doe-Part-3-01-e1535860179200.pngAs we mentioned in the last episode, “jargon is often used when companies make false health claims. Scientific words that are unfamiliar can be overwhelming and digging into the validity of health claims can be very difficult, particularly when many of them are made at once”.

Additionally, pseudoscience is characterized by weak or little evidence. When you come across a questionable article or claim, pick a single point and try to find evidence supporting the claim. Don’t move forward until you have an answer, otherwise you may get caught and overwhelmed in the web of jargon.

Which claims should you question first? Here’s a list of suggestions from our last episode:

  • Beware of health claims that are not verified by the FDA (for example, Sue claims that only organic water can hydrate).
  • Ensure that the studies cited were not conducted exclusively in animals.
  • Ensure that the studies cited have been reproduced in other labs.
  • Be skeptical of health claims that sound too good to be true, because they usually are.

 

Episode 4: The Jargon Juggernaut

Sue-Doe-Part-2-Alkaline-01-e1527096387266.pngJargon is often used when companies make false health claims. Scientific words that are unfamiliar can be overwhelming and digging into the validity of health claims can be very difficult, particularly when many of them are made at once.

To ensure that articles making health claims are factual:

  • Beware of health claims that are not verified by the FDA (for example, Sue claims that only organic water can hydrate).
  • Ensure that the studies cited were not conducted exclusively in animals.
  • Ensure that the studies cited have been reproduced in other labs.
  • Be skeptical of health claims that sound too good to be true, because they usually are.

Episode 3: Introducing Sue Doe Syence

Meet-Sue-Doe-Alkaline-01-e1520636986312.pngWhat are some indicators that a company or person is not using science and evidence to sell their product?

Beware of:

  • Products with health claims that are not FDA approved
  • Products that claim to be a panacea to treat a wide variety of different symptoms (for example, a product will claim to help prevent cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and help with weight loss)
  • Products whose claims sound too good to be true (for example, Nutella’s claim that it is a healthy breakfast)
  • Products that demonize the competition as harmful and dangerous (for example, Sue claims that the only water safe enough to drink is her product)
  • Company or website that uses fear to “educate” its customers about an issue, whose solution it sells

 

Episode 2: SciMoms vs Rocky Meadows

Rocky-Meadows-01-e1517684684792.pngWhat are GMOs?

GMO, or Genetically Modified Organism, is a term usually used to describe crops that have had one or more genes added to them. These genes can come from related or distant species: for example, a genetically modified white potato could have a gene from a wild potato added to its DNA. It can also have a gene from a bacteria added to its genome. These genes give the crop new characteristics or traits.

Scientists give crops new traits to help farmers or to add features that consumers want. An example of a crop engineered to help farmers is the Rainbow papaya, which was modified to be resistant to a virus that impacts the growth of the fruit. Traits such as pest resistance decrease the amount of pesticides that farmers use. An example of a crop that was modified to satisfy consumers is the Arctic Apple, which was engineered with a gene from the apple itself so that it does not bruise or brown. This reduces food waste from farm to table.

There are only a handful of genetically modified crops on the market. A list of crops is available here and a more detailed database of engineered crops, their regulatory approval status globally is available here. Each country has a different process for the approval and testing of GMOs. In the United States, this process takes years while the FDA, USDA, and other entities ensure that the crops pose no greater risk than other crops. An excellent article outlining the nuances of this process are outlined here.

Despite the persistent myth, there are no crops with fish genes in them currently on the market. All organisms on the planet have DNA and due to evolution, the genes that make up our DNA can be quite similar. In fact, 60% of our genes are similar to those in fruit flies. Consequently, adding a gene from a distant species does not make this process immediately risky or harmful, and this process does occur naturally in crops.

To learn more about GMOs, see this Q&A put together by the Royal Society in the UK.