From pesticide scare stories to insect ‘extinction,’ reporters are addicted to ‘pseudoscience,’ says science writer Matt Ridley


Three times in [February 2019], pseudo-science flew around the world before the scientific truth had got its boots on (as Mark Twain did not say, but Jonathan Swift almost did): in stories about insect extinction, weedkiller causing cancer, and increased flooding.

Take the story on 10 February that ‘insects could vanish within a century’, as the Guardian’s Damian Carrington put it…The authors of the study….claimed to have reviewed 73 different studies to reach their conclusion that precisely 41 per cent of insect species are declining and ‘unless we change our way of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.’

In fact the [researchers] had started by putting the words ‘insect’ and ‘decline’ into a database….They did not check that their findings were representative enough to draw numerical conclusions from.


Related article:  Green Genes: Sustainability Advantages of Herbicide Tolerant and Insect Resistant Crops

Curiously, 41 per cent cropped up in another misleading story….This is the claim that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weedkiller, increases the incidence of….non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). ‘Exposure to weed-killing products increases risk of cancer by 41 per cent,’ said the Guardian’s headline.

….According to the epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat, the paper combined one high-quality study with five poor-quality studies and chose the highest of five risk estimates reported in one of the latter to ensure it would reach statistical significance.

Read full, original article: Lying with science: a guide to myth debunking: Pseudoscience is on the rise – and the media is completely hooked 

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