Podcast: Meet Mary Mangan—the biologist who crashes anti-GMO events and debunks junk science on Twitter

Issue SocialMediaAttentionSpan px
mary mangan headshot x c default
Mary Mangan. Image: Cornell Alliance for Science

In October 2018, former Reuters journalist and anti-GMO activist Carey Gillam spoke at a small church in Cambridge, Massachusetts as she toured the US promoting her book White Wash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science. The book is an investigation into Monsanto’s alleged efforts to hide evidence that its weed killer Roundup (glyphosate) causes cancer. It builds on four years of open records requests filed by U.S. Right to Know, the organic industry-funded nonprofit Gillam works for.

The audience that night was largely sympathetic to Gillam’s thesis—except for one attendee, cell biologist and science writer Mary Mangan. Mangan wrote a scolding review of the book—Hogwash! A review of Whitewash by Carey Gillam—but offered the author and her publisher a chance to answer 10 questions before releasing the review, which they refused to do. Knowing that Gillam had ignored evidence that refuted her arguments, Mangan decided to ask Gillam the questions in person [watch a video of their exchange here].

On this episode of Biotech Facts and Fallacies, Mangan joins GLP editor Cameron English to discuss the interaction with Gillam and her unique approach to spreading science literacy on Twitter, through animated videos and evidence-based articles aimed at a popular audience. Contrary to the psychological research suggesting that evidence doesn’t matter to consumers, facts can change people’s opinions on controversial science topics, Mangan says. The key is to adapt to your audience and present the science in a compelling manner.

Related article:  Natural GMOs? Some crops incorporate 'foreign DNA' all by themselves

Mangan also tackles recent biotech controversies, including overheated fears of the Impossible burger, produced with genetically engineered yeast, and Facebook’s recent decision to ban infamous anti-GMO activist Mike “the Health Ranger” Adams, who once compared Monsanto to the Nazi regime and promoted “juice detoxification” as a cancer prevention strategy. While Americans view freedom of speech as an inalienable right, does that constitutional protection extend to demonstrably false health claims that can kill people?

Mary Mangan holds a PhD in cell, molecular, and developmental biology from the University of Rochester. She co-founded OpenHelix, a company that provides awareness and training on open source genomics software tools. Follow her on Twitter @mem_somerville

Cameron J. English is the GLP’s senior agricultural genetics and special projects editor. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

The GLP’s Biotech Facts and Fallacies podcast is produced by Sauce Auxiliary and available for subscription on iTunes and Spotify.

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend