Humans have evolved to detect threats to our survival. That instinct helped us avoid deadly predators while we lived as hunter-gatherers for most of our 200,000-year history. But in today’s modern society, our useful threat-detection instinct has been warped into a serious handicap as we attempt to evaluate risks to our health.
There’s no better example of this phenomenon than the ongoing legal battle over Bayer’s controversial weed killer Roundup. The company faces thousands of lawsuits alleging that glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is a carcinogen responsible for causing Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), a rare cancer whose causes remain elusive. Despite our limited understanding of NHL, misleading news stories and agenda-driven activist groups have left consumers with the impression that glyphosate–a relatively safe yet effective herbicide–is slowly poisoning our food supply, while Bayer attempts to cover up the evidence.
In such a politically charged environment, how are consumers supposed to separate genuine health risks from overheated health scares? On this episode of the EcoModernist podcast, hosts Gabe Ignetti and GLP executive director Jon Entine sit down with legal scholar Drew Kershen and cancer epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat to provide a rundown of food safety and pesticide exposure, with an emphasis on the current glyphosate controversy.
While pesticides can pose real risks to human health, the panel explains, these chemicals also play an essential role in safely producing a steady food supply to feed a growing population. Armed with some basic knowledge of toxicology, it’s up to discerning consumers to evaluate the questionable health claims they see in news headlines and in their social media feeds.
Drew Kershen is Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Oklahoma College of Law
Gabe Ignetti is a host of the EcoModernist podcast
This episode of the EcoModernist podcast originally ran as Science on Trial and has been republished here with permission.