Podcast: Monsanto v Percy Schmeiser; Experts spread misinformation, too; Fasting a fad diet?

screenshot percy

Just-released courtroom drama ‘Percy’ tells the David vs. Goliath story of a Canadian farmer’s battle against Monsanto. Did the film get the facts straight? Misinformation proliferates on social media, but sometimes it’s scientists themselves who share the fake news. Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained popularity as a weight-loss strategy over the last decade. Now studies are beginning to trickle in, showing that skipping a meal or two may be a better choice than calorie restriction for some people. Is this a fad or a viable treatment for obesity?

Join geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English on this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies as they break down these latest news stories:

In 1998, Monsanto sued Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser for growing it’s genetically engineered canola without paying the required technology licensing fee. Schmeiser said the seed somehow landed in his field without his knowledge and fought Monsanto all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court. The Court ruled for Monsanto, finding that the farmer couldn’t reasonable explain why he had planted more than 1,000 acres of GM canola after discovering the seed on his property.

Schmeiser nonetheless became a hero to anti-GMO activists as they battled ‘Big Ag,’ and the new film ‘Percy’ appears to frame the story in the same light, if the trailer and early reviews are any indication. So, will the film mislead moviegoers about agriculture and biotechnology, as many farmers suspect, or will it faithfully recount the tribulations of an underdog wrongly bullied by a corporate giant?

Conspiracy theorists of all flavors eagerly spread disinformation on social media, and their efforts are typically part of a “carefully planned and technically sophisticated deceit process.” Scientists rightly call out and correct disinformation, but what happens when it’s actually experts who spread the falsehoods? And is there anything we can do about it as critical consumers of media?

We’ve all seen it before. A fad diet explodes in popularity, gaining millions of adherents and ultimately becoming embedded in popular culture—only to be debunked a few years later by scientists carefully piecing together the data. In the case of intermittent fasting, though, it appears that science may have actually validated the fad instead of debunking it. Two clinical studies comparing calorie restriction to intermittent fasting indicate that the latter leads to more fat loss and better blood sugar control. Is it time again to rethink mainstream diet advice?

Related article:  Nutrigenomics: Can custom diets based on personal genetics help you lose weight?

Subscribe to the Science Facts and Fallacies Podcast on iTunes and Spotify.

Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow Professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta

Cameron J. English is the GLP’s managing editor. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

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