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What the Risk-Monger Had to Say about GMOs

November 17, 2015
I recently attended a presentation by David Zaruk, who is better known as the Risk-Monger. His remarks and insight were so helpful that I felt it was worth sharing with the BIOtechNow audience.

For those who are unfamiliar, David Zaruk has been an EU risk and science communications specialist since 2001. He has been involved and active in such EU policy events as REACH and SCALE to the Pesticides Directive, and Science in Society questions to the use of the Precautionary Principle.

Additionally, he was part of the team that set up GreenFacts to encourage a wider use of evidence-based decision-making in the EU on environmental health matters. He is an adjunct professor at Vesalius College and Facultés Universitaires St-Louis where he lectures on Risk Communications, EU Lobbying, Corporate Communications and PR.

During his presentation, David discussed how some individuals have a tendency to put emotion ahead of science especially when it comes to such issues as plastics, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and pesticides.

Specifically, his presentation focused on how to deal with these individuals who aren't willing to engage in a rational, civil dialogue around these issues.

Zaruk argued that before we respond to an activist's remark, we should ask ourselves will our response fuel the debate or alleviate their hostile nature. If you have a community built around your issues and positions, then it may be worthwhile to have your them respond to the activist on your behalf.

In regards to GMOs, he suggested that industry should come off more as vulnerable. Many individuals agree with science around GMOs but are fearful of big corporations and industry controlling the food supply. While these fears are unfounded, they do exist.

He then transitioned into how social media has changed the dialogue around science. Activists are now able to better connect and get together which has allowed them to better mass message false claims to the public. This community was able to form so quickly because of all of the social media options that exist today.

He concluded by arguing that scientists need to be more vocal not only on social media but in general on the issues of GMOs, pesticides, etc. Credible scientists can deliver the correct facts around these issues but they must be able to communicate them so that they can be easily understood by the public.

Visit David Zaruk's site here to read his recent blog and to learn more from this expert on how to better communicate on GMOs and other contentious issues.