Maybe Ethan Lindenberger represents a watershed moment in the silly clash between science and senseless. Lindenberger is the 18-year-old Ohio high school senior who testified this week before a Senate committee that he inoculated himself against childhood diseases such as measles despite his mother’s wishes. Since Lindenberger’s confession we’re hearing about more legal-age children doing the same.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Health (CDC), at least 206 cases of measles in 11 states have been confirmed this year, and the number is expected to climb. That’s after measles were declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2002. The disease’s resurgence is due to misinformation and unfounded fears of vaccines spread via social media.
Lindenberger attributes his mother’s anti-vaccine ideology to a single source: Facebook. The anti-vaccine movement is fueled by a small, loosely-organized group of people with no medical or scientific qualifications, or, by some who have been stripped of their credentials due to malpractice or fraud.
Truckloads of data and numerous qualified doctors have completely debunked the theories of the anti-vaxxers. And our national media have joined this effort. Every story that describes an anti-vaxxer’s fears now also notes those fears are unfounded, usually attributing the CDC.
In short, science is winning! Yes, it took the misery of hundreds (thousands?) of children suffering through a childhood disease needlessly, but most Americans now generally know their children should be vaccinated.
Agriculture should be encouraged by these recent events. While your average soccer mom will never become as engaged about GMOs or beef’s environmental footprint as they are about vaccines and their children, we should be inspired by science acceptors such as Ethan Lindenberger.
Anyone with access to the internet knows the anti-agriculture, anti-GMO, anti-meat zealots are operating at full-throttle. Common sense suggests we’ll need to use technology and all of our resources to continue feeding the world’s growing population, only we’ll need to prove the safety and sustainability, too.
There’s plenty of science at our disposal to help convince consumers our products are safe and wholesome, but we must also recognize it will be a long-term effort.
Another victory for agriculture and science may soon arrive in the approval of Golden Rice for commercial release in Bangladesh in the next three months. The Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) calls this “fantastic news for Southeast Asia for humanitarian and economic development reasons.”
GLP also calls it great news for the overall debate surrounding the use of biotech in agriculture. Calling the crop the “Great Golden Hope of Biotech Crops,” GLP said Golden Rice is “a wholly virtuous crop devoid of the grubby commercial concerns of intellectual property or profit motive. In this case, the IP had been donated, the rice was being developed by a non-profit NGO and the rice will be given freely to farmers and local breeding programs—a trait of value directly to consumers, among them some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.”
Golden Rice is the type of success science and agriculture can provide for consumers around the world. We should continue to advocate for agriculture to use all available and scientifically proven technologies.