food and tablet

Information vs. Knowledge

The world today is filled with information. More accessible, immediate information than any time in history. But, does more information mean more knowledge? This point was made during a radio round-table I recently participated in and it really resonated with me.

We are inundated with information and can find an answer to virtually anything in a matter of minutes, even seconds. But is “an” answer always the right answer? It is so easy for misinformation, confusion, and fear to overwhelm objective analysis.

I have fallen for this. Like two years ago when my daughter’s pediatrician found something very unusual in an x-ray of her hip and recommended we see a specialist. Instead of patiently waiting until we could get in to hear what a trusted expert with years of education and practice in pediatric orthopedics would tell us, I searched her symptoms on the internet. And then I spent the time between her x-ray and her appointment concerned she must have bone cancer. Not only did I let fear overcome my faith, but I also began to trust that what I found on the internet was factual. Her actual diagnosis was much less serious and was something I had never heard of, certainly not something internet searches lead me to.

Why? Because the big, the bad, and the negative tend to dominate internet search results. In fact, the journal Science recently published a study validating this notion. Unfortunately it can take the truth up to six times longer to reach 1,500 people than falsehoods.

But here’s the thing. Did I just assume my “Google University” findings were correct and cancel our appointment with a trained medical professional? Of course not! When you want what’s best for your children, you seek the facts; you seek trusted science based evaluation from someone with years of education and experience.

You know what else might fill you with fear? Internet searches on food production and foods produced using genetically engineered seed (commonly referred to as “GMO”). Why? Because the big, the bad, and the negative tend to dominate internet search results. The same Science study just referenced also found science is one of the content areas in which the effects of false information spreading at a much faster rate than true information is more pronounced.

My family farms, but I am also a consumer and a mom. I need to be sure that the foods my family eats are safe and healthy. In the same way that I sought answers for my daughter from a trained and educated professional, I look for answers about the safety of my food from well-educated and trained scientists. I look for legitimate and unbiased information in the form of peer reviewed published science.

In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released an analysis of over 1,000 relevant sources and found no substantiated evidence of difference in risks to human health or the environment between commercialized genetically engineer crops and conventionally bred crops. A short summary of the full more than 500 page publication is also available.

I personally trust the science on this issue and I don’t worry about feeding my family food produced using genetically engineered seed. One of my favorite things to do when I find something online is to check the source. What is the background of the writer? The credibility of the organization? Ulterior motives? I have found some of the most powerful anti-GMO voices have no background in science, crops, or genetics. I ask myself, are they spreading knowledge or information?

And get this; the scientific consensus for the safety of genetically modified foods is actually stronger than the scientific consensus for climate change. If you believe that science supports climate change, there’s absolutely no reason to be concerned about the safety of genetically modified foods. You really can’t argue the science of one without supporting the science of the other.

If you are conflicted on this topic, I strongly encourage the movie Food Evolution. The movie, with a rare 100% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, does an excellent job evaluating the debate over GMOs considering emotions and evidence from all sides. Visit the movie page for more information.

Although not yet available on video, there are several upcoming screenings across the state:

  • Marty Theater, Bradley University in Peoria IL – April 4th at 6:30pm
  • Putnam Museum in Davenport, IL – April 5th at 6:30pm
  • Art Theater in Champaign, IL – April 8th at 1:30pm
  • Illinois Central College Lecture Recital Hall in Peoria, IL – April 10th at 6pm
  • Kankakee Library in Kankakee, IL – June 14th at 6:15pm

Each screening includes a panel discussion after the movie. I was on the panel at a previous screening and we received many great questions.

Whether it comes to medical ailments, genetically engineered food, or anything else, I have learned how important it is to fill myself with knowledge rather than information. Instead of letting fear driven by internet information overwhelm me; I will seek out knowledge in objective fact based science for answers.

Originally posted on The Real Housewives of Rural Illinois.


Brett and Krista Swanson

About Krista

Brett and Krista are both the fifth generation in their families to farm. They farm with Brett’s parents and family and live on the farm near Oneida, Illinois, with their three daughters: Bianca, Karina, and Susana, and one son: Brock.

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