Scientists concerned over rise of misinformation on science

Report shows 40% of media coverage in Kenya promotes false information about GMOs

In Summary

•She said that misinformation has reached a crisis proportion and poses a risk to international peace.

•Only 3 percent of articles contained pro-GMO misinformation.

Alliance for Science Executive Director Sheila Ochugboju at Capital Club on May 17, 2023
Alliance for Science Executive Director Sheila Ochugboju at Capital Club on May 17, 2023

Scientists have raised concerns over the danger of misinformation on science-related matters.

Speaking during a breakfast meeting with Kenya Editors Guild in Nairobi, Alliance for Science Executive Director Sheila Ochugboju said there is a lot of misinformation on biotechnology that needs to be sorted.

“There is a need to sensitise and give Kenyans correct and adequate information on biotechnology so that they can make informed choices from where they sit,” she said.

“The media's work is to enhance the truth and we can work to create an appetite for truth in Kenya."

She said that misinformation has reached a crisis proportion and poses a risk to international peace.

“It interferes with democratic decision-making and endangers the well-being of the planet and threatens public health,” she said.

Ochugboju said that the misinformation on GMOs has led to a lack of adoption of improved seeds and crops which are more climate resilient and can improve food and nutrition security.

She said that science misinformation which is on the rise leads to suspicion and mistrust of experts and expertise and that reporting on science and technology remains a challenge in Kenya.

“The exponential rise of misinformation in science and technology impedes progress in meeting key sustainable development goals. People have choices,” she said.

The head of partnerships at the Alliance for Science Michael Onyango said that if the real issues are not addressed then Kenya is going in the wrong direction.

“If you spend a lot of time and you go online, you can know the true facts about science. Let’s not pretend that we do not know what is right and what is wrong,” he said.

“Whoever controls your food, controls you …if you don’t address the real issues then we are lying to ourselves. We have to understand that if we do not develop a reading culture where we can know what is the truth and what’s is the lie.”

A report on misinformation dubbed GMO Misinformation in the Kenyan Media released in February found that 40 per cent of the articles published on GMOs contained unrebutted misinformation.

In the study, GMO media articles published by Kenyan media published between October 2022 and January 2023, 151 out of a total of 376 articles contained unchallenged negative misinformation about GMOs.

This equates to 40 per cent of media coverage by volume in Kenya promoting negative misinformation about GMOs.

Only 3 per cent of articles contained pro-GMO misinformation.

The study indicated that the vast majority of the misinformation ‘conversation’ in the Kenyan media (more than 80 per cent) concerned the topic of human health, with the issue of the scientific consensus on GMO safety the second-biggest topic with 10 percent of mentions.

“These very high rates of misinformation are perhaps among the worst in the world, and will make it very difficult for Kenyan citizens and policymakers to make informed decisions about GMOs in the face of such a storm of misinformation.,” the report reads.

“In order for the country to have a productive debate on the contribution GMOs can make to food and nutrition security, media will need to make a special effort not to repeat quotes, even from prominent people, which contain misinformation without rebuttal.”

The Alliance for Science seeks a future where science and innovation are shared and supported to help bring about a world without poverty, where people everywhere can flourish on an ecologically protected and restored planet.

Their primary focus areas are: climate change, global health, misinformation, and food and nutrition security

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