One plus One Equals Two: Buying Food in the Information Era

As a proud older sister of two brothers, I recently found myself talking with another friend about the joys of being an older sibling. She shared a story about a time she tried teaching her younger brother math. She asked him, “What is one plus one?” He answered, “three.” When she told him the answer was two, he looked at her and stated that he wanted the answer to be three, so it was going to be.

Her story made me laugh because it reminded me of the many lessons I “taught” my brothers. If you grew up with siblings, or have children of your own, you have likely encountered similar scenarios. When given information, children either easily accept what they are told, create their own ‘facts’ based on their understanding of the world, or ask the most anticipated question of all, “why?”.

Today, we see similar scenarios playing out among adults online. Hopefully, we all ask why and work to find answers. But with so much information at the touch of a few buttons, how do we begin filtering fact from fiction?

Ask Why (also who, what and where):
We once lived in a world where information was hard to access. Now, information is so accessible, it is hard to cut through the noise. As we become more bombarded with information, it becomes harder and more important to take a critical step back and ask that anticipated question: “Why?”

There are many sources that share tips to help answer your questions. Here are some of the things that I try:

  • Check the source. I make sure that the URL or domain names are reliable. If it seems like a credible source, I see if I can find where the content originated.
  • Check the entire site. Once I find the original source, I look at what other items the source has shared to see if these stories are also trustworthy.
  • Check included media. If there is a picture, I use Google Image search to see where it came from.
  • Trust your instincts. Is the article inflammatory? I look to see if the headline seems to draw a quick, emotional reaction.

Fact Checking at the Grocery Store:
Walking through the grocery store aisles, I can’t help but notice all of the labels: organic, non-GMO, all natural, antibiotic free and hormone free. Like the information surplus online that makes it hard to know if a source is trustworthy, packaging that is trying to inform consumers has almost made it difficult to know what food to choose.

That’s why I receive a lot of questions from people struggling to balance their options and find accurate information. If you’re having the same problem, here are a few facts to get you started:

  • Are GMOs safe? Yes! Thousands of studies have been done and those done with good research practices have concluded that GMOs are safe.
  • Is organic food healthier? Actually, studies have shown that the nutritional value of GMOs is the same as organic food. If there are differences, it is because GMO crops have been enriched with nutritional benefits, such as vitamin A.
  • Does eating organic mean no pesticides were used? No. We actually sell a variety of pesticides to organic growers from our natural products portfolio — the most important thing is to wash your produce before eating it (organic or not).

I’m confident in these facts because I’m lucky enough to work with some of the best scientists in our industry. They are experts at what they do and know we all want to provide the best for our family, friends, and of course, our fur-babies. They share our concerns because scientists are parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends, too. They know what that the work that they do here will be used by a farmer down the line to grow the food we all rely on.

So before your next trip to the grocery store, do some research, check your sources and ask questions. If you have the opportunity, ask a scientist working in agriculture or read what they say on the subject matter. For example, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) published a study late last year looking at GMO safety. That way, no matter what choices you make at the grocery store, you can feel assured that it will be the best one for you.

Jenna Marston is an R&D Communications Specialist at Dow AgroSciences. She received her B.S. in Biology and a Masters in Mass Communications from South Dakota State University. She supports Dow AgroSciences’ scientists by sharing how their work is helping feed the world and promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in our communities.