July 12, 2019

Contemporary and Emerging Issues Symposium: Public Policy

Contemporary and Emerging Issues Symposium: Public Policy

By: Dr. Steve Zinn

The Contemporary and Emerging Issues Symposium hosted by the Public Policy Committee began with a showing of the 2017 documentary Food Evolution narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson that focuses on the debate of the use of GMO in our food production systems.  The film evaluates the potential of GMOs around the globe, but primarily argues for sound science and open-mindedness rather than fear-based arguments. The documentary can be found on HULU. View the official trailer here

Dr. Allison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist in the Animal Science Department at the University of California Davis and featured prominently on the film, provided a synopsis of her role in the movie and her role following its release in 2017. Dr. Van Eenennaam also discussed the need for decisions based on science and discussed some of the fear-based advertising of those opposed to the use of GMOs.

Jessica Eise, a Ross Fellow at the Brian Lamb School of Communications at Purdue University, described that we as humans tend to evaluate information with a directional bias toward reinforcing pre-existing views. Therefore, in contentious arguments, disdainful debates or reiteration of facts often cause people to retrench in their beliefs, making little progress towards consensus and progress. However, there is extensive literature in psychology that describes the role of values in risk perception around contentious issues, such as the use of GMOs, can increase the level of effective communication and progress-oriented collaboration.

Dr. Wes Jamison, a professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, focused on GenZ and this generation's view of the world and the speed at which they view and integrate information.  The goal of Dr. Jamison’s presentation was to help the audience of scientists understand how to better communicate with GenZ and share messages regarding complex issues in a way that avoids confirmation bias or anger