Alan Alda’s new book, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating,” was published June 6, 2017. Empathy as a key to successful scientific communications is one of the topics in the book. How does this concept relate to technical issues such as agriculture and food production, and antibiotic use and resistance?
The term “factory farm” (I call it the “double F bomb”) has become a catch-all for everything that some people perceive as being wrong with modern agriculture. A recent New York Times op-ed contains much misinformation about today’s farming technology, the healthfulness of meat, and the environmental impact of producing food from animals.
There’s strong evidence antibiotics used in livestock and poultry are not driving antibiotic resistance in humans, that responsible use of antibiotics minimizes agriculture’s environmental impact, and unsafe antibiotic residue in food from animals is uncommon. While science is the foundation of those findings, and decision-making processes people use to form opinions are complex, it can be discouraging when groups or individuals choose to support science only when it agrees with issues upon which they’ve made up their minds.