The rage that is sometimes unleashed by proponents of genetically modified (GM) crops when they encounter evidence for potential risks is well described in your News Feature (Nature 461, 27–32; 2009). Several pointers could help remedy the problem of abuse in this “battlefield”.
Reviewers and editors of scientific journals should insist that critiques of GM studies are well-reasoned and constructive, and free of emotionally charged language that might inflame the issues. They should resist the temptation to publish potentially exciting but very preliminary studies that might attract unwarranted media attention (this also applies to findings on the potential benefits of transgenic crops).
Authors of controversial papers must be prepared for their conclusions to be misinterpreted and quoted out of context, even by reputable science writers, as the news flashes around the globe. Oversimplification by the media is prevalent, but careful wording of the paper's findings will encourage more accurate reporting.
Without caution and civility by all participating scientists, effective debate on the benefits and risks of GM crops will continue to be hampered.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Snow, A. Battlefield: useful debate needs caution and civility. Nature 461, 875 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/461875b