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Timothy Caulfield: Debunk Misinformation

By: Natalie Noble

Timothy Caulfield offered the Farming Smarter conference ways to debunk misinformation. Whether it be fad diets, attacks on GMO or misrepresentation of the industry in the media, getting the truth out there is a challenge.

Timothy Caulfield
Timothy Caulfield

When Farming Smarter invited Caulfield to be keynote speaker for its 2020 conference, neither party knew exactly what 2020 had in store. However, in the midst of a pandemic and unprecedented amounts of misinformation circulating, the timing couldn’t be better. 

“We talk about misinformation and the impact it has on so many dimensions of Canadians’ lives – from nutrition to food debates constantly going on,” Caulfield said. “But in the context of COVID-19, holy cow has the issue of health misinformation ever intensified over the months.”

Caulfield is certainly well-prepared to tackle this issue as a University of Alberta professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health as well as the research director of the Health Law Institute He also holds a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy. Caulfield writes extensively to debunk myths and assumptions around health science and innovation and authored two best-selling books: The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness; and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash. He also hosted and co-produced the award-winning documentary TV show, A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, now streaming on Netflix.

“I talk about the myths around COVID, and how this is an interesting time in history where we can really dig into what the research says around how misinformation has a tangible impact on all of us,” he said.

“The other thing I can do is energize everyone to become part of the Go Science team to help debunk those myths in a constructive way,” Caulfield said. “I give everyone pointers as to how they can do that and really be part of the broader conversation.”

It’s no surprise that Caulfield engaged with the agriculture community in the past, and he always enjoys it. “I hope to have the opportunity to talk to this community not just as experts in this area, but as professionals and business individuals that are part of the broader community. They play such an important role in what I call the health economy,” he said. “I work in the area of misinformation and there’s so much of that relevant to this community. I know that this community also gets really frustrated by it.”

He added that myths around agri-food products and the role food plays in people’s health have a measurable impact on the economy and agricultural markets. “And it matters,” he said. “Engaging this community is increasingly important to the topic of the spreading of health misinformation.”

Agronomy Smarts subscribers can watch Timothy’s talk from conference 2020