A Conversation, Not a Lecture, with the Science Moms

October 28, 2017

Alison Bernstein in Science Moms

The attendees of CSICon 2017 had the privilege of being the first audience for Science Moms, a new documentary that illustrates the challenge for mothers who want to do what’s best for their kids, but are beset by pseudoscience and paranoia about things like “chemicals” and GMOs. Through interviews with five such moms with careers in science, we get both an idea of what the modern parent has to contend with, as well as some clarity on some of the more hot-button issues around food and health.

At a panel discussion after the screening, those same five women were joined in stage by the film’s director, Natalie Newell, host of The Science Enthusiast Podcast. And one theme that emerged both from the film and the Q&A session was one of empathy. “We all get that fear, having a little human being depending on you is terrifying,” said neuroscientist Alison Bernstein. That shared concern, that all parents just want what’s best for their children, is the starting point for conversation (as opposed to a lecture).

And also important is the acknowledgement that there aren’t clear-cut heroes and villains. GMOs, vaccines, and other scientific breakthroughs in food and health save and improve lives, but it also so happens that the ones funding and marketing these breakthroughs are faceless corporate behemoths.

“We’re defending pharma,” noted Bernstein, “and they have done some terrible things. … I find that hard, so I try to stick to the science.”

And as Kavin Senapathy pointed out, when anti-GMO activists make it harder for GMOs to come into being, it leaves only megacorporations like Monsanto with the resources to continue the work. “It only helps Monsanto,” she said, by clearing away all other potential competition and innovators.

The full movie will be available online in the next couple of weeks, and it’s definitely going to wake some people up.