In case you haven't noticed, there's an awful lot to be afraid of these days, like pesticides in food and harmful chemicals in just about everything. Or at least that's what your social media feeds will tell you. They're full of dire warnings. But do we really need to be so afraid--and should we be trusting all the people telling us to be afraid?
The Science Moms say no. They're a group of women that includes a neuroscientist, a plant geneticist, and a molecular geneticist, and they're all moms. Their goal is to combat the hype and fear-mongering with evidence-based information. In the new documentary, Science Moms, they tackle some of the biggest, most controversial issues, including pesticides, GMOs, and vaccines.
"I'd like to see this film used as a tool to fuel critical thinking when it comes to issues that parents face every day," says the director Natalie Newell. "There's so much misinformation out there surrounding issues of food and medicine. The Science Moms are knowledgeable and relatable, and I think their explanations of the science behind these subjects could help change the fear-based narrative that's permeated parenting culture."
According to the film's website, the goal is to give voice to "science-minded moms--the women who are too often drowned out by the fear mongers, the shamers, and the CelebMoms". The film was funded through a Kickstarter campaign and received no funding from outside groups, non-profits, or corporations.
Here are five food myths that the film takes on:
MYTH: Celebrities are authorities
FACT: Most celebrities aren't experts. Our culture is obsessed with celebrities--but they've become trusted authorities on topics well outside their expertise. Some people even trust celebs over doctors and other health professionals when it comes to how to feed their kids or whether to vaccinate. "Celebrities are beautiful, and we like to look at them and we like to watch their movies. But we should be taking what they have to say with a grain of salt... if not several spoonfuls of salt," says Science Mom Kavin Senapathy in the film. In some cases, celebrities also make large amounts of money selling products that are marketed as safer alternatives.
MYTH: "Chemical" is a bad word.
FACT: There's a lot of talk on social media and blogs about "avoiding chemicals". There are even claims that "no amount of chemical exposure is safe". But the reality is everything is made of chemicals, even water! And just because a chemical has a long, scary-sounding name doesn't mean it's actually scary or dangerous (acetic acid = vinegar).
MYTH: Organic means pesticide-free.
FACT: Though organic farming does not allow the use of synthetic pesticides, it does still permit organic pesticides. And some pesticides allowed in organic farming, such as copper sulfate, have the potential to be toxic as well. (RELATED: Why I Don't Worry About Feeding My Family Organic Food)
MYTH: GMO's should terrify you.
FACT: Though some parents go to great lengths and cost to avoid GMOs, something that hasn't been proven to be harmful, some of those same people avoid vaccination, which is proven to prevent diseases that are extremely dangerous and even fatal. And, yes, measles should scare you.
MYTH: Fear of food is healthy.
FACT: The effects of the stress and fear we can put on ourselves and our kids are bad for health. "Being a parent is scary," says Science Mom Alison Bernstein in the film. "I was a fear-based mom. I was so worried that everything I was going to do was going to set my daughter up for failure." But after looking at the evidence, she realized that a lot of her fears were unjustified. We all want the best for our kids, but allowing fear to dominate your parenting isn't healthy.
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author ofThe Snacktivist's Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.