Two groups release reports about the same topic at the same time, their conclusions are diametrically opposed to each other. What is a poor reporter to do?
The obvious thing, which is what Rick Weiss did in the Post, is to make the conflict the narrative of the story and leave the credibility decision to the reader. It is actually a neat trick. The only problem with this story is the labels he uses for the two groups “consumer organization” vs. “consortium largely funded by industry” have totally different connotations for readers that don’t know these groups to begin with.
The two reports were about use of pesticides and biotechnology crops. One report concludes that use is up, one report concludes that use is down. The second report, which is a status report published annually and concludes that use is down, is actually the one that fits into the research consensus in the literature, which ought to be the measuring stick of reliability.
Friends of the Earth is an activist group that is opposed to biotechnology in any way, shape, or form. They have been known to use anecdotal material that has been proven false when scrutinized further, but reporters are not supposed to do that with activist provided material.
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications is a agriculture research center funded by USDA, private charities like the Rockefeller Foundation and the agricultural industry to promote crop productivity. Among its donors and board members, you will find some of the most prominent names in agricultural science and agriculture based aid programs for the developing world.
Who are we to trust? I would conclude in the opposite direction of where Mr. Weiss lead you in his story, but hey, that’s just me. Who am I to judge the mighty Post, I am just a mere science writer that specializes in writing about food and biotechnology.