By Breanne Brammer
DES MOINES, Iowa — Alison Van Eenennaam was honored with the 2014 Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Award for her excellence in biotechnology communication Wednesday afternoon.
Recipients of the CAST Award are science and agricultural experts who excel in communications.
“I am passionate about science communication because if we do not have understanding then we may not have technology,” Eenennaam said.
In one of her efforts to dispel misinformation, Eenennaam conducted a scientific review that examined 30 years of livestock feed studies. She found animals that consumed GMO foods were as healthy as non-GMO-fed animals.
She has also appeared on several YouTube videos that promote understanding of biotechnology. Eenennaam said misunderstanding science makes it difficult to have conversation about subjects like genetic engineering and food labeling, especially in social media.
Social media is a platform that can create extreme opinions, she said, and consistent studies, the backbone of the scientific community, may never get a Tweet or Facebook post. Consensus in the scientific community is too often overlooked, she said, due to misinformation
“The internet has really changed scientific communication and how messages are presented,” she said.
Eenennaam serves as a cooperative extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology and faculty member at the University of California, Davis. Her research specializes in the use of DNA-based biotechnologies in beef cattle production, according to her website.
She has received numerous awards for her research including the American Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, National Award for Excellence in Extension. Her research has been featured in more than 60 scientific and livestock publications.
Her undergraduate work was completed in agricultural science at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. She obtained her masters in animal science and doctorate in genetics at the University of California, Davis.
Her advice to journalists is to communicate in a way that is simple but that sticks to the truth.
“It’s complicated because there’s no one size fits all,” Eenennaam said. “Content is dependent on audiences to create understanding.”