Vaccinating Legal Scholarship from Distorted Science: Evidence from the Anti-GMO Movement

33 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2020 Last revised: 2 Apr 2020

See all articles by Robert C. Bird

Robert C. Bird

University of Connecticut - School of Business

Date Written: April 1, 2020


Scientific research has a profound impact on formulation of public policy. However, legal research, often dependent on intermediaries to communicate scientific knowledge, is all too vulnerable to accepting science fiction as science fact. Too few legal scholars have highlighted this vulnerability, leaving the academy vulnerable to promoting public policy solutions that contradict the best science available. The more awareness that exists about how science can be corrupted through dissemination, the more effectively the legal literature can filter it out, and thus base its science-relevant scholarship on only rigorous scientific research.

Responding to this gap in the literature, this article explores how fact becomes fiction by analyzing a chain of citation alleging that GMO consumption is causally connected to the onset of autism. Beginning with a law review making this claim, this manuscript audits the publication’s source and the source’s source for veracity. This backwards citation analysis continues until the citation chain ends. The results are striking. Over just a few linked citations, misinterpretations pile up so rapidly that the law review’s GMO-causes-autism claim has almost nothing in common with the original source. The manuscript then offers recommendations for how law reviews can optimally vaccinate themselves from distorted scientific claims.

Keywords: genetically modified foods, autism citation analysis, public health, health policy

Suggested Citation

Bird, Robert C., Vaccinating Legal Scholarship from Distorted Science: Evidence from the Anti-GMO Movement (April 1, 2020). University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review, Vol. 90, 2021, University of Connecticut School of Business Research Paper No. 20-03, Available at SSRN: or

Robert C. Bird (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Business ( email )

368 Fairfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-2041
United States


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