Science and the Law: Plant pathologists to discuss how science interfaces with the legal system

July 21, 2003

St. Paul, MN (July 21, 2003) - When diseases have a strong impact on society, science and the law may collide. Such was the case after Citrus Canker was discovered in residential and commercial areas of Florida and thousands of citrus trees had to be eradicated in order to prevent the spread of this devastating disease. The loss of these citrus trees resulted in public outcry and numerous legal battles.

"In this day and age, more plant pathologists and scientists are drawn into the legal arena, and into situations for which they are not prepared," said Tim Gottwald, USDA Agricultural Research Services. "When science doesn't support the doctrine of society it can be very uncomfortable. We are trained to do science but not trained to handle the legal and political aspects of the consequences that our science can have on society," he said.

Some issues of concern are scientific ethics versus adversarial testimony in court, the inaccurate portrayal of science in the press, public mistrust of scientific results, publication policy, challenges to anonymous peer review, and the Freedom of Information Act versus intellectual property.

Dr. Gottwald and others who have been involved in circumstances where science interfaced with the legal system will speak at a symposium held at the American Phytopathological Society (APS) Annual Meeting in Charlotte, NC, August 9-13, 2003. Symposium speakers will draw from their own real-life experiences to discuss situations they faced during court cases in which science and scientists came under fire. Legal experts will also discuss the ways in which the law handles and views scientific issues. The symposium will be held at the Charlotte Convention Center from 8 a.m.- 12 p.m. on Monday, August 11, 2003.
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Members of the media are invited to attend annual meeting events and complimentary registration is available. The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a non-profit, professional scientific organization dedicated to the study and control of plant diseases, with 5,000 members worldwide.

American Phytopathological Society

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