Nature Biased News Coverage of 3-Person IVF

NatureNews is a science news outlet so I’ve been wondering what the heck the deal is with their strongly biased news coverage of the mitochondrial transfer 3-person IVF technology debate.

By way of context, I like NatureNews and am a regular reader, but their coverage of the mitochondrial transfer debate has been completely one-sided and inaccurate. Their two so-called news pieces on this have been extraordinarily biased in favor of the UK going ahead with the technology.

naturenews mitochondrial transfer

Let’s take the first one entitled, “Scientists cheer vote to allow three-person embryos”.

The headline is misleading and biased. The story also has an unmistakable slant to it.

There are in fact plenty of scientists who have grave concerns about this technology being used in the near future. That’s pretty far removed from “cheering”.

Why no balance in this piece? No quotes from opponents of the technology and only glowing words from proponents?

The only even tiniest caveat was the following single sentence, “The opposition was more disparate — although no less vocal — and it included clergy representatives from the Church of England and the Catholic Church, secular advocacy groups, as well as some researchers.”

This piece was not up to the usual balanced science reporting that I have come to expect from NatureNews.

The second piece that went up on NatureNews on this topic a week later was unfortunately just as biased or more so.

NatureNews Mito Transfer, 3-person IVF
NatureNews Mito Transfer, 3-person IVF news piece.

This second piece was entitled, “World Hails UK vote on three-person embryos”.

Seriously, NatureNews?

Talk about hyperbolic and inaccurate.

Now we not only have scientists cheering, but the entire world is hailing this development?

Everybody do the Macarena for three-person IVF!

Why would NatureNews be such a blatant cheerleader in its news articles for a controversial technology?

I for one have no problem if NatureNews is such a fan of 3-person IVF, but limit the expression of that personal sentiment to editorials and when it comes to news, provide accurate, balanced coverage. Ironically, the non-scientific mainstream media including some UK tabloidish outlets have generally done a better job than NatureNews of presenting balanced coverage of this complicated issue, which is pretty sad.

5 thoughts on “Nature Biased News Coverage of 3-Person IVF”

  1. I do believe this is a form of marketing, in terms of selling the public the notion this technique will help far more individuals, the 1:5000 ratio, then the actual number. In referring to the article “Mitochondrial Disease: A Practical Approach for Primary Care Physicians,” from Pediatrics 2007, that figure represents those born who may develop the disease in their lifetime, not necessarily at birth. In fact, the article’s authors claim “nDNA mutations account for the majority of mitochondrial disease that presents in infants and children.” Having shared that, it would follow then that the majority of those 1:5000 are actually the result of nDNA mutations and not as a result of mtDNA mutations, IMHO.

  2. @ tadpole

    I sort of understand those numbers and, clearly, you understand those numbers very well. The article is surely superfluous for expert readers who can put the numbers in context — and it is deceptive for the rest of us poor grunts.

  3. just another tadpole

    @ Montana

    I am not sure what could come from the “marketing” of this technique.

    If I remember correctly, these therapies are to be completely covered by the NHS. Not sure how it would turn profitable.

    @ Brian

    I think the author understands how limited the reach of the technique is (the article itself mentions 2000 target women, far from a large number), I assume that the 1:5000 number is respective to the Finnish case where the prevalence of the genetic mitochondrial diseases is more prevalent (but I am not sure)
    If it is news I think I missed it, it should just be an opinion piece.

  4. Is it possible we are seeing a wide spread “marketing” strategy? In the same ways “coal is clean” slogans? Those seeking profit as their ultimate goal are chipping away at the legal definitions (minimally manipulated = ?), employing echo-chamber tactics (a paper gaining legitimacy through citing a news article based on the same or a co-author’s work, ad infinitum).<<<~~In this instance the "fluff is thrown against the wall" dramatically and often so that bland, factual, refutation lags in timing giving it what seems a lack of substance. Add to this the other vein of "legitimacy" as many pseudo-scientific "studies" sneak into what were reliable information sources. (The Lancet and Wakefield<<<~~should be the first line in: "Why won't publish certain studies"). "Profits before knowledge", wagering on the unknown.

  5. Where’s the beef? Nowhere! The article is a who’s-who story about a popularity parade. A whole section on “Ethical Questions” does not even mention a single ethical question.

    The article is more muddled than biased, IMHO. It seems that the author (Ewen Callaway) does not understand that this 3P-IVF is not even relevant to most of the children who are (or will be) afflicted with mitochondrial disorders. If the author is aware, then the author is guilty of what Mark Twain called “the silent lie”.

Comments are closed.