Yesterday, I spoke at the 2017 Youth Leaders in Agriculture Conference in Brandon, S.D. Hosted by the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, the event brought together nearly 100 of the brightest college students, who I’m confident will one day shape the future of the industry.
Tasked with the job of discussing how social media can not only help advocate for agriculture, but also build their own personal brand and provide a useful point of reference for future employers to check out their skills, my speech recapped my nearly 10 years of blogging for BEEF and how BEEF Daily has evolved and expanded to a wide-reaching online community of industry professionals and a platform to discuss hot topics.
One thing I really wanted to convey to the students was the importance of providing a variety of content that will reach and appeal to various demographics of folks. Today’s consumers are also the folks who will vote for the politicians who will put regulations into place that will largely determine the way we do business, so I believe addressing common misconceptions, responding to negative articles and promoting the positive stories within our industry is critical to protecting our future in production agriculture.
In my opinion, one of the most crippling and damaging misconceptions out there is genetically-modified foods. And while GMOs may not seem like a fight a beef producer needs to engage in, the fact is cattle eat quite a bit of GM corn, so indirectly, it is a torch we must bear.
We’ve watched on the sidelines for years as Monsanto has battled the constant mudslinging over this topic. A quick Google search of Monsanto shows pages of negative news items surrounding the company and the topic of GM foods. And we can’t forget the damaging effects of alarmist documentaries like “Food Inc.” or “GMO OMG.”
The articles, and subsequent conversations surrounding this safe food production advancement, are highly emotional and lacking in science. Yet, our relationship with food is often very emotional, whether that be showing our loved ones we care with a hot meal or choosing healthy, nutritious foods for the sake of our kids and grandkids.
Consumers care and want to know more about where their food comes from and how it’s produced, but all too often, the science is lost amongst the emotionally-charged rhetoric.
However, there’s good news on this front. The dialogue may soon be changing in a positive direction. A new series of scientific documentaries will soon be released. The first of which is a film called, “Food Evolution.”
According to Kevin Folta for the Genetic Literacy Project, “The documentary examines the issues by taking a close and personal look at several global agricultural situations, the personalities involved, the successes, and most painfully, the damaging consequences of our failure to deploy useful technology that can help those in need. Food Evolution conveys a scientific story with imagery, humanity and compassion that scientists never could alone.”
Folta says the film exposes the “for-profit misgivings of ‘The Food Babe’ Vani Hari, as well as the ideologically-charged anti-corporatism of other leaders in an anti-GMO movement that seeks to end the use of biotechnology, even if it hurts those in need.”
He says that science may soon win over emotion, with more consumers looking for real information about the foods they eat, and not just sensational propaganda.
“The beauty of Food Evolution is that it will benchmark a time when public sentiment was changing to support a pro-science message,” he writes. “For 20 years we have been told of horrors that never materialized. We have watched products intended to serve humanity languish in public laboratories because of affluent-nation fears. We have witnessed approval of scientifically-baseless legislation restrict choices for farmers. We’ve observed the internet’s profiteers tour the planet and reap personal wealth while lying to the public about science.
“But even before the film has been presented in wide release, news of this film has prompted a typical and expected response from anti-biotech activists. They are shouting the tired claims that this is a Monsanto-financed propaganda flick and that nobody should trust it.
“Watch for yourself and determine who is lying to you. Is it the politicians, celebrities and scaremongers, or the public, government and company scientists that have dedicated their lives to developing technology to solve problems for people and planet? This film answers that question in remarkable clarity.”
Read Folta’s column by clicking here. I’m looking forward to watching this series; how about you? Perhaps these documentaries will go viral and finally change the public perception of hybrid seeds, GM foods and other advancements that help us sustainably feed a growing planet.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.