By Mike Barnett
Texas Farm Bureau recently conducted a public opinion survey of Texans about food. Those surveyed readily told us that they didn’t know much about how food was grown, didn’t know much about GMOs, didn’t know much about pesticides and herbicides or the use of other modern food production practices.
Yet, those people came right back in focus groups and told us that GMOs, pesticides and herbicides are horrible. They can’t tell you any particular reason. It’s just what they see and hear. And they are adamant about it.
It reminds me a bit of a parrot who will mimic whatever he is told and poops on everything else. These consumers search GMO or chemicals on the internet and find pages and pages of pseudo-science by agenda-driven people who have learned to manage Google better than agriculture has.
I had a conversation with a Baylor Public Relations student the other day. She asked me about GMOs. She proceeded to ramble about evil Monsanto and cancer-causing genetic modifications and on and on.
“Is this stuff true?” she asked.
“No,” I told her, “but don’t take my word for it.”
“One thing you need to remember when you read these wild accusations is everyone has an agenda. Ask yourself what are they trying to accomplish by scaring the hell out of you? Let me point you toward some unbiased information that might help you make a wise decision.”
That made sense to her.
That’s why it’s important for farmers and ranchers to get in on these food conversations. That same Texas Farm Bureau survey showed farmers and ranchers were by far the most credible spokespersons when it comes to agricultural issues. They ranked higher than farm organization spokespersons and even scientists and researchers. When it came to credibility, they left food activists and celebrities in the dust.
There’s a real disconnect between consumers and the food they eat. Farmers and ranchers have been silent for far too long on these food issues. You have the credibility to help them connect the dots.
Show them your side of agriculture, the side they’re not hearing about. Explain why you make the decisions you make.
When it comes to information about modern agriculture, give consumers a choice. And wise decisions will follow.