You never know when you might engage a person about what you do. And considering the industry we are all in — and the constant battle we fight to enhance the public’s perception of our industry — it’s important to engage individuals in a way that improves understanding.
That’s especially true for me. As a city dweller, I am among people with misperceptions virtually everywhere I go. I recently rediscovered that while perusing a message board frequented by many pretty prominent people in our town.
The subject was that old favorite lightning rod, biotech crops. Someone had seen an environmental extremist-bent documentary and was sharing her thoughts on the outrageous actions of manufacturers and unwitting growers creating what she called the “worst environmental disaster in history.”
Needless to say there was a litany of misperceptions and inaccuracies in the discourse among the handful of posters to the board. This in and of itself wasn’t as troubling as was the number of viewers to these posts — at last count, more than 400 — who probably perceived these posters as some collection of “experts” with points of view worthy of attention. So I got myself worked up a bit and decided to engage the group.
To give you an idea, here is a quick sampling of the discussion I found on this board:
“There is speculation some genetically engineered crops are partially responsible for die-offs of honey bees. A common genetic modification use is to make plants produce pesticide-like chemicals themselves. Another is to give plants immunity to pesticides, which are then used much more abundantly.”
Putting the honey bee thing aside — he had some of it right — but his clear implication is that agriculture is doing reckless and dangerous things with only profit in mind.
Here’s another: “The American public does not understand the true depth of this (biotech crops) problem already. It will only get worse. This is worse than global warming, not to make light of that. This is a nightmare we have let out of the bottle in the last 15 years, not 100. This is one we can stop right now.”
Not sure what to say, other than this is someone who needs to be countered with facts, but will never change his mind.
Here’s one more: “We have so many chemicals going into our GMO farms that it may be difficult to tell if the harm is from the GMOs or the chemicals. Organic farms are safer; better for the soil; better for the bees; and better for people.”
Again, here is the kind of reactionary, black and white thinking that needs to be countered. Not for the folks that posted, as I think the great majority are not reachable. But for the wide majority of observers to the fray.
I responded to the posts, got challenged on a couple of points, then responded again. As of now, there is deafening silence. But there were another 100 views on the board after my post, so I know I got read.
If even one person did some more research and got the facts, it was time well spent. We all need to fight for agriculture when we can, and I urge you to find a place where you can make a difference. If you already have, send me your success stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.