Explaining Agriculture to Consumers Using Emotions, Not Science

According to book author Michele Payn, Principal at Cause Matters Corp., the U.S. agricultural industry has a serious negative perception problem with the general public. “The anti-agricultural community has a very loud voice, especially on social media,” said Payn, speaking at the 2017 Mid America CropLife Association meeting in Kansas City, MO. “I don’t understand for the life of me why agricultural companies don’t do a better job at fighting back against this.”

Michelle Payn

Michele Payn

And while Payn acknowledged that some agricultural entities have tried to refute anti-agricultural sentiment, many others have remained relatively quiet on the subject. “And when you sit in silence, we all lose,” she said.

Part of the challenge in reaching the general public is the fact that less than 2% of the U.S. population knows anything whatsoever about agriculture and how it operates. “Most consumers have never shaken hands with a farmer,” said Payn. “But based upon what they might know, they probably trust farmers. They don’t trust farming, however.”

To reach this audience with agriculture’s positive message, said Payn, agriculture proponents must try to “get into their shoes” when making their case. “My challenge for you here, if you really want to translate farm practices to Suzy Q. Consumer, is to get out of your work boots, get out of your offices, and get out of your comfort zones and think about making this argument differently,” she said. “Most of these consumers only want to keep their children safe and protect them from something they have been led to believe might harm them.”

To properly do this, Payn suggested that pro-agriculture advocates attempt to try a different approach to connecting with the general public. In most cases, this means moving away from the fact-laden arguments that the industry has tended to rely on for the past decade or so when preaching its point.

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“How are we going to fight the challenge of where our food comes from?” asked Payn. “It has to come down to emotion, not science, not facts, and not research. People will forget the way that we farm, but people will never, ever forget the way that we make them feel.”

As an example of this in practice, Payn used genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and the very vocal arguments against their consumption/use on the Internet and social media websites. Since their introduction into the agricultural marketplace, the suppliers of GMOs have tended to promote their positive traits using science, facts, and research as assurances to the public. However, many anti-GMO speakers have used the public unfamiliarity with these statements to make GMOs seem “scary.”

“How do we talk about GMOs?” asked Payn. “Every time we are put on the defense by anti-GMO folks, we lose. Instead, we have to make some kind of human connection talking about their positives.”

To do this herself, Payn has asked GMO skeptics if they know anyone suffering from diabetes. “If they do, I tell them I happen to believe that everyone suffering from diabetes has a right to insulin – and that most insulin is made using GMO technology. That tends to open consumers’ minds on the topic and what it might mean for food production.”

If this approach doesn’t work, Payn uses a device now common to most consumers – an iPhone – as a parallel to GMO crops. “I ask them if I take my Facebook app off my iPhone, is it still an iPhone,” she said. “If they say ‘yes,’ I point out that GMO crops are the same as this, with one gene being added to the plant that will protect it against a certain kind of insect, and then the farmer doesn’t have to spray it to protect it.”

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Interesting that you don’t want to use the science and want to appeal to the consumers emotions instead…perhaps because it is not proving your case? Ms.Payn are you also telling people doubting the safety of GMOs that 80% of GMOs are engineered to withstand glyphosate herbicides? Are you telling them that Glyphosate has been proven to target and destroy beneficial gut bacteria where Tryptophan, Melatonin and Serotonin are stored int he body? Are you telling them that Serotonin regulates insulin? Americans are eating levels of glyphosate, as the FDA detected in oatmeal baby food, up to 1.67 ppM. It only takes 0.1 ppB to destroy gut bacteria. Glyphosate has been found in our tap water, breast milk, urine, chips, cereal, eggs, bagels, snacks, wine, beer, and much more. We are eating glyphosate on a daily basis and are unwittingly destroying our bodies ability to regulate insulin. Therefore, GMO proponents don’t realize that GMO producers are CAUSING the very problem that they are “fixing.” We should not need GMO insulin. We need to stop eating GMOs and glyphosate in the first place, and prevent people from destroying their guts and getting diabetes in the first place.

Avatar for Anne Temple Anne Temple says:

Ms. Payn, this article is nothing more than laughable – as we are not anti-agricultural – we are for sustainable agriculture. I hate to tell you this, but it is us (the “anti-GMO” crowd) that has the science on our side. And to add to Zen Honeycutt’s post above, are you telling people that NO FINAL FORMULATION testing has ever been done on the product Roundup? No? Why not? Do you tell them that with the adjuvants added to the glyphosate makes the product 1000 times more toxic? Do you tell them that we tested vaccines and found glyphosate in EVERY one of them with the MMR vaccine showing amounts 25X higher? So please don’t tell us about the positive traits, which are at best only temporary and lead to far worse problems, and stick to the real facts and the real science. We have it all here — peer reviewed REAL science by independent scientists, if you want to take a look.

Avatar for AgSciGuy AgSciGuy says:

A couple simple questions for the anti-science crowd.

If glyphosate is so destructive to our “gut bacteria”, why were these impacts not observed in feeding trials?

Ethanol is much more toxic than glyphosate. Does it have the same devastating impact as glyphosate? Should we outlaw alcohol? Seeing pictures of environmentalist-wacko demonstrations, you would have to assume they use large quantities of ethanol or stronger drugs.

Avatar for Matt Matt says:

Zen, of course, you’re correct with your points. But genetic engineering isn’t about real science it’s about propaganda due to huge money interests.

One of the earliest GMO cases (a public experiment) that has preambled the long history of ignoring and suppressing the real dangers of GMO foods is the infamous tryptophan food supplement disaster of 1989 where the FDA ignored the warnings of their own scientists about the real risks of GMOs, simply to protect the business interests of the GMO industry, which they’ve been colluding with for decades – see the article by a published author of the Orthomolecular Medicine News organization if you google “L-Tryptophan: The Truth About The FDA Tryptophan Recall Of 1989”

The government-academia-biotech industrial complex has the average person believing that they’re protecting their health. Yet, lying about real facts, denying real facts, or minimizing or ignoring real facts is not protecting or helping the public, it’s deceiving the public.

That cartel also pays online trolls to denounce anti-gmo commentators and, instead, to spread the corporate GMO hype. Common example of attempts to manipulate the public’s mind by this criminal cartel and their trolls is to call anything that’s not in alignment with the official narratives as “conspiracy theories” or “fake news.” These are all deceptive tricks of the trade by the corrupt establishment and that, fortunately, more and more people are becoming aware of.

Avatar for Robert Bright Robert Bright says:

The reason you “lose” every time you try to talk to an anti-GMO person about biotechnology is because you are flat out wrong when you pretend GMOs have been properly tested for safety and are properly regulated. The fact that Crop Life is an antiscience, industry funded group whose only mandate is to promote and defend the agrochemical industry doesn’t do much to improve peoples’ trust in the religious, quackery you’re preaching either. You deny and avoid the actual independent science available on GE technologies, while promoting at the top of your lungs the industry pseudoscience (read, ‘corporate science’ or ‘tobacco science,’) which has been clearly shown to be half-baked, methodologically ridiculous, and factually incorrect.

Maybe get your facts straight for once, maybe tell the truth about GE just once, and maybe stop promoting antiscience, industry gibberish and propaganda for once — and MAYBE you will start gaining the public’s trust again.

There is very little chance of convincing hard core anti-gmo proponents that GMO technology is safe. Take Zen Honeycutt for instance. There is a “scientific study” on her web-site. The study tries to prove organic corn is higher in nutrition than conventionally grown GMO corn. They even cite lab test results. These results have buffer ph, cation exchange capacities, and soluble P levels (that are way too low to be corn). What the results lack are NDF, ADF, protein, heat damaged protein, and TDN. You know why? Because they’re posting a soil test (as a corn analysis no less) and lack the agricultural knowledge to know the difference. However, their followers lack that agricultural back ground too and don’t know any different. Of course, you’ve already ascertained this fact after reading the rambling pseudo science in Zen’s post.

They use this fraud to sell over priced organic food and tiny hydrogen to fix gut bacteria. Zen’s organization, Mom’s Across America, is a sub-set of the California Grange, whose goal is go out law conventional agriculture and have all of the world’s food grown organically. They get their funding from the Organic Consumers Association and they’re shills for Big Organic. The are very selective in vetting new members and are very much a cult. They only allow members who lack the critical thinking skills to question their shoddy science. Looking forward towards the future, schools need to educate students about agriculture before they can be indoctrinated in organic cults. There is funding for this in the GMO labeling bill just passed by congress.

There is going to be a sizable portion of the population (10-20%) that always rejects GMOs. That being said, there will aways be people who insist on eating organic food and there are farmers willing to grow that food for a higher price. Welcome to farmer’s new reality. Thanks for the article. The article was very much on point.

Bradley, you are stating falsehoods. The corn report is not a scientific study and was never claimed to be. It was a test, paid for by two farmers and conducted by an accredited lab that I had nothing to do with. We just released info to the public. Since then we have not noticed any counter testing to disprove it, only in fact further, real scientific studies such as Antoniou’s which showed higher levels of Putracine and Cadaverin toxins in GMO NK603 corn. Have you seen that one? It’s listed on our site.
We are not a subset of the CA Grange, we are an independent non profit. We actually haven’t received any money from OCA in years and even if we did, we certainly would appreciate and continue to utilize it to raise awareness that ALL FOOD in fact used to be organic, for hundreds of thousands of years. It has changed, however in the past 20 years, engineered to make GMO chemical/pharmaceutical companies more profits. Wanting to opt out of this toxic treadmill and chemical cocktail system of farming does not make me anti science or fear mongering. It is an educated choice, one that any American citizen, and beyond, should have as a part of living in a free country.

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