It’s funny how things happen sometimes. How events and conversations and invitations and blog posts go together.
A few months ago, I served on a panel to testify about the societal benefits of biotechnology in front of a Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives. You can read about the hearing here. We concluded that we in agriculture and science have not done a good job sharing information about various biotechnology, for example, genetically engineered crops, with the general public.
Since then, I’ve taken a keen interest in following the latest in the science and communication efforts surrounding genetic engineering. I’ve followed along with online forums of expert scientists actually working in the field, other farmers that work more closely with GM crops, writers and still others who have an interest. I’ve listened to people who still have reservations about GM crops. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve even addressed some questions personally on a one-on-one basis.
Recently, I had a conversation with a summer neighbor who spends the rest of the year in a state where mandatory GMO labels were recently defeated. She said as a consumer, it was very confusing to sort out facts in the media. She felt could “read” through the pro-labeling/anti-GMO rhetoric and just kept waiting for someone else to step up with the facts. While she did find them, they were slow in coming, and the overall experience was confusing.
I can see why she was confused. Take, for example, these two articles published on the Huffington Post. Two polar opposite views from the same source is confusing enough but what’s telling is the format of the article and where they were published on the site. Can you spot the differences?
First article, published a day after the hearing: Americans are Too Stupid for GMO Labels, Congressional Panel Says
Second article, published three weeks after the hearing: What’s to be Afraid of? Congress Talks GMOs with Congressional Panel
A few differences I spotted:
- The first article was first originally sponsored by Chipotle. You don’t see it if you click on the link now, interestingly enough. The second never had a company “sponsor.”
- The first article was on the “Politics” section of the site. The second was on Huff Post’s “Green” section.
- The first article, with its sensational title (no one ever used the “s” word by the way), garnered over 2,200 comments (clearly offending many) while the second, a mere 9.
- The first article opened with a statement that was not true – I should know. I was there.
So when my neighbor shared her experience with me about being confused, I was not surprised. This reinforced my intention to help people get good information, grounded in science, agriculture and from people who work directly with the technology.
Not long after the hearing, I was invited to join an online effort called Ask the Farmers. It is a collaborative resource made up of farmers from all across the country and from all different aspects of farming – animal ag, crops, organic, conventional, small, large, etc. I’m very excited to help in an effort to put more good information out there – be it for genetic engineering, dairy farming, animal welfare, balancing life with work, farm and family, whatever, straight from the horse’s (or cow’s :P) mouth.
Here’s how to find us:
- Twitter @AsktheFarmers
- Instagram: @AsktheFarmers
I’m excited to do what I can to get people answers to their questions. I am really proud of the diversity in agriculture within the group. The world is a big place and with so few people left in farming, there is certainly room for all of us. Ask the Farmers is an example of many different farmers coming together to promote responsible agriculture. If there’s one thing we all understand and can agree on, it’s that at the end of the day we are all farmers and we’re all doing the best we can to take care of our land and animals.