Agriculture needs a voice — a spokesperson with credibility and charisma, someone who commands attention, an evangelist for farm interests. And “We need it now,” says Grayson County, Texas grain farmer Eric Akins.
In early May, I stopped by to see Eric, checking on spring planting, which has been slow because of long rainy spells this spring. We talked about his corn crop, most of which never got in the ground. We talked about the near impossibility of coming to grips with new farm programs. And he talked about how agriculture needs “a unified voice” to rebut the misinformation that spews forth daily from restaurant operations like Chipotle, celebrities like Dr. Oz, and self-styled food experts such as the Food Babe.
“We need someone with a certain star appeal,” Eric says. Oz, he adds, “uses fear mongering to promote himself, and Chipotle uses nothing but pseudoscience to demean GMOs.”
He mentions Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug. She carries on his mission of finding ways to feed the world’s hungry, and believes genetically engineered food is an essential part of that goal.
Defending the integrity of the U.S farmer and rancher, and finding ways to refute the misinformation and outright lies that come from anti-science spokespersons should be a catalyst for unification.
“We live in a sound bite world,” Eric says. “We in agriculture need our own spokesperson.”
Agriculture needs to create and tell its own story instead of playing from behind to defend inaccuracies that others promulgate. True or not, once a negative story hits the public media it grows legs, sprouts wings, and nests in the public consciousness, where it pretends to be fact.
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Dr. Oz, the Food Babe, Chipolte, the “Organic Only” clique, and others who have no regard for the truth when pushing their own agendas know how to use sound bites. They understand the gullibility of the American public. They have mastered social media and afternoon fluff posing as legitimate television information services.
They are as bad as those old commercials for salad mincer devices, except with those you knew two things: you were listening to some pretty incompetent con men, and even if it wasn’t top quality merchandise, you could chop up at least one cabbage before it fell apart.
The current cadre of shysters wear better suits, have professional degrees (Oz is a heart surgeon), and know how to sell their shams without blinking an eye. Sometimes I think they actually believe all the manure they distribute.
I think Eric is right: we need a spokesperson. We need to tell the truth, and we need to find a reliable, credible, personable spokesperson. Whoever it is must be supported by agriculture — not ag industry, but farmers and ranchers, the ones who live the truth and understand the science behind producing food.