Three recent events I attended had a common theme. Whether the audience was food bank volunteers, farmers, or agchem industry leaders, the speakers believe agriculture has a great story to tell.
At the Hunger Forum in Bradenton, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam talked about the pervasiveness of hunger in Florida and who suffers from it. The one in six Floridians who are food insecure are people who work hard and still cannot consistently afford the basics of housing, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and food.
“We must work together to address the economic, health, social, community services, and educational factors that contribute to hunger,” Putnam said. “We don’t need Ph.D.s to understand that a hungry child’s cognitive function in school is diminished in the absence of healthy foods.”
And part of Florida’s ability to produce the safe and affordable fruits and vegetables, which are essential to improved health depends on growers having access to modern production tools. Tools that are increasingly under fire from activists.
FFVA’s annual convention featured Dr. Kevin Folta, a University of Florida professor. Dr. Folta’s passion for genetic engineering was sparked when he was 10 and checked out a library book on recombinant DNA.
As a scientist and an educator, he’s gone above and beyond in explaining the science. In the past year, he’s drawn adverse attention from anti-biotech organizations because of his clear and convincing outreach on GMOs to a concerned public. If you don’t already know his story, catch up by reading Dr. Folta’s Illumination blog: kfolta.blogspot.com.
Despite efforts to silence him, Dr. Folta continues to give presentations on GMOs. His FFVA session focused on the technology’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s a modern tool for breeding disease resistance and increasing sustainability but it’s not a silver bullet to solve all plant or pest problems.
Many of the communication tactics Dr. Folta has learned and shared at FFVA were succinctly phrased by Brent Smart, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi New York, during his presentation on consumer branding during the CropLife America (CLA) Annual Meeting.
Smart urged attendees to:
- Share a story.
- Go beyond reason (Meaning, save the scientific lecture for later).
- Make an emotional connection.
CropLife America meeting attendees also saw the unveiling of CLA’s redesigned website and its new theme: “Today’s agriculture represents choice and choice begins with you.”
Each of us is challenged to make an educated choice. If you are interested in fostering a civil discussion on the various choices consumers have today, visit Talkingbiotech.com and make a contribution in support of biotech communication and outreach. Sponsorships there fund workshops to help “… farmers, dietitians, physicians, and scientists to fairly represent the peer-reviewed literature in public discussion.”
After hearing the threats Dr. Folta is enduring because he’s stood up for science, I have a request to make of those who disagree with modern agriculture: Just don’t shoot the messenger.