In the summer, my wife came home fuming about another “non-GMO” product she saw at the supermarket. This time, it was a bottle of hand soap. She quickly snatched the bottle from the shelf to determine the product’s ingredients. She thought that it must be plant-based. Sure enough, not one plant mentioned as an ingredient has a commercially available GMO variety. I wonder how many consumers know this. It has become a marketing strategy and a good one. The non-GMO craze is huge, and companies are making money off the public, not by lying exactly but certainly not by telling the truth. There is a lot of controversy over the safety of foods made from GMOs, but one thing we know for sure—we can’t feed the world without them.
A Step We Can All Take
For 2018, my challenge to myself and others in agriculture is to spend more time talking about our industry and what we do. Nearly every time I’m asked what I do for a living, I get to have a meaningful conversation about contract research, what we do at our facility and what our work means to agriculture. Those conversations happen because when I say I work in farm research, the person begins asking questions about what that means. What would happen if I took the effort to initiate more conversations and answer more questions?
Advocacy for our industry can include a lot of different things. It can be everyday conversations with friends and family. It can take place on social media or blogs with complete strangers. It can be calling out erroneous information when you see it. It can be as simple as volunteering for story hour at a local library and reading an ag-based story. Find something that works in your life and your community, and take the time this year to do it. At a minimum, have your elevator speech ready for the next time someone asks what you do.
Example of Everyday Action
My wife acts on the everyday advocacy challenge. She has conversations about food and agriculture with other moms in the most random places. Those moms are worried about what they feed their children and families. They see a lot of fearmongering messages in advertising, and that worries them. But when they get the chance to talk to another mom who has an active part in producing the food they buy and eat, they ask her about those messages and really listen to what she has to say. She puts a face to the unknown and provides a sounding board for their concerns. Maybe they still worry. Maybe they still let unnecessary labels and marketing influence their food purchases. But they certainly know that agriculture is not composed of nothing but faceless entities. They know that the industry is full of everyday, hardworking people, like the one with whom they just had a conversation. And that’s a good way to open the door.