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Connecting Consumers to Agriculture and Science

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This was a keynote address to Food and Farm Care in Saskatoon, SK Canada, December 14, 2016. The talk centered on strategies for ag producers to be more effective in communication at the public interface about any "hot button" issue in farming and food, issues like hormones, antibiotics, GMO or pesticides. There is a clear method to help the public understand how these technologies work, as well as their relative risk and benefit. A lot has to do with trust. This strategy speaks about these topics as well as how to be an improved voice in social media.

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Connecting Consumers to Agriculture and Science

  1. 1. Connecting Consumers to Agriculture and Science Kevin M. Folta Professor and Chairman Horticultural Sciences Department kfolta.blogspot.com @kevinfolta kfolta@ufl.edu www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com
  2. 2. How do we learn from our mistakes, from social science, from psychology, to better share what we do in agriculture? 1.Why I do this 2.Why we have a problem 3.What works in contentious issues communication 4.How you can be more effective in communicating in social media space
  3. 3. Research Funding and Reimbursement: www.kevinfolta.com/transparency Slides: www.slideshare.net/kevinfolta
  4. 4. What are the mistakes weWhat are the mistakes we make when we aremake when we are approached with contentiousapproached with contentious issues?issues?
  5. 5. Consumers are seeking information Where do the ingredients come from? Is it nutritious? Will my family like it? Do I trust the company? Is this a good value? What are these long words on the label? Is this one of those GMO things? Is it full of the glutens? What would Dr. Oz think?
  6. 6. Consumers are reacting to information Pesticides Antibiotics Hormones Fertilizer Gluten GMO Water use BPA MSG Understanding makes me a better consumer. I don’t know what to believe, so I just won’t buy it.
  7. 7. Consumers are seeking information Where do the ingredients come from? Is it nutritious? Will my family like it? Do I trust the company? Is this a good value? What are these long words on the label? Is this one of those GMO things? Is it full of the glutens? What would Dr. Oz think? THIS IS A VERY GOOD THING.
  8. 8. We are not their trusted sources. We are looking for honest answers about food and farming! We’re actually ag producers and scientists, but we’re too busy and don’t want to get involved. How can we help you? We’re sorta farmers, producers and scientists.
  9. 9. Why are we not their trusted sources?
  10. 10. People love farmers and scientists. They just don’t trust farming and science. How do we change that? Innovation ApplicationCOMMUNICATION
  11. 11. Scientists, ag producers, ag-related industries failed to bridge that gap.
  12. 12. Scientists, ag producers, ag-related industries failed to bridge that gap. 1.Where do we engage? 2.How do we do it effectively?
  13. 13. You Can Confirm Your Darkest FearsYou Can Confirm Your Darkest Fears Online!Online! There is big money being made off ofThere is big money being made off of manufactured risk.manufactured risk.
  14. 14. Consumers are reacting to information Pesticides Antibiotics Hormones Fertilizer Gluten GMO Water use BPA MSG I don’t know what to believe, so I just won’t buy it.
  15. 15. FEAR FACTS When we engage, we do it wrong. Television doctors, documentaries, websites, internet celebrities, media chefs, absence labeling. Scientists, farmers, ag industry
  16. 16. FEAR FACTS An Abundance of Soft Science Activist groups, fragile celebs with empires, etc Scientists, farmers, ag industry ERODE TRUST One-off studies, misinterpretation, extrapolation, poor quality, bad design, weak stats, unpublished. Facty-Looking Things
  17. 17. How do all of us become more effective in communicating with a concerned consumer? Audience – Empathy – Values – (Evidence)-- Satisfaction -- Action
  18. 18. WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE? Most of the time these are people that don’t know about science and are concerned about food. Share science with them. WHO IS NOT YOUR AUDIENCE? Many have no interest in understanding facts. They are not a good investment of your time.
  19. 19. Must start with empathyMust start with empathy Active listeningActive listening Only move to next steps onceOnly move to next steps once you understand their concerns,you understand their concerns, and they know it.and they know it.
  20. 20. is a methodological presumption made in seeking to understand a point of view whereby we seek to understand that view in its strongest, most persuasive form before subjecting the view to evaluation. Help your opposition devise the strongest argument you can. Intellectual Charity
  21. 21. We live in a post- truth world. Facts don’t matter. Post-truth politics (also called post- factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Truthiness
  22. 22. Lead With Your Ethics.Lead With Your Ethics.
  23. 23. State your priorities up front Farmers The Needy Environment/Conservtion Consumers
  24. 24. Old Way of Engaging Engage deniers. Here are the facts. Here’s where you are wrong Ugh, you don’t get it.
  25. 25. Old Way of Engaging Engage deniers. Here are the facts. Here’s where you are wrong Ugh, you don’t get it. New Way of Engaging Engage the curious. I’m listening. Why do you feel this way? I understand why you’d feel this way, right? Here’s what is important to me. Here is the evidence that supports my values.
  26. 26. What Evidence Do We Use? Facts don’t matter (until you’ve established trust). How do we deliver factual information in a post-truth world of science denial? “We must ensure equal access and choice to agricultural innovation that satisfies our shared values.”
  27. 27. Keep Factual Information Simple. Natural? -- Humans have always affected plant genetics. Nothing is natural Practical. Engineering (GMO) is a precise extension of plant breeding. Risk “The techniques used pose no more risk (actually less risk) than conventional breeding.” (NAS, AAAS, AMA, EFSA many others) Safety. In 20 years of use in plants, there has not been one case of illness or death related to these products. Presence. In the USA there are several traits used in only 10 (- +) commercial crops, four (corn, soy, canola, sugar beet) that are commonly found in 70% of grocery store products.
  28. 28. “I don’t like modern food and farming because it is not natural.”
  29. 29. Humans have always manipulated crop genetics
  30. 30. All existing crops and animals have been radically reshaped by humans, to enhance performance that has aided the human condition.
  31. 31. Animal Genetic Improvement Slide courtesy Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam
  32. 32. “I don’t like modern food and farming because it just benefits multinational companies that control the food supply.”
  33. 33. “I don’t like modern food and farming genetic technologies because they just benefit multinational companies that control the food supply.” New technologies exist that satisfy our shared values. They have not been used, mostly because of public push-back, that builds restrictive policy.
  34. 34. Don’t start with glyphosate tolerant and insect resistant crops. Producer benefits most, not consumer If you do use these traits and can personalize the message, it is useful. What appeals to shared values?
  35. 35. Golden Bananas Beta carotene producing X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy
  36. 36. Bacterial Wilt in Bananas >70% of carbohydrate calories for some areas GM trials in Uganda X X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy X
  37. 37. X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy
  38. 38. GE chickens do not pass on Avian Influenza Episode 007 X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy X X X X Animal welfare
  39. 39. BS2 Tomato A pepper gene in tomato eases bacterial wilt. X X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy
  40. 40. -- sprays cut from >80 season of organophospates, carbamates to 1-2. -- Safer for farmers and consumers, better profits for farmers. Bangladesh Eggplant (brinjal)
  41. 41. Stopping Citrus Greening Several genes show promise Earliest deregulation is 2019 X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy X X
  42. 42. Scientists, ag producers, ag-related industries failed to bridge that gap. 1.Where do we engage? 2.How do we do it effectively?
  43. 43. Social media has been a conduit for bad information. We need to take it back.
  44. 44. Dedicate 15 minutes a week to promote your operation, discuss farming, food, or associated science/technology– in social media space. The 15 minute challenge.
  45. 45. Obtain a separate email account for this work. Free ones at gmail, yahoo, etc. Use your real name. The 15 minute challenge.
  46. 46. Where to participate? Comments-section discussions of news articles Facebook discussions Twitter Reddit Linked In The 15 minute challenge.
  47. 47. Where to participate? Start a blog. Share your experience. Interviews The 15 minute challenge.
  48. 48. Engaging: The 15 minute challenge. 1. Show them that you understand 2. Share your values, credentials 3. Tell your story. Be nice. Represent ag/science with grace.
  49. 49. Engaging: The 15 minute challenge.
  50. 50. Engaging: The 15 minute challenge.
  51. 51. Engaging: The 15 minute challenge.
  52. 52. Engaging: The 15 minute challenge.
  53. 53. Embrace the abrasive - They are victims The 15 minute challenge.
  54. 54. GET OUT OF YOUR ECHO CHAMBER The 15 minute challenge.
  55. 55. The Power of Amplification and Networks Pre-Internet Now 10 k contacts
  56. 56. The Power of Amplification and Networks
  57. 57. The Emergence of Tribes and Echo Chambers
  58. 58. The Power of Amplification and Networks Farmer Bloggers Foodies Scientists Mom Bloggers Triathletes
  59. 59. How do you get into those tribes? Offer to write for them Participate in the discussion sections of news articles and websites. Share your stories and experiences. Ag producers are viewed as trusted and competent- if you are not telling the story, someone will tell it for you!
  60. 60. Always Remember: Avoid “feed the world” rhetoric Always discuss strengths and limitations Don’t ever claim there is a single solution! Never forget the real audience Always acknowledge your blind spots.
  61. 61. #farm365 AMPLIFICATION
  62. 62. Amplify messages from experts. Jennie Schmidt Brian Scott Sarah Schultz
  63. 63. Transparency.Transparency. “If you take the time to describe it, you won’t have to take the time to defend it.” - Charlie Arnot, Center for Food Integrity
  64. 64. #FarmToPork Changing the conversation with “radical transparency”
  65. 65. Conclusion Know your audience Listen and understand their concerns Talk about your values, your motivations Discussion ag innovations that can satisfy your common values Participate in social media discussions Be nice. Represent ag/science with grace. Practice radical transparency
  66. 66. I don’t know what to believe, so I just won’t buy it.
  67. 67. kfolta.blogspot.com @kevinfolta kfolta@ufl.edu www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com iTunes, Stitcher, Player FM Thank you. All funding, reimbursement: www.kevinfolta.com/transparency All slides: www.slideshare.net/kevinfolta
  68. 68. “Don’t tell me it can’t be done, tell me what needs to be done and help me do it.”

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