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Talking About Agriculture to a Concerned Public

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Presentation on science communication for scientists and ag producers, with a focus on the proper way to engage public audiences. Some of the contemporary issues in contentious-issues science communication are discussed, primarily with the use of Freedom of Information Act implementation to harm scientists that present their interpretations.

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Talking About Agriculture to a Concerned Public

  1. 1. Talking About Agriculture to a Concerned Public Kevin M. Folta Professor and Chairman Horticultural Sciences Department kfolta.blogspot.com @kevinfolta kfolta@ufl.edu www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com
  2. 2. Research Funding and Reimbursement: www.kevinfolta.com/transparency Slides: www.slideshare.net/kevinfolta
  3. 3. Service and Administration Horticultural Sciences Department Plant breeding Genomics Space biology Citrus production Biochemistry Organic and sustainable production Horticultural crop production Postharvest physiology Major Florida Crops Citrus, strawberry, blueberry, tomato, pepper, bean, sweet corn, field corn, papaya, other tropical fruits, many others.
  4. 4. GOALS: 1.Basic knowledge of genetic improvement in plants and animals 2.Knowledge of next generation techniques 3.Confidence on how to engage the public effectively
  6. 6. What Plant Genetic Improvement Is More varieties Grow better under given conditions Improved yields Safer products Improved nutrtion
  7. 7. Humans have always manipulated crop genetics
  8. 8. All existing crops and animals have been radically reshaped by humans, to enhance performance that has aided the human condition.
  9. 9. What Animal Genetic Improvement Is Slide courtesy Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam
  10. 10. What Animal Genetic Improvement Is Opposition! Slide courtesy Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam
  11. 11. What Animal Genetic Improvement Is Slide courtesy Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam
  12. 12. What Genetic Improvement Is People t hink Improved yields
  13. 13. A Few Central Core Concepts Humans have always participated in plant genetic improvement. Transgenic crop technology (familiar “GMO”) is a precise extension of conventional plant breeding. “The techniques used pose no more risk (actually less risk) than conventional breeding.” (NAS, AAAS, AMA, EFSA many others) In 20 years there has not been one case of illness or death related to these products In the USA there are several traits used in only 10 (- +) commercial crops
  14. 14. GM Crops Available Now- No Biotech Animals! 10 potato apple
  15. 15. Mutation Breeding All genetic variation begins with mutation Mutations can be induced with ionizing radiation or chemicals May require backcrossing High lycopene Seedlessness
  16. 16. Transgenics What people usually think of as “GMO” Addition of a gene, or small number of genes
  17. 17. Gene Editing CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short pallindromic repeats) Targeted, few collateral effects Allows production of custom mutations Reasonably fast and efficient No foreign genes present NEW TECHNOLOGY– only discovered a few years ago.
  18. 18. Gene Editing Human Genome 3, 000 Mb 3000 letters per page Each page is 11 inches If printed out would go 173 miles
  19. 19. Gene Editing Horn Gene Horn Gene NO HORNS!!! Good beef Bad milkHORNS!!! Bad beef Great milk X
  20. 20. Gene Editing Horn Gene Horn Gene NO HORNS!!! Good beef Bad milkHORNS!!! Bad beef Great milk Cross…. Mix of bad beef, bad milk production
  21. 21. Gene Editing Horn Gene Horn Gene NO HORNS!!! Good beef Bad milkHORNS!!! Bad beef Great milk Horn Gene NO HORNS!!! Bad beef Good milk
  22. 22. Gene Editing
  23. 23. Gene Editing Still strong opposition from activist NGOs Some countries have taken stands on the issue Stands to generate rapid improvement of crop plants, especially where traditional breeding is long (trees) This technology stands to revolutionize agriculture, medicine, everything. PLEASE KNOW IT!
  24. 24. Serious Questions If the technologies are so good, why is there so much push back? What can I do to learn more and participate in the discussion? Does it matter?
  25. 25. Why is there even a problem? We are looking for honest answers about food and farming! We’re actually farmers, producers and scientists, but we’re too busy. How can we help you? We’re sorta farmers, producers and scientists.
  26. 26. Scientists, farmers, industry expertsScientists, farmers, industry experts generally don’t participate in thegenerally don’t participate in the conversation, they don’t know how toconversation, they don’t know how to participate effectively.participate effectively. Scientists are afraid to speak up.Scientists are afraid to speak up.
  27. 27. Workshops & OutreachWorkshops & Outreach I teach workshops where I help scientists,I teach workshops where I help scientists, farmers, physicians, students learn how tofarmers, physicians, students learn how to communicate to the public.communicate to the public. My Science GardenMy Science Garden.com.com Funded by honoraria, speaker fees, privateFunded by honoraria, speaker fees, private donors, except…donors, except…
  28. 28. >50 Scientists get FOIA requests – Funded by Organic Consumers Association I turned over 4600 pages, now >20k
  29. 29. Phone threats, FBI domestic terrorism task force involved Hacking Impersonation Doxxing Office broken into, computer compromised
  30. 30. How do all of us become more effective in communicating with a concerned public?
  31. 31. Who is our audience?
  32. 32. 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.
  33. 33. F Relativenumberinpopulation Nonexperts Farmers, scientists, Etc. MOST PEOPLE!!!! FEAR FACTS Favorable views of ag technology
  35. 35. How do we talk to others?How do we talk to others? A formula--A formula--
  36. 36. This is aboutThis is about earningearning trust.trust. Must start with empathyMust start with empathy Active listeningActive listening Only move to next stepsOnly move to next steps once you understand theironce you understand their concerns, and they know it.concerns, and they know it.
  37. 37. Lead With Your Ethics.Lead With Your Ethics.
  38. 38. Your audience is not moved by facts and statistics. You have to start by defining SHARED VALUES.
  39. 39. State your priorities up front What are things you care about in food and farming, that almost everyone can agree with?
  40. 40. State your priorities up front FarmersAnimal Care The NeedyFood Safety Environment /Conservtion Consumers
  41. 41. Satisfying those values COMPELLING ARGUMENT: We need to ensure equal access to agricultural innovation. Solutions exist, that we don’t use.
  42. 42. Golden Rice X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy Opposition to golden rice cost $2 billion to farmers in developing countries and 1.4 million human years – Wesseler et al., 2014
  43. 43. Cassava Virus Resistant Cassava (VIRCA) Biocassava Plus (BC Plus) 800 million depend on cassava 50 million tons lost to virus. X X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy
  44. 44. Golden Bananas Beta carotene producing X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy
  45. 45. Bacterial Wilt in Bananas >70% of carbohydrate calories for some areas GM trials in Uganda X X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy X
  46. 46. X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy
  47. 47. GE chickens do not pass on Avian Influenza Episode 007 X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy X X X X Animal welfare
  48. 48. AquaBounty Salmon – attains market weight in less time. Salmon may be farmed on inland pools, generating high protein food on fewer inputs. Episode 008 X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy X X X X Wild populations First Approved GE Animal !!
  49. 49. Changing domestic pigs’ DNA to provide resistance to African Swine Fever Episode 037
  50. 50. Low Acrylamide, non Browning Potatoes X X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy
  51. 51. Non Browning Apples Silencing a gene that leads to discoloration X X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy Small Business!X
  52. 52. BS2 Tomato A pepper gene in tomato eases bacterial wilt. X X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy
  53. 53. Stopping Citrus Greening Spinach defensin NPR1 Lytic peptides Many show promise Earliest deregulation is 2019 X Farmers Consumers Environment Needy X X
  54. 54. Your Experience and OperationYour Experience and Operation in Social Mediain Social Media
  55. 55. Grab your e-Real Estate Talking to public audiences – Get Involved! 1. Sign up for facebook, twitter, instagram, pintrest, etc. 2. Share your experiences, even if you don’t think they are important or impressive. 3. Tell the story. In other media: 1. Answer questions in comments sections of news articles. 2. Amplify messages in social media via Twitter, etc. Spend >15 minutes a week. Remember your audience.
  56. 56. Know when to disengage. 1. Difficult people are everywhere. Don’t argue, state your credentials and values (ethos) and the facts you know that support them (logos) and the effects (pathos). 2. Use block/mute/etc. 3. Others are watching. Leave information, “Those that want to learn more should contact me directly at yournamehere@Gmail.com. Thank you.” 4. Don’t ever lose your cool. They take screen shots, and they will haunt you forever.
  57. 57. More Barriers: Avoid these Mistakes Avoid “feed the world” rhetoric Always discuss strengths and limitations Don’t ever claim it is a single solution Don’t inappropriately criticize other forms of genetic improvement Understand the ‘backfire effect’
  58. 58. Your job-- Communication about agriculture and associated industries. Share your stories, your journey, your experience. Share your passions. Share the innovations that inspire you. Do it in social media space, online news, etc.
  59. 59. Conclusion
  60. 60. kfolta.blogspot.com @kevinfolta kfolta@ufl.edu www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com iTunes, Stitcher, Player FM I WORK FOR YOU!
  61. 61. “Don’t tell me it can’t be done, tell me what needs to be done and help me do it.”