A recent trip to my local farm supply store reminded me of why it's so important that each and every one of us in agriculture listen for opportunities to correct misinformation about modern farming techniques.
There was a display near the checkout counter that boasted organic seed for sale; the signage made it clear the seed was not treated with pesticides or chemicals and that it was non-GMO.
It was quiet in the store so I asked the cashier if many people asked about the seeds being non-GMO as there's only one seed on the rack (corn) that has an alternative available in GMO. Only corn, soybeans, alfalfa, cotton, squash, sugar beets, canola, and papaya have GMO alternatives.
Boy, oh, boy did I get an ear full on how everything is full of GMOs and that China won't buy any corn from the U.S. and how there's been GMO corn since the 1980s.
There was so much misinformation in her statements -- and they were stated with such conviction. I debated her on a couple of the more important points, but honestly left angry. She could not hear what I was saying and was certain that her information was correct.
Consider if I was just an average person who has vaguely heard of GMOs, and this cashier tells me all this information. I'm going to be frightened of GMOs and possibly solidify a negative feeling towards them. To the general public, this employee of a farm store has some credibility of her knowledge about seed.
My first thought was I need to contact the manager and ask to do some sort of education with their employees. Next, I thought, perhaps I should call my neighboring farmers and ask them to engage with the store management over this person's beliefs.
Neither of these responses was feasible nor achieves the outcome that I hope for.
The reality is that there are some people who are already convicted in an opinion and it's going to be difficult for them to even hear arguments on the other side.
In this situation, first, as advocates for agriculture we shouldn't show anger. But we can show passion. Second, we need to try to leave the other person with some piece of information that might plant a seed to reconsider their stance.
None of these issues are clear cut; there are positives and negatives for each. Since this is a store that I regularly shop at, I will be making an effort to revisit this topic with this individual again in the near future.
This situation really reinforced to me that we each need to be on our toes in any conversation to listen for opportunities to correct misinformation about agriculture.
The opinions of LaVell Winsor are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.