Authors Jessica Eise and Whitney Hodde explain that the ramifications of a poorly informed consumer based are becoming clear in their new book, The Communication Scarcity in Agriculture.
The agricultural sector, explain the two authors, was unaccustomed to an interested and inquisitive public. As such, with the rise of the Food Movement, it largely failed to respond to the public’s demands for information. Instead, corporations, time-pressed journalists, bloggers, media celebrities, film-makers, authors and concerned consumers jumped in to fill the void. The result, find Eise and Hodde, is that changing demographics, cultural shifts, technological advances and agriculture’s silence all combined to create the perfect storm; a great chasm between those who know, and those who don’t know, agriculture.
“Take a look at the ‘pink slime’ media frenzy, or the rise in popularity of celebrity food bloggers who don’t have any scientific training,” explains Jessica Eise, director of communications for Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics. “Consumers are being fed a lot of misinformation and, understandably, they don’t know how to filter this or how to put it in context.”
The Communication Scarcity in Agriculture, a nonfiction work, was published by Routledge. Separated into three sections, it covers current examples of damaging miscommunications in food and agriculture, the nuances of today’s communication environment and it concludes with a recommended reorientation.
The book contains forewards by Drs. Robert Paarlberg and Sonny Ramaswamy, as well as guest essays from Jim Moseley, former USDA Deputy Secretary and current co-chair at AGree, as well as farmer blogger Debbie Lyons-Blythe. Eise and Hodde relied heavily on interviews with industry leaders in writing the book, including interviews with Senators Richard Lugar and Chuck Grassley.
A particular focus of the book is on the miscommunications surrounding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Coinciding with the release of the book, Obama signed a bill requiring labels for GMO foods.
“This bill is the last stop in a long chain of events that all begin with poor communication. Misunderstanding and miscommunications about GMOs ran rampant due to rumors, myths and a lot of silence from agriculture on the matter. Due to the fears and worries fomented by poor communication, people applied pressure to their governments to take measures on the issue,” explains Eise. “This pressure led to Vermont passing a state law requiring labelling of GMOs. The passing of this state law caused concern across the nation that a patchwork of laws would severely disrupt production. Industry got behind a labelling law so that standards would be the same across the United States. At long last, a labelling law passed on the federal level.”
Source: Purdue University