Social media plays role in fanning food fear

A story by Western Producer reporter Sean Pratt on page 63 of this week’s paper holds some good lessons for those of us who work, or spend any time, in the world of social media.

Pratt’s story talks about how the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission intends to use social media to help dispel some common myths about farming.

Sean quotes former commission chair, Dale Leftwich.

“This phenomenon of food fear has put producer prosperity, our prosperity, in jeopardy,” Leftwich told delegates attending the commission’s annual general meeting at CropSphere last week in Saskatoon.

There are any number of sources of “food fear” on social media these days: Vani Hari, also known as The Food Babe (@thefoodbabe), is probably one of the best known.

With nearly 100,000 twitter followers and hashtags such as #FoodBabeArmy every sentence she tweets is carried far and wide by her legions of loyal supporters.

But it’s important to remember that simple popularity on social media should never be mistaken for expertise.

The Canola Development Commission has chosen to create a documentary video to be used to address some of the consumer concerns being expressed as a result.

“The film addresses consumer concerns about genetically modified food, pointing out that the technology has allowed farmers to use less diesel fuel and adopt zero till seeding techniques, said commission vice-chair Doyle Wiebe.

“ ‘I’m 61 now, and 40 years ago I saw my land blowing away. Now I haven’t had a dust storm since (adopting zero till),’ he said.”

Now, as a reporter it behooves me to point out that the Canola Development Commission obviously has an interest in promoting the value of canola.

That kind of connection between a marketer and a product is completely understandable, and in this instance readily transparent.

Of greater concern, to me, are the underlying, and not-so-transparent interests of those who would promote such “food fear” in the first place. Have they ever taken the time to talk to a real farmer about their concerns?

Farmers are the real experts on these issues, and no amount of celebrity or popularity on social media can trump that.

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