Big Ag + Us
Posted by greendistrict
After coasting for decades on the popularity of all that is “fast” or frozen, the food industry was caught off guard a decade ago by the unsavory revelations in the bestselling book “Fast Food Nation.” It maintained deer-in-the-headlights stance through an onslaught of books and documentaries extolling Big AGs many failings.
All that muckraking nurtured today’s vibrant farmers markets movement and locavor initiatives, and started a transformative national conversation about where our food comes from and how it’s made. None of this benefitted big food companies, however.
Now the industry is hoping to change to subject. According to news stories this week, a recently formed umbrella group with a folksy-sounding name is taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, with public relations campaign meant to reassert industry’s influence over public opinion … or as executives at the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance told the New York Times, they hope to “reshape the dialogue”.
“There is a feeling across the board in agriculture that Americans have concerns about the food supply, and those are best addressed by farmers,” Chris Galen, a founding member of the alliance said to the Times.
The only thing is the “farmers” represented by the group include agribusiness giants such as Monsanto and DuPont. According to the story, members of smaller, organic and natural farming operations and food processors are skeptical that the $11 million campaign aims to do more than restore credibility to industrial agriculture.
Maybe you think that no amount of PR spin could make you forget that the cows that end up on the dinner menu are fed ground-up chicken and pig parts that, in turn, were fattened on such delicacies as brain, bones and spinal cords.
Take the leaked 2002 memo by Republican consultant Frank Luntz that outlined the Bush Administration’s strategy for sowing doubt about climate change. Luntz urged Republicans to play up the notion that scientists were in disagreement, even while acknowledging that “the scientific debate is closing,” as most scientists were already in agreement that global warming was real.
Looking back nearly a decade later, it was a masterly piece of spin that couldn’t have worked out much better for its architects. According to this August 2011 report by the polling firm Rasmussen, most Americans today not only believe there is a disagreement among scientists over climate change, they believe scientists have, essentially, lied to make their case. The pollsters conclusion:
“The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 69% say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data in order to support their own theories and beliefs, including 40% who say this is Very Likely. Twenty-two percent (22%) don’t think it’s likely some scientists have falsified global warming data, including just six percent (6%) say it’s Not At All Likely. Another 10% are undecided.”
Why do public relations campaigns succeed in convincing people of things that do not stand up to scrutiny? It’s important not to underestimate the smarts of the people running these spin campaigns but the evidence also suggests the role of powerful psychological factors. According to a recent research paper examining public views on climate change published by academics at Yale University and four other colleges, we choose to believe facts that support the views we already hold, while ignoring ones that undermine our beliefs and values. From the abstract:
“The conventional explanation for controversy over climate change emphasizes impediments to public understanding: Limited popular knowledge of science, the inability of ordinary citizens to assess technical information, and the resulting widespread use of unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. A large survey of U.S. adults (N = 1540) found little support for this account. On the whole, the most scientifically literate and numerate subjects were slightly less likely, not more, to see climate change as a serious threat than the least scientifically literate and numerate ones. More importantly, greater scientific literacy and numeracy were associated with greater cultural polarization: Respondents predisposed by their values to dismiss climate change evidence became more dismissive, and those predisposed by their values to credit such evidence more concerned, as science literacy and numeracy increased. We suggest that this evidence reflects a conflict between two levels of rationality: The individual level, which is characterized by citizens’ effective use of their knowledge and reasoning capacities to form risk perceptions that express their cultural commitments; and the collective level, which is characterized by citizens’ failure to converge on the best available scientific evidence on how to promote their common welfare. Dispelling this, “tragedy of the risk-perception commons,” we argue, should be understood as the central aim of the science of science communication.”
Perhaps that explains how politicians like Rick Perry and Sarah Palin can keep on denying that we have a problem even as their states are buffeted by what scientists say are clearly impacts of climate change.
Or maybe we’ve interrupted evolution which is making us, as a species, less able to adapt to threats to survival. That’s the view of Steve Jones, a professor of genetics at University College London. He told the Mexican news agency, Notimex, that advances in modern medicine and technology have allowed each of us to live longer but has gradually reduced our ability to react to changes taking place in our environment.
About greendistrictI'm Christine MacDonald, a journalist and the author of the book: "Green, Inc., An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone B
Posted on September 30, 2011, in CAFOs, Climate Deniers, Climate politics, Corporate Citizenship, Corporate Social Responsiblity, food safety, Frank Luntz, Frankenfish, GMOs, Green Living, locavore, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.