Have you ever wondered where your food comes from? Do you wonder what’s really in there? You’re not alone! There is so much information coming our way on social media on a daily basis about what’s good for you that it’s hard to sift through and make sense of it all. It’s hard to get a real sense of what the truth is.
Why do I care?
For one thing, as a mom I’m much more conscious of the food choices I make and I want to make sure my daughter is eating well. Aside from that, I recently started working in the agriculture sector. I’m not going to lie, prior to getting started in this business I knew very little about my food. True, I grew up in a rural area of Ottawa with semi-regular contact with farmers, so I was probably a little bit more connected to the industry than the average Canadian, but I certainly would not have called myself well-informed.
The entire industry to me was overwhelming, with information coming at me from all sides about what I should or shouldn’t put into my body. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t hear something on social media like ‘Don’t eat sugar, it’ll kill you’ or ‘Don’t eat GMO’s, don’t you know they cause cancer?’ or ‘Eat vegan! Eating meat is the new smoking’. Ever since starting my job in agriculture, I’ve been insatiably curious about all things related to food. What am I really eating anyway? The area that got me the most curious? GMOs.
What does GMO even mean?
A GMO is a Genetically Modified Organism. In science speak that means a plant that has been developed with genetic engineering. Generally, that translates into taking a plant and adding, altering or taking something away to make it perform better. This can mean making it more drought resistant, unaffected by certain pests or decreasing the amount of fuel required to farm it, among other things. This page will tell you all you want to know about GMOs and more.
What’s all the fuss about?
Many of you have likely seen the movements: #RightToKnow, #nonGMO #antiGMO #GMOlabelling, etc. Some of you may even subscribe to these beliefs. #RightToKnow alone has a hashtag exposure per hour of 14,271, according to ritetag.com.
The question I have for you, which is the same thing I ask myself, is do I really know enough about what this is to make an informed decision to be for or against it? Chances are we don’t.
According to a CBC article, “consumers have little understanding about the science of what many dubbed “Frankenfood”. Often, it’s confused with goods that have had additives like preservatives or hormone injections”. This lack of understanding, in my opinion, is because we are so frequently being told on social media that GMOs are bad for us that we don’t take the time to decide if they actually are. If you follow food related content on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, you’ve likely heard that GMOs will cause learning disorders, cancer, heart disease, mental illness, diabetes and so much more. The group @healthy_facts_ makes many claims like this.
With all of this fear driven attention, how do we know what’s true and what’s not? If someone told me something would cause all of those problems, I’d probably want to avoid it too! But… by succumbing to the fear, we’re not getting all of the facts. For example, did you know that the insulin that is provided to those people suffering from diabetes, the very thing that GMOs are being accused of causing, is actually produced by means of genetic modification? The insulin, which was previously created by using the pancreas of animals is GMO and is now easier to produce and at a much faster rate. Would anyone really deny someone with diabetes access to insulin, simply because it’s GMO? And more importantly, can something that’s ‘so bad’ really be producing something that is actually saving lives? Check out more about GMO insulin here.
So what’s missing?
In my opinion, it’s stories like the one above that we’re missing. Our attention is so focused on the scary side of things that we’re missing the facts and all of the positives that come from genetic modification. There are new movements on this front, such as #factsnotfear, #moms4GMOs, #Dads4GMOs and many more. There’s even a film out there that aims to push back against all of the fear-invoking claims online called ‘Food Evolution’. The film encourages viewers to #FeastOnFacts not fear. These campaigns are all trying to bring positive dialogue into what’s being done, but countering the large-scale social media campaign against GMOs will take time and more involvement from farmers, scientists, the food industry and supporters. Take into consideration the fact that the campaigns I mentioned above did not even rank on ritetag.com. In fact, they fell under the category of hashtags that you shouldn’t use because very few people are following them.
With that said, I think that a big part of the problem in spreading the word about the positives of GMO’s, is that the industry has been too focused on communicating the facts and science through traditional means. They instead need to focus on increasing their dialogue with the world on social media, which is where the fear-invoking side of this battle is being waged. As we know, social media provides us with a place to share our thoughts, whether they are based on science or not, and the science is not necessarily what people want to hear. People are moved by emotion, how something makes them feel. By causing your audience to be frightened, you’re doing a much better job of engaging them than you would be by bombarding them with science-based facts like: it takes a company from 7 to 10 years to bring a GMO to market, and during that time the product must undergo rigorous government testing. It’s hard to connect to that. What I can connect to is that biotech products are actually doing good work for our environment. Did you know that GMOs actually help to reduce the environmental impact of farming and help to improve our air quality?
Where does this leave us?
According to the UN, the world’s population is expected to swell to 9.8 billion people by 2050. That means that we will need to come up with innovative ways to produce more food, on less land, to meet the rising global needs. Canadian farmers, as the 5th largest agricultural exporters globally, are stepping up in a big way to meet these challenges, while at the same time aiming to leave valuable green spaces untouched. This is the story that must be told on social media. It must be told in an engaging way to make sure that people understand both sides of the spectrum to really decide how they feel about it.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, especially on social media, but I just hope that we all do our best to form that opinion in the best way possible. Without the fear.
I’d love to hear what you think about this and to hear what your thoughts are on GMOs in general. Did you know what they were and how do you feel about them? Have you seen or interacted with any of the GMO campaigns?
Are you afraid of your food? Get ready to #FeastOnFacts! #FactsNotFear #GMO
Is social media making you afraid of your food? You’re not alone. #Resist the fear and check out my latest blog! #FactsNotFear #GMO