Kate Hall – GMO discussion

(Conrad) Good morning and welcome to Farm Factor on AGam in Kansas. I’m your host Conrad Kabus. There are many representatives in Washington DC fighting for farmers and at the Kansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers and ranchers Conference agricultural representatives educated young producers. (Kate) So I’m very thankful to the Kansas Farm Bureau for being invited to come and speak about these issues. Its very important and essentially the main point of the presentation that I wanted to make is that its incredibly important for farmers and ranchers to talk about what they do. They are our most trusted communicators when it comes to food and agriculture issues. People truly are interested in learning more about where their food comes from. And instead of somebody else talking about what a farmer does, its better the farmer be able to tell his and her story so people understand how their food is grown, where it comes from and eventually how it gets to their plate. (Conrad) There are many ludicrous assumptions about agriculture. It seems to be amusing to farm families but are confusing to consumers. (Kate) In terms of what we’ve done in the past, we’ve learned a very hard lesson, we can’t start with the fact of science, we have to engage the individual first. And so the first way to do that is first to listen, its important to listen to people. And especially those who may have concerns about food and agriculture, listen to them. Food is a very emotional conversation. And so that makes it tough for us to be able to engage. So acknowledge those concerns, and talk to the public at the level that they are. So before we launch into the facts and science, its important to establish that we have a lot of common ground, a lot of common goals. We care about affordable food. We care about the environment. And so establishing those values first is a really important thing to do before we start talking about studies and about facts. We have to engage the individual so they trust us as messengers. (Conrad) Genetically modified organisms are a major topic of discussion today. Across our society, media and the internet, a growing number of people have shared a wide range of questions and emotions on the topic ranging from excitement and optimism to skepticism and even fear. (Kate) People are really interested in food and agriculture but there’s a lot of mis-information out there in media and social media. So when it comes to GMOs a lot of people think if its kind of misshapen or if it tastes funny, if it smells a bit weird, it must be a GMO. Some people equate processed food with GMOs, or that fast food is a GMO. Again, a lot of misunderstanding. So that’s why its important to provide basic information and engage with consumers to help them understand the basics of food and agriculture. (Conrad) Jennifer Schmidt lives on a family farm with grains, vegetables, hay and wine in Maryland. She provided an article on her blog about labeling. (Kate) So I think one of the most effective messages we’ve had in terms of the labeling debate was from Jenny Schmidt. Jenny is a registered dietician, she’s a farmer in Maryland and she has this wonderful page where she has a great blog. She wrote this one piece about the impact of what labeling could have on her farm in terms of production, segregation, how much that costs and it really brought to light how much our infrastructure is across the US and how a patchwork of labeling systems would negatively impact farmers as well as retailers and essentially consumers pocketbooks as well. That was really effective because it came from personal experience. Another example is on the GMOs answers website we’ve received a number of questions related to GMOs and health concerns. And one of them was about GMOs and autism. And one of our experts, Dr. Bruce Chassy developed a wonderful answer because he talks about it from a very personal angle and his experience with his grandson who is autistic and what that meant to him. Before we got to science at the bottom of the answer, you know, establishing the fact that this is something that we understand and we are concerned about. We are right there with you. And then provide information that would help answer the question about there is no link between GMOs and autism. (Conrad) In the future Kate and other producers hope to see agriculture advocacies with farmers around the state to help spread the message. (Kate) So for the next five years we hope to see continued progress. We’ve seen a tremendous community develop around food and agriculture, science, critical thinking. We hope to see that continue. Many farmers have become advocates, understanding their importance of their presence in this conversation, and hopes that every single person at this event walks out being an advocate as well. I think that sets us up for continued progress and puts us in a really good position over the next five years. (Conrad) Thank you for watching this episode at the Kansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Manhattan, Kansas. For more of Farm Factor, or if you want to view this program again, visit us on www.agaminkansas.com or you can like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. So have a good day with good luck.

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