Social media can be a very pointy double-edged sword, as the recent LFTB debacle shows.
There are days when working in the field of agriculture can be downright depressing. On those days, it seems like the whole world is against you. There have been more of those days than is normal in the past few weeks. The manufactured media hysteria over lean finely textured beef has spawned a feeding frenzy among journalists, bloggers and activist groups.
After ABC News stopped beating up on beef, CBS jumped in with an attack on sugar. Exposés abound on butter, margarine, popcorn, pigs, cows and a variety of food items. In fact, if the consuming public paid attention to all the food scare stories out there, the grocery store aisles would be empty. Having just returned from a visit to my local grocery, I can tell you that the aisles are not empty and that the checkout line was long.
Many farm groups have touted social media as a great way to tell the story of agriculture, but it is a double-edged sword. Social media channels have helped fan the flames of misinformation about food and how it is produced. Groups with a particular agenda have used this media very effectively.
An article in the Chicago Tribune highlighted how social media chatter influences corporations and government actions. “Something is seriously out of kilter in our communications environment when safe food products and proven technologies can be torpedoed by sensationalist, misleading, yet entertaining, social media campaigns,” says David B. Schmidt, president and CEO of the International Food Information Council. “We should all take several steps back and remember the critical thinking skills we were taught in school.”
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