In the aerial application industry – or modern farming in general – people have questions. Sometimes they have misperceptions. In a world where misinformation swirls the internet, what are the facts and how do we combat the information that’s not true? We all probably have that one friend or relative that seems to always fall for the latest conspiracy or fake news story – here are some ways to know if what we’re reading is correct or not.
- Look up the author. If you’re reading something that makes you feel skeptical, look up their name and their background. If they’re writing an article about animal agriculture, are they a livestock farmer from a small town or are they a vegan animals rights activist from New York City? Understanding their educational background helps a lot to know if they’re knowledgeable in their field. You can also Google their name with keywords like “organic” “non-GMO” or “vegan” to see if they’re extremists or tied to food corporations or activist groups with an agenda.
- Google it “debunked.” Let’s say you’re reading an article that’s gone somewhat viral. For example, I was reading one that was talking about how wheat is “drenched” in glyphosate and that it’s Roundup – not gluten – causing all sorts of medical issues. The article seemed suspect, so I googled “roundup wheat debunked” and all sorts of articles showed up debunking this fake news story. The original viral article was written by some Mommy blogger with no credible evidence. The articles out there that debunked this story were written by professionals, like wheat farmers, the wheat board, and so many others who have firsthand experience growing wheat and who are the real experts on the topic.
- Is it on the news? Has the FDA covered it, have the products been recalled? Let’s say, for example, there is a legitimate reason to avoid a certain food – like an e.coli outbreak in lettuce. If this is the case, it will be all over the news and reputable expert outlets like the USDA or FDA will make announcements that there is a serious reason to avoid a food product.
- Are they selling something? “Fear” is the new “sex” when it comes to making a sale. Especially in agriculture, the marketing behind food can sometimes be quite ugly. Some authors may also be selling a book or ideology. Asking for donations? Don’t fall for misinformation as a sales tactic. Is “organic” or “Non-GMO” really that pure or are food corporations creating false health halos to sell a product? Is it really beneficial to give up meat? Likely not, but follow the money trail behind the anti-meat movement for example and you find that animal rights activist groups extremists are usually the ones behind the funding of all of this to solicit donations and push a “go vegan” agenda full of misinformation.
- Try fact-checking websites. Although it isn’t always perfect, I do recommend checking out www.snopes.com which does a pretty good job fact-checking the hot topics. If you’re reading something that’s gone viral and not sure what to make of it, there’s a good chance that Snopes has already contacted the experts and has done their due diligence to post the real facts.
- Look for peer-reviewed evidence. Fear is easy, science is hard. Sometimes people just need to do a better job reading into topics and not be intellectually lazy. Often times you’ll read or hear a story that says, “studies show,” but where are the studies? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Look deeper into the topic, read the actual study, connect with legitimate credible experts on a certain topic and don’t believe everything you read right off the bat. Evidence, evidence, evidence.
At the end of the day, we have to think about who the real experts are and apply critical thinking and common sense. If you have a question about your car, don’t you talk to your mechanic? If you have a problem with your teeth, you go to the dentist. It’s important that we raise awareness and showcase transparency with the agrochemical industry. We all care about the planet and our health, but if anyone can explain safety, rate, application, training, physics, equipment, weather and so much more, it’s the applicators – professional applicators, farmers and agronomists that have the power to advocate. Improve public perception and have a real positive impact on just how fortunate we are to have such a safe and abundant food supply.