dimanche 29 mars 2015

41- Agriculture, sick of its silence


As I said at the end of my last article, a curious coincidence would have it, just after the publication, February 9, No. 38 of my article "The Alar Scare," the French public TV channel France 2 broadcasted, on March 5, a reportage on his large audience program "Envoyé Special" (special correspondent) with the catchy title "Can we still eat apples?".

The broadcast violently made the profession react. I must say that the direction was clear: a direct attack of apple production, about conservation techniques in the first part, and about plant protection techniques in the orchard next.
Only one point of view was presented, and some truths were affirmed in a pseudo-scientific or sensational appearance, even purely diverted (this was the case for example of the signal of danger of death at the entrance of the apple cold storage room, supposed to have been there for the supposedly dangerous conservation product, even if it's scored without risk, but for the very low rate of oxygen inside the cold room, so the risk of asphyxiation).
The debate did not take place, only intervened detractors of these techniques. The favorable witnesses, despite they were interviewed during filming, were not included in the final presentation. There was an obvious will of manipulation of viewers opinion.

To understand the angry reactions of the profession, I propose to proceed as follows. I have to point out that all videos and articles are in French.

1-    Watch the reportage on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PStbaVSOksA
2-    In order to have a nonpartisan scientific analysis, but simple to understand, read the following: http://www.pseudo-sciences-13.org/smartfresh-pommes.html
3-    If you want an interpretation by professionals of pest control, you can read a brief and clear text where you will also find the link to an very good article in the review Vegetable, where Julie Martin, a reporter approached to participate in the report: http://www.forumphyto.fr/2015/03/20/pommes-envoye-special-quand-on-prend-les-telespectateurs-pour-des-poires/
4-    Finally, to have a relevant perspective from an apple grower, also involved in professional life, check out the blog of Daniel Sauvaitre, president of the ANPP (National Association Apple Pear) and President of WAPA (World Apple and Pear Association), very angry in this case and who wrote a series of six articles that dissect the report point by point http://www.daniel-sauvaitre.com/2015/03/c-est-dur-d-etre-filme-par-des-cons-nes-ou-quand-la-pomme-voit-rouge-1.html

I don't think I can add an interesting opinion on the report itself. I'll just say that it is very surprising that, 26 years after the Alar scare, the same subject is again put on the spot, without any justifiable reason. The subject is actually the ability to store food for months while maintaining as much of its nutritional value, presentation and flavor as possible. Why should be this fact suspicious?
At the same time, detractors of these techniques are also those who complain the most (rightly in this case) the monstrous food waste that globally occurs. But everyone, at least in the circles who care of that, know that one of the main ways to reduce this deplorable food waste is precisely the improvement of conservation techniques.
Around the world, the conditions of access to food are attempted to be improved, food waste is tried to be reduced, development efforts are funded in poor regions or countries.
But meanwhile, in Western countries, are denied the progress made in the last 70 years, which have enabled our regions to have abundant food, always more respectful of the environment, and which has never been so healthy . Agriculture is wanted to be kept under a yoke of obscurantism.
So what are we looking for, exactly? To improve sale or hearing, to become known, at the risk of sinking an entire segment of the economy, while playing to scare consumers.

I want to express my views on why this kind of manipulation of public opinion, this destructive propaganda, may occur today.

Agriculture seems ashamed of its own practices, while it should be the opposite. It does not speak, and when the opportunity arises, it often refuses to do so.
No wonder that malicious people receive a good reception when they present, in fine style and in the guise of an honest and revealing survey of well-kept secrets, sensitive topics, diverted in the direction of the thesis they want to support.

And Agriculture once again passes for the poisoner, in spite of the reactions of the profession that can probably not avoid it. Remember what I wrote in February in my blog about the Alar Scare: "In front of simplistic arguments and manipulating fear, science is always helpless. Indeed, the argument has an immediate effect, introducing doubt or fear in the minds of the audience. As for science, it takes weeks, months or years to demonstrate the lie”.

That's the real problem.
Agriculture almost always communicates on the defensive, as a result of media attacks, often unfounded, as is the case of this report of Envoyé Special. Falsehood organized for the sole purpose of making the audience.

There are a few people, including myself, who are trying, through social networks, to change this trend. But the result is very low, most of their audience being related more or less closely with the agricultural world.

How to reach the only real target of a well-made communication, the general public?
By presenting things so they are easy to access, playful, while having a demonstrable scientific basis.
It could be, for example, an amusement park around the subject, a well thought out Show for the general public, TV shows at times of important family viewing.

Agriculture no longer must let others speak for it, generally in an erroneous and negative way. It must organize to communicate, and take the initiative, communicate positively, without any taboo, clearly display the transparency of its methods, techniques and practices. Everything must be presented, explained and justified, from organic farming in all its forms to precision farming and industrial agriculture.
It is essential and urgent that Agriculture learn to become known for what it is, not for what others believe it is, let alone what others want to do believe it is.

Remember that successive generations, until those of the 70s, had all or almost lived in the countryside, or had at least one parent related to agriculture, which gave them a familiarity, even a knowledge or a practice, albeit limited, of those subjects.
However, generations from the 80s and after, are essentially urban and no longer have any connection with the countryside and agriculture. They are therefore an ideal target for who wants to make them swallow anything.
Another problem, and not least, comes from true urban people who decide to go to live to the countryside, or by moving to a village close to the big city, either by taking a second home to spend weekends and holidays. They do not understand or do not accept that a farmer has to work at night, on Sundays, spoils their lie-in or have a manure pit behind the barn (always), but just in front of the location of their future veranda. The same problem exists with the progression of urban planning which occupies more and more traditional agricultural areas, and causes a difficult neighborhood.

In short, there are two complementary and inseparable worlds, but who do not understand each other, to the point of becoming incompatible.
In addition, communication has changed. Internet provides access to extraordinary amounts of information, often unauthenticated. When you see the amount of errors, approximations and lies spread in the newspapers or on TV, imagine on the Internet!
Consumers are changing, they are worried, eager for simple information and easy to understand.

In communication, Agriculture is its own worst enemy. It has imposed gradually to itself, and almost naturally, a code of silence that is destroying it.
Nature abhors a vacuum, also in terms of communication. Consumer questions do not remain unanswered, but it is not Agriculture that responds.
It has to learn to show and explain the technological innovations it equipped now or will be able to be equipped in the future.

Imagine all agricultural sectors at European level, for example, joining forces and budgets to create messages, TV shows, and public events, showing the expertise, modernity and agricultural diversity, in Europe and in the world. Imagine a weekly television show, at an hour of important family audience, which presents agriculture in all its forms, without taboos or lie, in an attractive manner.
Do you really believe that, if Agriculture formed part of everyday viewers' life, fear merchants have so easily the possibility of making them swallow anything?
The use of fear is mainly possible by the ignorance of the audience. Then let's train the viewers, let's inform them, but with real quality information, not with manipulated or rogue messages.

It is normal that consumers feel concerned about the quality of their diet. It's a daily concern, and we tell them everything and its opposite. They are lost, and at the same time, they are ignorant and want to know more. Who occupies the field of information? Environmentalists lobbies, followers of pseudoscience and all kinds of anti-system groups. In front of them, on the principle of "silence means consents" Agriculture often let things alone or is mired in awkward or complicated explanations, always on the defensive.
It is urgent to "dedemonize" Agriculture and plant protection, and it will not happen in silence, on the contrary. We have to talk, and as it says in the article slate.fr presented in my previous article (No. 40 "Proud to be a farmer"), "with a proper staging and informative and fun activities around these topics, it could become a great attraction of the most family farm Salon and the most open to the public. "

Let us be proud to be farmers. Let us be proud of the hard work we do every day for the population to have available an abundance of food, diverse and healthy.

And you, my dear readers not farmers, mere consumers of agricultural products, away from our concern, and concerned about your health and the quality of your food, remember that the quality and food safety has never been so high than today.
If you doubt that quality, you think it was better before, read in English
or in French http://www.forumphyto.fr/2015/03/16/plaidoyer-pour-la-nourriture-rapide-et-contre-les-luddites-culinaires/

Do not be fooled by the merchants of fear.
You are the victims and us too.
Support Agriculture, it is your best guarantee of a healthy future.

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