PORT HURON — She pointed to a Monsanto meme shared on social media. It reads: “Monsanto GMO seeds will not germinate without applying dihydrogen monoxide.”
Dihydrogen monoxide is, of course, water, and seeds will not grow without water. Chemistry lesson 101 aside, Michelle “Farm Babe” Miller — the one presenting the meme — wants Michigan farmers to understand that not everyone is an advocate for agriculture, which is why they must be ready to communicate ag’s side of the story.
Inside the Blue Water Convention Center on Feb. 6, Miller encouraged Michigan Farm Bureau members to debunk the social media myths, pseudo stories and misinformation proliferating the internet about agriculture.
Such as the Monsanto meme.
“It’s true that fear sells,” Miller told the Port Huron crowd. “I wish there were more humor in advertising … but, unfortunately, right now we’ve got a fear-based message around food and farming. People fear what they don’t understand.”
According to Miller, misinformation will continue to spread if the public doesn’t understand the truth about farming.
“Social media is the hands-down, No. 1 source of information,” Miller said. “People find their tribes: They have trust in their groups, they listen to celebrities who are so influential, (and) they listen to their friends over doctors. … We need to think of the lessons in critical thinking. Can we improve critical thinking by the general public?”
An Iowa farmer and columnist for Ag Daily, Miller offered tips to Michigan farmers to debunk stories, such as locating the source of the author, figuring out if he or she is selling something, and if the source has an agenda. She also encouraged farmers to use social media messaging to better communicate with the consumer, including posting videos on Twitter or YouTube debunking said ag myths.
“Nowadays, anyone can say whatever they want on the internet,” Miller said. “We have to retrain our brains to understand if this (meme or post) is true or false.”
Miller said farmers can have a better understanding if a post is true just by Googling the source of the story.
“These vegan, animal rights activist groups are, frankly, doing a good job in the social media world,” she said. “They have mastered the art of infiltrating comment sections, of using these propaganda films, and of really generating millions of views and dollars for that ideology.”
Examples Miller used included efforts by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), backers of the “Food, Inc.” film, and the influencer “Food Babe” who negatively portray the ag industry. Some of their targets include the treatment of livestock animals and the use of chemicals in food.
“You can take something that somebody doesn’t understand and make it sound horrific,” Miller said, noting that to properly communicate with the consumer a farmer must have empathy and values.
“Remember to treat people like friends and find that kindness,” she said. “There is no wrong way, no wrong platform (to do this). Whether you to choose to do some Snapchats or to do some YouTube videos, find yourself, find your voice.”
Michelle Miller can be followed on Twitter @thefarmbabe.