Sorry for the anti-climactic (and likely disappointing for a lot of you) title of this post. I am sick to death of being called a shill for the “big ag” industries or a GMO shill when I blog about agriculture. Whenever I get paid to blog about something, I legally have to disclose that I am being paid or receiving incentives to blog. Do you think I would like to pay up to $11 000 in fines if I get caught not disclosing? When I do get paid to blog, however, it never changes my opinion of any product or promotion that I’m writing about—no one can ever pay me to write something I don’t believe in or feel good about. I have turned down many campaigns because of conflict of interest or because I don’t believe in the product/campaign that is being pitched to me. Here’s just a little sampling of what I have to deal with every time I write a post about biotechnology in agriculture:
I have never been paid to blog about biotechnology. I have never received any monies or incentives or products for blogging about agriculture for “big ag” companies. I do not write to promote GMOs, I do not sell GMOs and I am not making a profit from blogging about them. Yes, I have been very transparent that we grow some GMO canola on our farm, but writing about it does not profit our farm any more than blogging about how much I love coffee makes my non-existent stocks in Tim Hortons go up. I blog about agriculture because I want to share what I know and what I’m learning with so many who are fearful about the food we grow.
Here’s another confession: I am also really really sick of the double standard associated with blogging about agriculture. Conventional? BAD. Organic? GOOD….and get paid for it! Not only is it acceptable to promote and get paid for the non-GMO and organic food campaigns, it’s applauded and praised—and believe me, I am not held in this same regard when I blog about agriculture (and I’m not even getting paid!). I get called nothing short of the devil for understanding and accepting the science used in agriculture.
— Chris (@Chris_Coimbra) May 12, 2014
Recently I have seen another wave of Stonyfield Organic Yogurt campaigns going through blog land, but at least with this new campaign they are being tame and simply promoting their new product without their usual “anti-GMO” gimmicks. Some of the bloggers who participated in this campaign are among my best blogging friends. I don’t care that they are blogging about a product or a company that is organic, I love them as people, respect them as bloggers and these same people do not razz me when I blog about agriculture and food.
As I mentioned, at least their new campaign is for a new product in their line, which is something I often promote as a blogger—I can appreciate that. It is a far better way of marketing (in my opinion) than their last blogging campaign titled “#FightPesticides”.
— Stonyfield Organic (@Stonyfield) October 10, 2013
I sincerely hope that Stonyfield is taking a turn in their marketing tactics and starting to use bloggers to spread good messages to promote their products instead of spreading misinformation about GMO’s and conventional farming their Facebook page and Twitter feeds.
I really think that marketing techniques like this are so shameful, as I have mentioned before. Companies should be proud enough of their product to let the product speak for itself in how good it is. Sure a catchy ad to set yourselves apart from the competitors or using bloggers can be helpful, but in the case of Stonyfield: there is a huge market for organic products, they are a very successful company (who is 85% owned by conventional dairy giant Danone), so why must they slander their conventional dairy competitors? I didn’t want to use their graphic without permission from their website, (I assume it’s okay to use their Facebook posts as they have embed codes on them) but I quote from the graphic comparing conventional and organic dairy:
“No toxic pesticides used here. Organic farmers don’t use toxic persistent pesticides or GMOs.”
I know what you’re going to say—“it’s marketing”, and maybe you’re right. Perhaps it’s a really great move by Danone to be playing both sides of the fence. To use this type of fear-instilled marketing with their big organic brand, charge more, and then catch the rest with their conventional brand. I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but organic farming does use pesticides and this whole “fight pesticides” campaign just baffles me. Maybe not every organic farmer uses pesticides, maybe not for every crop, maybe only as a last resort—but they do have organic approved pesticides and organic farmers can and do use them. For Stonyfield and other organic products to market in a way that suggests that they don’t and that what my family uses to farm is “toxic”, makes me shake my head and also let some foul language slip from my mouth.
Shillin’ Like a Villain
Accusation after accusation that “big ag” is paying me for my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions, it won’t stop me from agvocating. I agree with Dr. Steve Savage who wrote on this same topic on his blog; we blog because it matters, because it’s so sad that people have such fear about the food we grow, and most important for me is helping parents make guilt-free choices about the food that they buy, be it conventional, organic, made with biotechnology, or grown in their own gardens.
— Sarah Schultz (@NurseLovesFarmr) May 7, 2014
The shill accusation is always a sign of desperation, from my point of view. These people have nothing intelligent to say and resort to name-calling tactics. This is when I exit the conversation and wish them well.
I sincerely wish we lived in a world where even if we disagreed with each other and made different choices—we could do so respecting each other by being kind, and not spreading fear to support the choices we make.