Women in Ag: Finding Balance in Our Food and Farm Conversations
A friend of mine shared a very interesting read with me this week from Eater.com, entitled “I Went to Monsanto’s Controversial Journalism Bootcamp.”
It’s about an agriculture reporter’s experiences when attending a four-day journalism program on food and agriculture, put on by the National Press Foundation (NPF). The program included an organic farm tour (and speakers from the Organic Trade Association) and a tour of Monsanto’s research campus in Missouri – along with several speakers from the company’s executive management team.
I encourage you to read the entire article, but I will share my take on it. Among seasoned agriculture reporters attending this event, there was a sense of reporters being on enemy territory at Monsanto. The writer readily admits that the organic speakers were “thrown softballs” for questions because the reporters were saving up their proverbial ammunition and energy for Monsanto.
Even as the reporter mentions that “the OTA has come under fire for its own spin and aggressive lobbying,” he also writes, “They weren't grilled with nearly the intensity we reserved for Monsanto.”
And to that, I ask why not?
I went to journalism school, so I know that conflict sells. But I was also taught there is more than one side to every story – and if even some of our most veteran agriculture reporters in major national publications are writing off Monsanto as some evil giant out to devour the world while giving a pass to a controversial organic organization because, well, they’re organic after all, then where do we go from here?
As I got to the end of the article, I was pleased that the reporter appeared to see some of the human faces behind Monsanto, albeit begrudgingly: “Sure, us journalists will continue to do our jobs, holding Monsanto accountable for any and all questionable practices. But what if, subconsciously, our approach will be softer now — even a tiny bit? Does that mean Monsanto won?”
Is this a war between journalists, consumers, and Monsanto? It certainly feels that way most days.
I’m not here to tout the benefits of Monsanto nor am I here to rip the organic industry. I believe both have an important place at the agriculture table in this country.
I also want journalists to do their jobs – to ask the tough questions of any company or organization, regardless of size or scope.
I’d like to see some balance when it comes to our food and farm conversations. This business of immediately vilifying Big Ag – in this particular case by those who should be helping consumers really understand the many nuances of U.S. agriculture today – is worrisome at best.
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