ACDC News – Issue 08-20

Breakdown in risk communicating – a confusing grab bag .  A research report and news release we added recently from the Produce Safety Project emphasized how “the nation’s food-safety system continues to be plagued by issues of capacity, competence and coordination.”  This analysis, reported from Georgetown University, focused on last summer’s Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that caused illnesses in more than 1,400 persons across the nation.

It documented “dueling” public health messages from various agencies announcing the outbreak. Get unified risk communications plans in place before an outbreak, the report emphasized.

News release: Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak exposes food safety weaknesses

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Report: Breakdown: lessons to be learned from the 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak

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Agricultural editor asks:  “Is it my job to reach the consumer?” Holly Martin, president of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association and editor of High Plains Journal , raised that question in a recent issue of AAEA ByLine newsletter.

“No,” she replied.  “I believe ag media should take a different tack.  My role is not to speak to consumers about the importance of agriculture.  My role is to speak to agriculture producers about the importance of consumers.

The author suggested that no one tells a story better than the person who experiences it.  “No matter how eloquent, my words retelling a farmer’s story would never carry the weight and impact of a farmer speaking directly to consumers.”

Title: What is our role?

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Sorting fact and opinion in GM reporting. A recent commentary added to the body of argument that the world should rely on experts with good credentials to evaluate the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops and food. Robert Wager of Vancouver Island University, Canada, argued that the media “can, of course, add words of caution from critics.  But it must be clear which opinions come from detailed knowledge and training, and which may be driven by other agendas.”

The author offered these suggestions to journalists:

  • Talk to people trained in the field of agri-biotechnology “who actually know what the real issues are.”
  • Consult regulators.  “Many countries have tight regulations on food production to ensure public safety.”
  • “…stop presenting claims that we know nothing about the long-term hazards as being unique to GM foods.”

Title: GM reporting should rely on real expertise

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Unique role of the Ag Com Documentation Center .  In matters such as communicating about biotechnology for food and agriculture, we in this Center use an “honest broker” approach. That is, we value, collect and provide information and perspectives of all kinds, and from all voices surrounding an issue.  If you conduct a Subject search in the ACDC search system, using the term “biotechnology,” you will find a surprisingly diverse mixture of documents and views. They range from books and peer-reviewed, scientific literature to editorials, commentaries and news releases from interest groups.

Why would we do so?  Because experience shows that opinions and hunches sometimes prove to be as important as science in the world of personal and social decision making.  In that spirit, this Center – as a public library resource – aims to increase understanding and improve human communicating and decision making by helping users “tune in” on all voices about this complex subject (and hundreds of others).

KFC – not just a chicken restaurant (in Asia). In a recent book, International public relations , Patricia A. Curtin and T. Kenn Gaither described how Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has “set a record for fast food chain development in China since opening its first store in Beijing, China, in 1987.”  Colonel Sanders in China, Malaysia, India, and the rest of Asia looks the same as the Colonel in the United States, the authors explained.  However, they identified some dimensions of this campaign that embed KFC into cultures different from the one in which it originated.  We are adding this case report to the ACDC collection.

Title: International public relations

Check with us at if you want to follow up on it for teaching or other uses.

Honoring the potato through beautiful photography. Year 2008 is the International Year of the Potato and skilled photographers have provided an inspiring global view of this valuable food through their entries in the World Photography Contest.  Winners were announced recently by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, coordinator of the year-long campaign.

Entries, which came from professional and amateur photographers in 90 countries, illustrated the many roles played by the potato in agriculture, the economy, food security, society and culture.  In the award-winning photos you will see images that feature biodiversity, cultivation, processing, trade, marketing, consumption and use of potatoes throughout the world.

View the winning photos at

Communicator activities approaching

January 19, 2009
Deadline for submitting abstracts for presentations at the 7th World Congress of Computers in Agriculture and Natural Resources to take place June 22-24 in Reno, Nevada USA.
January 20-22, 2009
Knowledge “Share Fair” to showcase examples of good knowledge sharing practices in agricultural development and food security.  Hosted by five international agencies and held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy.
April 15-17, 2009
“Hot ideas and sizzling solutions.”  2009 Agri-Marketing Conference sponsored by the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) in Atlanta, Georgia USA.

A new frontier in animal communications and genetics. We close this issue of ACDC News with a mischievous gremlin that sneaked into a recent issue of University of Chicago Magazine .  An alumnus reported having taken a driving safari in South Africa with friends and offspring.  One highlight: “seeing vultures and lions mating.”

In the Letters section of the following issue a sharp-eyed reader asked:  “Will the results of this union look anything like the gryphon on the Cobb Hall archway near Botany Pond?”

Best regards and good searching. Please pass along your reactions, suggestions and ideas for the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents we might add to this unique collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 510 LIAC, 1101 S. Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801) or in electronic format sent to .

Get in touch with us when you see interesting items in the ACDC collection and can’t gain full-text access through information in the citation, or through online searching.  We will help you gain access.