ACDC News – Issue 00-07

Summaries from the 1999 Rural Telecommunications Congress came into the ACDC collection recently.

The Congress took place last October in Aspen, Colorado. It provided opportunities for rural community leaders to learn about telecommunications as a tool for development in rural areas. We have deposited the following summaries of discussions about progress and current issues in the use of telecommunications:

  • “Economic development and community building roundtable at Rural TeleCon ’99”
  • “Educational issues roundtable at Rural TeleCon ’99”
  • “Community networking roundtable at Rural TeleCon ’99”

Reference: Search on titles to get full citations for local searches. The Congress report can be viewed online at

On scientists as communicators.

Discussions about biotechnology recently prompted a plant sciences administrator in a Canadian university to observe:

“Scientists often are not good communicators. They want to tell you too much. So it doesn’t make a good sound bite. But when you have Montreal dancing around with corn cobs on their heads and little kids dressed as butterflies, it’s a nice image and you can get a nice sound bite out of that.” (Reference: “Scientist wants to replace GMO fiction with facts”)

“We do what we need to do.” 

On a similar point about media relations (if a different agricultural issue), the head of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said recently:

“You can’t beat the messenger for the way the message is delivered. We do what we need to do.” (Reference: “How to win friends and alienate people”)

Earning public confidence in university research.

Recently a columnist in Prairie Farmer magazine noted a research report sent to media from Purdue University. The title: “Transgenic fish could threaten wild populations.” Noting that the release sounded like something from a biotech critic, the writer got this reply from Chris Sigurdson, interim head of the Agricultural Communications Department at Purdue:

“Many people look to the university as an unbiased source. We talk about both the good and the bad. For people to trust us, we have to show that we’re not just researching benefits, but also risks. This story doesn’t say biotechnology is bad. It simply says there is a problem, and we need to deal with it.”

Reference: Search on title (“Pay attention to this fish story”) for the full citation.

Manitobans place most trust in farmers and their university scientists 

When it comes to getting accurate information on food safety. A survey during February by Prairie Research Associates invited a random sample of residents to indicate how much trust they place (5=complete trust to 1=no trust at all) in information from five sources. Respondents expressed greatest trust in farmers (3.75) and University of Manitoba scientists (3.60), least trust in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2.65) and food company representatives (2.37).

Reference: Search on title (“Manitobans and their concerns about food”) for full citation. Contact Greg Mason at for more information.

New farm-city web site.

The National Farm-City Council offers a new website to highlight its efforts to “promote understanding and increase cooperation between rural and urban residents.” The site, under construction, will also feature activities of farm-city organizations at local and state levels, plus materials that can be used in such activities. The URL is

“Shroud of secrecy” regarding meat irradiation.

In a commentary posted on “The Meating Place,” Dan Murphy urges meat marketers to “step up to the plate and respond to media requests” about this complex topic. He notes that whereas positive publicity has accompanied USDA regulations permitting irradiation of red meat, “there has been a concurrent trend that is decidedly negative: the shroud of secrecy that the meat industry’s leading companies have attempted to drape over the launch of irradiated meat products.”

Details: Search on title (“Commentary: if irradiation is so great, why the top-secret approach?”) for the full citation.

More perspectives in the GMO “dialogue.

“For Europeans, it’s not at the level of a rational discussion anymore. It’s become a battle of doctrines, of religious beliefs, of inanities.” (From a food firm spokesperson. Reference: “New genes and seeds: protesters in Europe grow more passionate”)

“We need to win the war of words, as well as the science war if the public is to be persuaded to accept GMOs.” (From a scientist urging use of positive terms – such as biotechnology-enhanced” – to replace negative ones such as “genetically engineered.” Reference: “Scientist defends biotech crops, says ‘buzz words’ key to anti-lobbyist”)

“Some leading scientists say that it has not been proven that GE foods are harmful. This is a dishonest, seriously misleading and irrelevant argument. What is relevant is that it has not been proven that GE foods are harmless. For example, DDT caused extensive damage worldwide because it was released although it was not proven that it was harmless. Leading scientists are the prime cooperation targets for biotech companies, and cannot be trusted uncritically in this issue.” (Reference: “Arguments for GE food withdrawal”)

Professional meetings approaching.

Here are the approaching meetings of several U.S. professional agricultural communicator organizations:

May 6-8, 2000
East Region Meeting of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters in Washington, D.C.

May 10-11, 2000
“Communicating science: taking the risk.” A super workshop on risk communication for scientists, communicators, and administrators. Sponsored by Agricultural Communicators in Education (ACE) and Extension Service (CSREES) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

May 18-20, 2000
“T2K.” Texas 2000, the American Horse Publications annual meeting and seminar in Irving, Texas. The event will also feature a 30th-anniversary celebration.

May 21-24, 2000
“Fast chips and hot salsa.” National Extension Technology Conference (NETC) in College Station, Texas.

June 1-4, 2000
West Region meeting of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Information: Don Wick at

June 24-27, 2000
Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) Institute in Whitefish, Montana.

June 28-July 2, 2000
South Region Meeting of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters at Sandestin Resort, Destin, Florida.
Information: Lee McCoy at 334/741-9672.

July 23-26, 2000
U.S. Agricultural Communicators Congress (USACC) in Washington, D.C. Involves professionals from Agricultural Communicators in Education (ACE), American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA), National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB), Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) and Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT).

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