ACDC News – Issue 01-09

Sound familiar? “The place and problem of the agricultural college editor.”

That is the title of a presentation by an agriculture college dean during 1917 to members of the American Association of Agricultural College Editors (ACE). A. R. Mann, dean of the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University, proceeded to offer some interesting perspectives. His thoughts still may resonate, even across decades of change in subject matter, audiences and media alternatives. An example:

“A good college editor has all the tasks and all the problems and all the chances for achievement which are open to a good managing editor anywhere. He needs to combine, in the larger degree the better, some of the qualifications of the executive, the news writer, the scientist, and the diplomat. To these qualifications he must add breadth of view and breadth of sympathies. His task is to connect the college with the people thru the printed word, and the form of that word is so various that he needs considerable versatility.”

Reference: Use a title search (“The place and problem”) or author search (Mann) for the full citation.

Citizen’s jury: a way to hear local views about GM crops.

A report from ActionAid (UK) describes “the South’s first citizen jury on GM crops.” It took place during early 2000 in the state of Karnataka, India. Within this citizen jury procedure, a cross-section of farmers (14) heard expert witnesses who presented evidence for and against the new biotechnologies. Four days of evidence included testimony from a wide array of public and private sector stakeholders. Then the jury members gave their verdict on a “would you sow” question and offered their reasons and recommendations. According to the report, “The jury demonstrated that the poorest farmers can have a sophisticated knowledge of the way new types of crop can impact on their lives.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Indian farmers judge GM crops”) or author search (Wakeford) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Protecting indigenous knowledge.

Traditional knowledge about agriculture, medicine and other dimensions of human life is getting greater attention, internationally. We recently identified useful reports from a meeting last fall sponsored by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) at Geneva, Switzerland. Title: “Expert meeting on systems and national experiences for the protection of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices.” We have added 14 papers and a summary report. Examples:

  • “Food, power, intellectual property and traditional knowledge – a food systems overview”
  • “Protection of traditional knowledge on the international level – reflections in connection with world trade”
  • “Systems and national experiences for protecting traditional knowledge, innovations and practices”
  • “Traditional knowledge: resisting and adapting to globalisation”
  • “Protection of traditional knowledge in Indonesia: Review”

Reference: Use title searches to identify the full citations, including URLs for online access. Documents from the meeting, other than those listed above, can be located through a subject search, using the term “indigenous knowledge.”

Why protect traditional knowledge?

One consultant at the meeting discussed four reasons for protecting traditional knowledge:

  • Improve the livelihoods of traditional knowledge holders and communities
  • Benefit national economies
  • Conserve the environment
  • Prevent biopiracy

His paper includes an insightful discussion about the growing appreciation for the importance of traditional knowledge in sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

Reference: Use an author search (Dutfield) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

“The colonial attitude lives on as the surreptitious appropriation of traditional knowledge for commercial ends,”

Said D. Nakashima of UNESCO in his presentation. He noted that “after decades of grudging acknowledgement, indigenous knowledge has now become, at least in certain circles, ‘fashionable.’ The resulting bandwagon effect has led to an increasingly common abuse of terms. In the development and resource management milieu, one now encounters the terms ‘traditional or indigenous knowledge’ loosely applied to a wide array of activities, many of which do not give any serious consideration to the knowledge possessed by local community members.”

He argued that the encounter between scientific and traditional knowledge must be apprehended as a meeting of cultures, with the cultural component as prominent in one camp as the other.

Reference: Use an author search (Nakashima) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Consumer views of irradiated meat and poultry.

Nearly half of 10,780 U.S. consumers surveyed in a government-sponsored survey said they would buy irradiated meat and poultry. A news report about this telephone survey in seven states nationwide came into the ACDC collection recently. Despite what is interpreted as a growing acceptance of food irradiation, results also showed that more than half the respondents said they had never heard of food irradiation.

Reference: Use a title search (“USDA: consumer acceptance of food irradiation growing”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Most still “doing it wrong” in home food safety.

Results of a study last year by Audits International among U.S. households suggest that “three-fourths of the population is still ‘doing it wrong’.” Only 24% of the homes audited met the criteria for acceptable food handling practices. Need for improved communications seemed apparent when auditors probed the reasons for critical violations:

  • “I don’t believe it” (motivation) 20%
  • “I didn’t know” (education) 40%
  • “I wasn’t thinking” (awareness) 40%

Reference: Use a title search (“Audits International 2000 home food safety study report”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Why bother to look back in communications planning? 

It’s so easy and appealing to move with the moment in planning communications programs. However, we are reminded of some counsel that Eric Abbott of Iowa State University has offered: “A wise colleague once told me, ‘when you are about to undertake a project, always assume that something similar has been done before. Usually, you’ll be right.’ While almost all projects do include new or unique aspects, overall there is a great deal of experience out there in the field. The trick is to find it.”

That’s why we work hard in the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center to help you find relevant experience and guidelines that can help you carry out today’s projects.

For example:

Q: Thinking about the potentials for distance education in a project?
A: Run a subject search on terms such as <“distance education”> or <telecommunications>.

Q: Wondering how farmers prefer to get information on pesticides?
A: Run a subject cross-search on terms such as: <“information seeking” pesticides> or <“media use” farmers chemicals>

Q: Looking for data on attitudes of consumers toward food biotechnology?
A: Run a subject cross-search on terms such as <“public attitudes” biotechnology> or <“buying behavior” biotechnology>

Professional activities approaching:

June 11-12, 2001
“Reaching Diverse Audiences.” Communicator workshop features techniques for communicating more effectively with the elderly, the disabled, those with alternative lifestyles and those with low literacy levels. Coordinated by the D.C. Region of Agricultural Communicators in Education (ACE).

June 21-23, 2001
West/South Region Meeting, National Association of Farm Broadcasters at the Omaha Marriott, Omaha, Nebraska.
Information: Emery Kleven at 402/372-5423 or  Susan Littlefield at 402/564-2866.

June 21-23, 2001
American Horse Publications annual meeting and seminar at San Mateo Marriott, San Mateo, California.

June 23-26, 2001
Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) and Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) joint conferences at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Orlando, Florida.


Best regards and good searching.

Please pass along your reactions, questions and ideas for ACDC. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents that we might add to this collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 69 Mumford Hall, University of Illinois, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form ( Thank you.

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