ACDC News – Issue 02-06

Sloppy journalism or mistaken words.

The challenges of agricultural reporting came to light earlier this year in a high-visibility venue. Ears perked up when a French news agency reported that the U.S. Agency for International Development is helping Afghanistan farmers “rebuild through donations of genetically modified seed.” Follow-up inquiries revealed that the reporter and AID official “simply mistook the term “Improved Plant Varieties” to mean “genetically engineered seeds . it just simply may be a case of sloppy journalism or a simple case of mistaken words.”

Reference: Use a title search (“GM seeds in Afghanistan”) or author search (Prakash) for the full citation. The full-text report is archived (January 31, 2002) at:

“Journalists may learn a few lessons on how to do their jobs better,”

Said Elaine Shein in reviewing a children’s book about reporting on science. Her review appeared in a recent issue of The Farm Journalist newsletter from the Canadian Farm Writers Association. The book is: Diane Swanson, Nibbling on Einstein’s brain: the good, the bad and the bogus in science. “Swanson warns people to challenge research, analyze analysis and question conclusions,” according to Shein, and suggests more than 20 questions that people/journalists should ask about scientific research. Swanson cited media coverage of the Alar scare (concerning use of pesticides on apples) as an example of failures in covering science.

Reference: Use a title search (“Children’s book has advice”) or author search (Shein) for the full citation. The book review is posted online at

“The media sector is dead – long live the communications sector!”

This statement, quoted in a recently added report about development communicating, emerged from several cited trends:

  • “The ‘old’ media sector disintegrated into ‘development support communications’ – now absorbed by other sectors such as ‘rural development’ – and signal transferring systems of individual or mass communication”
  • “The borderline between media and communications is blurred due to the ‘marriage’ of electronic data processing and telecommunications”
  • “All the old and new media have one thing in common, namely communication.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Communication and development”) or author search (Eilers) for the full citation.

But do media (old or new) add up to communication?

We are reminded of a distinction made by Andrew A. Moemeka in a 1995 discussion about the term “communication.”

“Unlike information, communication is not merely talking to people; it is not talking at people; it is not even talking about people. It is talking with people. It is an interactive activity directed at creating enlightenment, understanding and order that intelligent decisions could be made and relevant actions taken.”

The author observed that “this distinction has relevance for ‘sustainable development.’ There is little doubt that misconceptions and misunderstandings of these concepts have contributed, in no small measure, to the failure of many well-meaning endeavors, plans and projects.”

Does the distinction also prompt a caution flag about capabilities of new and emerging electronic media, wherever they are used in communications related to food, agriculture and natural resources?

Reference: Use a title search (“Mass media and sustenance”) or author search (Moemeka) for the full citation.

Growth of development communication education in the Philippines.

A recently added 1988 study by Crispin C. Maslog traced expansion of degree programs in development communication and journalism in that country. The Department of Agricultural Information at the University of Philippines Los Banõs established the first such program in 1962. It began as a major in agricultural information, then was renamed development communication in 1974. By 1988, six communication schools in the Philippines offered undergraduate degree programs in development communication or development journalism.

Reference: Use a title search (“Philippine communication”) or author search (Maslog) for the full citation.

Some healthy food trends, but poor understanding of labels.

Consumers in the United Kingdom show encouraging awareness of food standards, according to a recent survey for the UK Food Standards Agency. However, comprehension of key food label information remains “poor.”

This February 2002 report showed findings of research conducted among 3,120 consumers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Highlights included

  • Shopping patterns
  • Perceptions of food hygiene in various food venues (homes, restaurants, other)
  • Concerns about food safety issues
  • Use of food labeling
  • Sources of information about food safety

Reference: Use a title search (“Consumer attitudes to food standards”) for the full citation. The report was posted online at:

Marrying global brands with local jewels.

Food manufacturers will use that strategy during the next five years as they consolidate and internationalize, according to a recent report on the changing food industry. The 600-page report drew conclusions from a survey of 220 food executives from 19 countries in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

“The research shows that global brands will dominate – 20 to 25 global brands will emerge in various categories of fast-moving consumer goods. . At the same time, manufacturers will ‘marry’ global brands with ‘local jewels’ to meet consumers’ growing demands for local products. In addition, retailers increasingly will brand their stores and wrest more control of the supply chain as they attempt to build stronger relationships with consumers.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Consumers drive food industry transformation”) for the full citation. A summary is available online (February 14, 2002) at:

Professional activities approaching.

May 18-22, 2002
“Innovation through cooperation.” National Extension Technology Conference (NETC) at Pennsylvania State University. For persons interested in using or supporting technology in extension.

June 20-22,
2002 Summer meeting of National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) at Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

June 22-25, 2002
“Take the road less traveled.” Annual Institute of the Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) at Burlington, Vermont.

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 unique collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 69 Mumford Hall, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form (

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