ACDC News – Issue 02-07

“Tater tox” is the title of a recent research report about “claims and frames in British media representation of a modern biotechnology controversy.”

This master’s thesis by Katherine Canada (University of Wisconsin-Madison) focused on the agricultural biotechnology controversy that swirled around nutritional scientist Arpad Pusztai, beginning in 1998. Results of Pusztai’s research had led him to conclude that genetically modified potatoes compromised the health of rats.

A few of the findings of this case analysis:

  • “.literature from intraspecialist, interspecialist, popular science and mass-mediated domains included a vast discussion of technical detail.” It supported the notion that when controversies flare up, the literature becomes technical.
  • Parties to the controversy often relied on the tactic of enrolling allies. “Rational, impartial discussion seems to be absent. Rather, commentators validate their arguments based on the actions of their neighbors.”
  • Themes in the controversy often expressed goals of constructing a social boundary that distinguishes some intellectual activity as non-science. All of the themes identified were “manifestations of attempts to maintain rights to an established territory. When accepted norms are openly challenged, voices roar with dissatisfaction and contempt.”

Reference: Use a title search (Tater tox) or author search (Canada) for the full citation.

Tips for communicating with hazard-weary consumers. 

Susan Conley, director of food safety education and communications for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, offered four tips in a 1998 speech to food industry professionals. She suggested that:

  • Communications must “first, and foremost, be science-based.” · Messages must provide tangible actions consumers can take themselves to reduce their risk because they “want to feel in control of their health.”
  • Messages must be practical and motivate consumers to action.
  • Messages must also “be consistent and when needed, targeted for a specific audience.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Science, not scares”) or author search (Conley) for the full citation. The presentation was posted online at:

“Go in search of your people.”

 In a 1992 book about development communication, H.S. Takulia cited a piece of advice that Mao Tse Tung gave to local-level health workers in China:

Go in search of your people
Love them
Learn through them
Serve them
Begin with what they know
Build on what they have

Takulia observed that the advice epitomizes the approach those involved in development efforts need to adopt. (And we note how much more broadly it might also apply in effective communicating.)

Reference: Use a title search (“Towards redefining development”) or author search (Takulia) for the full citation. .

Amano mambulwa. 

The counsel cited above seems closely matched with a saying used by the Bemba people of Zambia: “Amano mambulwa,” meaning “knowledge or experience ought to be shared.” This expression came to our attention recently in a report by Hendrik Bussiek about the role of media in development. He emphasized the need for free exchange of views and vigorous development journalism in Africa.

Reference: Use a title search (“Media and sustainable democracy”) or author search (Bussiek) for the full citation.

Sending a community video letter to policy makers.

 An interesting case study in feedback from rural residents came into the ACDC collection recently. The title:

“The making of Nepal’s community video letter: presenting a picture from the village to environmental policy makers”

This GreenCOM Project for the U.S. Agency for International Development involved helping rural residents use video to “document their concerns about corruption, forest boundaries and soil erosion.” The letter was delivered at a community forestry forum of policy makers in Kathmandu during March 1998.

We welcome other case studies that you may be able to call to our attention about how local residents use audiovisual media to provide feedback to policy makers.

Reference: Use a title search (“Making of community video letter”) or author search (Sharma) for the full citation. The report was posted online at:

Creating a slogan for a food safety campaign.

 If you are involved in communications campaign planning you may be interested in seeing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture used focus groups to develop a slogan for a campaign about using food thermometers. This study, conducted for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, involved focus groups in two U.S. cities. The 24-page summary described how researchers chose participants and gathered reactions about various slogans, characters and visual concepts to feature in the campaign.

Reference: Use a title search (“Thermometer slogan focus group study”) or author search (Cates) for the full citation. The report was posted online at:

Nature journal in squabble over accuracy. 

Media headlines about DNA contamination and polluted corn in Mexico have stirred controversy since last fall about the accuracy of a scientific study published in a respected journal, Nature. Authors from the University of California suggested, from their research, that native Mexican corn varieties may have by chance crossbred with genetically enhanced varieties from the United States. Findings caught the eye of anti-biotechnology organizations, media, scientists and other interest groups. We are adding to the ACDC collection some updates on this controversy about the accuracy of agricultural research methods and reporting.

Reference: Use a title search (“Environmentalist biofraud?) or author search (Bailey) for the full citation. The analysis is posted online at:

Professional activities approaching.

May 18-23, 2002
Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) in Spain.

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. Information:

June 20-22, 2002
“Catch the spirit.” Seminar 2002 of American Horse Publications (AHP) at Park City, Utah.

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 (

Updated on