ACDC News – Issue 03-01

Farmers adopting GM crops, but not feeling well informed about them.

In both 2001 and 2002, South Dakota ranked first in the proportion of total cropland area devoted to transgenic corn and soybean varieties among the major U.S. corn and soybean producing states. Even so, fewer than one-half of the South Dakota farmers who took part in a recent survey indicated they were well informed about transgenic crops. Researchers found: “Less than one-third stated that farmers in general have sufficient knowledge, and another one-third suggested that farmers do not have sufficient relevant knowledge, of biotechnology. Nearly a third of the respondents attributed the lack of knowledge of agricultural biotechnology to the difficulty in gaining access to objective information.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Farm level transgenic crop adoption”) or author search (Van der Sluis) for the full citation. The summary in Information Systems for Biotechnology News Report was posted on:

Reporters are “underaggressive” in covering genetically modified foods. 

Marc Kaufman, science reporter at the Washington Post, expressed that view at a recent conference on the role of media in keeping the public informed – or frightened – about the growing presence of biotechnology in food production. “It is unclear to me that the public is getting as much information on this as it should,” Kaufman said. Other panelists noted that the public’s lack of knowledge about this subject is not surprising, given the questions that still can’t be answered, even by experts.

Reference: To see a summary about this conference, use a title search (“Conference looks at role”) or author search (Powell) for the full citation. The summary article in Harvard University Gazette was posted on:

Health claims on food labels often confuse consumers

According to research carried out on behalf of the Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom. A recent summary from the Agency identified sample sources of confusion on food labels. Here are some of the confusing terms identified, along with comments offered about them:

  • Fresh, Pure, Natural “Consumers are dissatisfied with, and distrust, a wide range of [such] marketing terms,” which are not defined in law.
  • Lite, Light The law doesn’t say what these terms mean, so manufacturers can use them to convey different qualities of a food, such as texture or calorie content.
  • Low fat, Fat-free Such claims “should not be taken at face value.
  • No added sugar, Unsweetened “This doesn’t mean to say that the food will not taste sweet, or that it will have a low sugar content.

Reference: Use a title search (“Health claims confuse”) for the full citation. The summary was posted online at: A further title search (“Health claims on food packaging”) will identify detailed findings of the consumer research. This research report was posted at:

Ag scientists being “harassed.”

According to an article in the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, some university and government scientists studying health threats associated with agricultural pollution say they are being “harassed by farmers and trade groups and silenced by superiors afraid to offend the powerful industry. … The heat comes from individual farmers, commodity groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which finances and controls much of the research.”

Reporter Perry Beeman described examples of such pressure and included responses from government and commodity representatives.

Reference: Use a title search (“Political pressure”) or author search (Beeman) for the full citation. The article was posted on:

Organic foods going mainstream.

“Gone are the days when organic foods were just for a small group of health fanatics,” said e-Brain Market Research in a recent research summary. An e-Brain Online Poll indicated that “nearly every American is not only familiar with organic products, but 58% of the public has purchased a food item labeled organic.” What’s driving this interest? Results of this web-based survey involving a national sample of 1,000 U.S. households point toward:

  • Increased awareness of health issues
  • Concerns about genetically modified food
  • Concerns about chemicals

The summary also reported responses about where shoppers buy organic foods and where price fits into their buying behavior.

Reference: Use a title search (“Americans hunger for healthy options”) for the full citation. The report was archived (December 10, 2002) at:

When bad becomes normal (in the minds of those who work with poultry).

“Chicken producers have grown so used to seeing birds in cages with half their feathers missing that they believe it’s normal.” That’s the observation of livestock behaviorist Temple Grandin at a recent meeting cited in The Western Producer. The article by Mary MacArthur reported examples of problems on farms, in hatcheries and in processing plants. “This has got to change,” Grandin argued in her call for changed attitudes and higher standards. “This is absolutely totally awful.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Analyst says poultry growers”) or author search (MacArthur) for the full citation. The article was posted on:

Headed toward “that fiery land.” 

These days, many farm periodicals go to their readers without charge, through free controlled circulation. Subscription payments were more important (often troublesome) to publishers in earlier days of farm publishing. We can get a sense of friction in this short poem from a farm publisher’s autobiography in the ACDC collection. The poem is an editor’s preachment to readers:

The man who cheats his paper
Out of a single cent
Will never reach that heavenly land
Where old Elijah went.

But when at last his race is run,
This life of toil and woe,
He’ll straightway go to that fiery land
Where they never shovel snow.

Reference: Use a title search (“My first 80 years”) or author search (Poe) for the full citation. Page 89.

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Professional activity approaching

February 1-5, 2003
Annual meeting of the Agricultural Communications Section of the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) at Mobile, Alabama.

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, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, Illinois 61801) or electronic form (at

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