ACDC News – Issue 06-08

Food challenge for 2006: satisfying the ethical consumer.

“Ethical considerations increasingly dictate food purchases, and companies that pay scant attention to this defining trend will lose out,” according to a recent report in Food Production Daily. It explained that consumers are deciding how to spend their money based on factors such as:

  • Impacts food companies are having on the environment.
  • How companies “source” their products.
  • How they treat their workers.
  • How they label their products.

Citing examples of adjustments by several multinational food marketers, the report observed that some “are beginning to realize that tapping into ethical consumerism makes good business sense.”

Title: Food challenge for 2006
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Trust, bias and fairness of information sources for biotechnology issues.

Researchers Gary J. Wingenbach and Tracy A. Rutherford recently examined this issue among 50 Texas journalists and 40 U.S. agricultural journalists representing newspapers and television media. In considering nine types of information sources, respondents ranked university scientists/researchers and newspapers most trustworthy, unbiased and fair in communicating about agricultural biotechnology issues. Respondents ranked television media and activist groups least trustworthy, unbiased and fair in covering such issues. This article in AgBioForum also reported on agricultural journalists’ attitudes about public involvement in scientific decision processes.

Title: Trust, bias and fairness of information sources
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U.S. public’s top priority for homeland security? 

Protection against 9/11 style incidents is on the minds of U.S. residents, but not at the top of their list. Instead, they assign highest priority to (a) protecting the nation’s food supply from deliberate contamination and (b) preventing the release of chemical or biological agents. These findings came from a national survey of 4,260 U.S. adults during August 2005. The National Center for Food Protection and Defense funded the study.

“On average, respondents would allocate 13.3 percent more [funds] to protect the food supply chain and 12 percent more to protect against release of a toxic chemical or biological agent than they would to protect against another terrorist attack using hijacked aircraft.”

Title: Food supply seen as vulnerable
News report posted at:

Research report posted at:

Producers consider precision farming tools cost-effective.

“The benefits of adopting precision agriculture technologies exceed the costs required to use such systems,” according to a 2003 survey of Ohio farmers. More than half consider their overall precision farming system useful enough to justify the costs.

Types of tools considered most beneficial? Respondents pointed to (a) variable rate application of lime, phosphorus and potassium, (b) geo-referencing soil sampling and (c) satellite field photography.

Title: Survey shows precision ag tools worth investment
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On communicating with mules. 

Our ears perked up when we saw a report recently from Rural Heritage about “communicating with your mule.” If this skill is on your agenda, you can get some useful tips. And they may spill over into communicating with other humans. Author Sophia Sarember suggested that communicating with a mule is like communicating with a person who speaks a language different from yours. For example:

“In the process of getting my Chinese-speaking friend to help me in my work, I learn a little Chinese and he will learn some English,” she explained. Her concluding remark in the article: “Your mule will be your best instructor if you take time to open a respectful dialogue.”

Title: Communicating with your mule
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Words of caution to federal officials about bird flu communicating.

A recent report on National Public Radio featured suggestions from psychiatrist Jody Lanard, an international consultant on risk communications. She praised U.S. federal officials for sounding the alarm about pandemic flu, but said their message has been undercut at times by statements that are misleading, self-serving or wrong. Examples cited:

  • Comparing a pandemic with a forest fire. This image does capture the speed at which a pandemic can spread, she said, but it is “profoundly misleading to suggest that a flu pandemic can be snuffed out like a smoldering cigarette.”
  • Mixing true and false statements, such as: “When it comes to a pandemic, we are overdue and underprepared.”
  • Using true statements that can be misleading, such as: “We must stockpile vaccines and antiviral drugs and improve our ability to rapidly produce new vaccines …”
  • Implying a passive public with government as big parent. She emphasized, “Everything that’s known about the psychology of fear tells us that people can tolerate more fear if there is something for them to do.”

Title: Sifting through official speak on bird flu
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Communicator activities approaching

May 8-11, 2006
“NETC 2006.” National Extension Technology Conference in Gainesville, Florida, USA.

May 14-17, 2006
“International teamwork in agricultural and extension education.” Conference of the Association for International Agricultural Education and Extension (AIAEE) in Clearwater Beach, Florida, USA.

May 21-26, 2006
“Managing agricultural information for sustainable food security and improved livelihoods in Africa.” Conference of the International Association for Agricultural Information Professionals (IAALD) in Nairobi, Kenya.

June 13, 2006
“Getting the word out: are we communicating effectively?” A food safety communicators conference hosted by the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

June 17-20, 2006
“Brewing success.” 2006 Institute of the Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) in Portland, Oregon.

Another look at food oxymorons.

We close this issue of ACDC News with another round of contradictory or incongruous words from the dinner table. Examples:

White chocolate
Grape nuts
Plastic glasses
Jumbo shrimp
Fresh frozen
Non-fat ice cream

Have others caught your eye? If so, pass them along to us. Thanks.

Best regards and good searching.

When you see interesting items you cannot find locally or online, get in touch with us at Tell us the titles and/or document numbers. We will help you gain access.

Please pass along your reactions, suggestions and ideas for the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communication documents we might add to this unique collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 510 LIAC, 1101 S. Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801 ) or electronic form at

May, 2006


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