ACDC News – Issue 07-15

An upside-down food pyramid — for marketers.

Kevin Murphy of Food-Chain Communications proposes that all marketers within the global food complex use a special pyramid in planning and carrying out their work.  He described an upside-down pyramid during May at the Alltech 23rd International Feed Industry Symposium in Lexington, Kentucky.  Here were the elements of it, from broad top to pinpoint bottom.

  • The customer
  • Trade and business media
  • Industry analysts
  • Food advocacy groups
  • University and extension personnel
  • Government agencies
  • Early adopters
  • Input suppliers
  • Employees
  • Your company

“We need to be better in communicating with all,” Murphy emphasized.  “Come out of your silo…Communicate not only to those who directly touch your product but to those who influence its acceptance.”

Title:  Branding within the food-chain

Food – a special case for risk communicators.

The concept of “risk” takes on many dimensions for communicators to consider. That counsel came from a 2006 panel of European academics discussing food risk communications. Risk dangers extend well beyond toxicity and allergenicity, they emphasized.  Pointing to research on public perceptions of genetically modified foods, they noted how food risk dangers also involve:

  • Moral risks (Is it right to tamper with nature?)
  • Democratic risks (Who is regulating GM and is it possible to regulate such a fast moving technology?)
  • Cultural risks (Should science trump all other values?)

“All this comes together to show that food is a special case,” says the report. “Beyond calories as a mere fuel, food is a fundamental part of culture, and a cultural form that is taking on greater importance in a number of European societies.  As such, food risk communication is a pressing concern and poses unique challenges.”

Title:  Quo vadis food risk communication?
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Is it “agri-inputs” – or “agro-inputs”? 

Tom Hargrove of the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development raised that question recently among colleagues in the Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences (ACE). He noted that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary does not make this distinction clear.  Also, he “Googled the two terms and found 28,000 references to agri-inputs and 20,000 references to agro-inputs.”

We have added his inquiry to the ACDC collection, along with a detailed response by Elizabeth L. McAdam of Victoria, Australia.  She concluded, “Perhaps it all boils down to a stylistic question rather than anything based on meaning, grammar, or etymology?”

Please send us by return e-note any insights or references you may have.

Title:  Agro-inputs or agri-inputs

Dozens of tips to help you involve readers, listeners and viewers.

If you want to boost your interaction with audiences you may find interest in a feature we prepared recently for members of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ). It draws upon the experiences of agricultural and other journalists around the world.

Title:  Creative ways to connect with your audiences
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What if consumers perceive benefit in genetically modified food?

Results of an international study reported recently in Nature Biotechnology suggest it “may prove much more acceptable than has been previously widely stated.”  Researchers used a choice modeling experimental design to assess consumer reactions at roadside fruit stalls located in New Zealand, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“In conclusion, this research revealed that a significant (and in some markets, surprisingly high) percentage of consumers in European countries appear willing to choose GM food provided there is a price advantage coupled with a consumer benefit (in this case, ‘spray-free’ status).”

Title:  Acceptance of GM food – an experiment in six countries

Welcome to an ACDC associate.

It is a pleasure to introduce Devi Annamali, a doctoral candidate who is helping gather and process information into the Center.  Devi brings a variety of interests to this effort. She did undergraduate studies in zoology-botany-chemistry at Maharaja Sayaji University in India, then earned a masters degree in microbiology at the same university. She also had an equivalent bachelor of technology degree in software programming from IBM and IIT Kanpur.

“After that I thought it’s enough of studying,” Devi recalls. “I should gain some industrial experience, so I worked as a junior research scientist in a multinational plant biotech company. I really liked my stay there and decided to pursue a PhD in the same field. I love studying different subjects; I think that widens my thinking spectrum. So to learn more, here I am today writing a small paragraph about myself for my new job as a student associate in the ACDC project. I am a new member of this family and really enjoy my work here.”

Communicator activities approaching

September 5-9, 2007
17th Annual Conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists at Stanford University, Stanford, California USA.  Information:

September 8-9, 2007
“Food and morality.” Theme of the 2007 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, England.  Information:

September 17-23, 2007
51st World Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists in Tokyo and elsewhere, Japan.  Information:

September 27-28, 2007
13th Annual Newspapers and Community-building Symposium co-sponsored by the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media and the National Newspaper Association Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia USA.

September 27-30, 2007
“Taste the future.” Annual Conference of the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation in Belleville, Ontario.  Information:

Don’t be afraid to sing the discord.

We close this issue of ACDC News with a piece of advice that may interest rural journalists and communicators. It came from J. F. Archibald, founder of the Bulletin newspaper, Sydney, Australia.  He offered it during the 1880s to A. B. “Banjo” Paterson, who later wrote “Waltzing Matilda,” Australia’s enduring voice from the billabong.  We came across the advice in Matthew Richardson’s new book, Once a jolly swagman: the ballad of Waltzing Matilda:

“In all public issues the press are apt to sing in chorus.  If you go to a concert you may hear a man sing in discord which is put there by the composer, and that discord catches the ear over the voices of the chorus.  Well don’t be afraid to sing the discord…for the same reason, do not be afraid to cheer for the underdog…”

Do you have thoughts, examples or suggestions related to any topics featured in this issue? 

Please send them to us by return e-note.
Get in touch with us:

  • When you cannot locate information you need about communications, as related to agriculture, food, natural resources and rural affairs in any part of the world.
  • When you see in this collection interesting items you cannot find, locally or online. Tell us the titles and/or document numbers.  We will help you gain access.

And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications 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

Best regards and good searching.

August 2007

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