Last week Hunt’s made the announcement that there products are made with GMO free tomatoes. I have no problem with food choices, but this is a false choice announcement. There are no GMO tomatoes. Hunts, Heinz, Del Monte, or even Trader Joe’s are all the same when it comes to this choice. Farmers, scientists, and dietitians all cried fouled to this marketing tactic and Forbes magazine wrote a good article debunking the announcement and highlighting the truth. This is just the latest example of twisting facts or exaggerating claims to market to consumers.
I equate this practice to fake news. Fake news has become a hot button issue after the election with both sides creating headlines from non-credible sources in hopes of swaying voters. Fake news has become a lightening rod subject for journalists as I found out. To share my disdain for the inaccurate information, I threw the #FAKENEWs on the Forbes story an ag journalist had retweeted. I quickly got a reply from the journalist who rightly pointed out the Forbes story was accurate and he did not want that hashtag on Twitter next to his name. I corrected that error with a new Tweet with the hashtag more accurately placed against the Hunt’s announcement. This quick exchange reinforced the power of the phrase “fake news” to me.
Journalists will point out that Hunt’s announcement, blogger posts, or internet memes are not really news, but that’s the traditional interpretation. Most millennials are relying on the internet for news, with social media being their number one source according to a Media Insight survey. Any media or author that provides misinformation or bias reporting deserves scrutiny as fake news.
Ag has battled fake news for years. GMO’s, hormones, corn syrup, animal welfare, clean water, and ethanol are just a few of the many favorite subjects of misinformation. Reporters, bloggers, and internet users share information every day, often without fact checking any of the accuracy. Most of the time the false or misleading information makes sensational headlines or great clicks bait. Many of us who care about agriculture and food facts respond or re-share the misinformation with our own experiences and facts to highlight the real story.
In 2017, I resolve to go a step further and hashtag this misinformation #fakenews. It’s clear to me that credible writers do not want the label on their work, and the phrase's popularity gains more attention to the issues than simply replying with the accurate information. Why not use #fakenews to help uncover the truth and identify the false information about food and farming? This may just draw attention to our battle.