Our Real Responsibility for Fake News

January 25, 2017

The 2016 political season brought new light to the problem of fake news. But it’s not a new problem, especially if you’re involved in agriculture production. The real news is that farmers, agribusinesses and the food industry have been battling elements of fake news for years.

There are a multitude of examples around GMOs alone, often with dire consequences. The site www.realagriculture.com, in the article “Fake News Also Plagues Ag and Food,” reports that “right now 2.7 million children are dying every year, because of the fake fears of a GMO rice that could get more Vitamin A into kids in some of the poorest corners of the world.”

The problem even extends to the weather, at least in one case cited in a blog by University of Georgia Extension on January 3, 2017. The blogger, Pam Knox, writes about an example of fake weather: “My Facebook feed has been buzzing the last few days about the potential for snow or other wintry weather in parts of the Southeast this coming weekend.

“Many of these stories are presented by people with no experience in weather forecasting. For example, one prediction of a ‘blizzard’ in central Georgia was based on a single model run hyped by a minister of music down in Dublin, Georgia, someone who has no experience in meteorology and has no credibility in forecasting.”

Now, at least, thanks to the political turmoil over fake news, some outlets are starting to do something about it. Facebook, with its 1.8 billion members, is trying to make it easier to report fake news. Other organizations are also looking at working with fact-checking sites to help flag false information.

What is our real responsibility, as members of the agribusiness community, to help combat this fake news plague? Social media certainly has a role in helping police the worst of it. But we should not sit back and do nothing to counteract false claims posing as “news.”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” So separate opinion from fact, do the work of researching an issue and find credible evidence to support your side. Take the fake on by standing on facts when you’re confronted by it. It’s not easy work, and not always pretty, but it’s increasingly crucial in supporting and advocating for our industry.