Vail, Colorado – For years, as a State Department official and a self-proclaimed food futurist in the private sector, Jack Bobo tried to convince people to follow the science of genetically modifying crops and other thorny agricultural issues.
But at a recent international sweetener symposium here, Bobo told the country’s sugar cane and beet growers he concluded: People get polarized when they start talking to science. ”
Instead, Bobo told the farmer that it was important to establish trust with his audience before discussing controversial issues.
“Personalize the stories you tell, acknowledge concerns, connect, and build trust,” said Bobo. “Stop telling them what you do, tell them why you do it.”
“There is a difference in beating people with science instead of bringing them knowledge,” he said. “Science tells us what we can do. The public tells us what we should do.”
Whether farmers can continue to do what they believe in depends on whether consumers trust us, he said.
Author of the book Why Smart People Make Bad Food Choices, Bobo is currently Director of Global Food and Water Policy for The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy is an environmental organization that “works with farmers and ranchers around the world knowing that conservation measures don’t make sense if they don’t make economic sense,” he said.
Bobo’s topic at the symposium was sustainability. This is a concept that is currently influencing consumer purchasing decisions and lawmakers’ policy decisions. (Sustainability is a broad term, but generally refers to the ability to maintain a constant rate and avoid the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain ecological balance.)
“Sustainability is a trend, not a fad,” says Bobo. “Sustainability is important to consumers and your bottom line.”
“Consumers have never been more concerned or ignorant about how their food is made. They see their purchases as an extension of their values. I hope,’ he said.
Smaller farms that use less water and pesticides appear to be more sustainable even with lower yields, Bobo said.
But as the world’s population grows, if food production declines in one place, it has to increase in another. because so many young people are living with it, and people are living longer. After 2050, population growth will level off, he said.
The answer, he said, is intensive food production and making the discussion of sustainability global rather than local.
“Consumers, producers and food companies think about sustainability in very different ways,” he said.
“Consumers are failing to understand the benefits of fortification,” he said.
“If Americans eat less beef, it doesn’t mean we have to produce less meat. We need to double our protein production,” he said.
Consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) are focused on local rather than global sustainability, he said, adding that they need to have a conversation so they can understand the trade-offs.
He said food eco-labels do not reflect regional and global sustainability differences and would be misleading.European labels reward local sustainability, but imports from Brazil He added that it leads to
He pointed out that while the use of land for agriculture leads to deforestation, intensive use of land for production can protect forests.
Farmers need to insist on participating in government discussions on sustainability policy, he said.
“There are a lot of conversations going on between environment ministers, even without agriculture on the table. That means you’re on the menu,” Bobo said. It’s important to.”
Agriculture today is more sustainable than it was 40 years ago because of higher levels of production, fewer resources used to produce a bushel of maize, and an undernourished share of the world’s population. He said it was because the proportion of people had decreased.
The real problem with sustainability and climate change, he said, is that the situation is “not improving fast enough.”
Farmers should be applauded for what they do and asked how they can help accelerate sustainability.