These are my conclusions on the penetration of the social media space in agriculture by GMO special interests.
I tried to pursue this on Twitter, was asked by board members of Agchat.org that it could be better pursued off line by email, which I agreed to, and then once that happened, the shutters came down. I was given good answers but told I couldn't post them on my blog.
Well, it doesn't work like that on Farm Blogs From Around the World.
If someone wants to take a public discussion out of the public eye, and then when it's out of the public eye, think that I am not going to make that correspondence public, then they don't understand the meaning of the word TRANSPARENT and they don't understand THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH.
The best way I can do this is to publish my correspondence from and to people at www.agchat.org after they asked me to move to email. Which I agreed to, but not in the expectation that that would be a short cut to suppressing my views and voice in a public forum.
Could I take this opportunity to remind everyone that this blog has been around a lot longer than www.agchat.org and secondly, it was this blog that initially recommended www.agchat.org to its readers. Whether I still do, you'll need to read to the end....
NB. For first time visitors to this blog, may I also say this:
- I am not, nor never have been, a journalist
- I do not make money from this blog
- I am not an Amazon affiliate even for the book that is advertised on this blog
- To the best of my knowledge I am not aware of this blog helping sell the book advertised on this blog
- I think my book has sold less than 10 copies in the USA and this sure won't help it sell any more
- I do have a 5 hectare small-holding in rural France
- I do consider myself just as much a member of the #agchat community on Twitter as anyone else, even if I may not have time or inclination to participate as much as I would like to
- No organization of any type, no company of any type asked me to look more closely at www.agchat.org
- I have no hidden agenda
- I am not a troll
- I am not on a witch hunt
- It was entirely at the request of FARMER members of the #agchat space (by members, I mean anyone who follows that # on Twitter)
- I have no dollars in this discussion; it has EATEN time over the past ten days to NO benefit to me financially, emotionally or practically.
- I am not planning on writing a book on farming or social media or GMO or special interests.
- My next book has yet to be given to my agent, let alone find a publisher.
- It's a novel to do with loss and has NOTHING in any way, shape or form to do with farming and I very much doubt it would appeal to many of the people I am in email contact with regarding this blog, past, present and future; ditto all the Tweeps who I have been engaged with in the last 10 days.
- Do not buy my books, past, present or future. They are rubbish despite what the critics say.
- World, be engaged, be alert, but above all, get an effing sense of humour some of you Tweeps.
That all said, here's the correspondence. Draw your own conclusions.
Email from Mike Haley, VP of www.agchat.org to me, Ian Walthew who runs this blog, after he suggested we move the discussion to email.
July 20, 2010
6. I see no need to post any of these private emails. It has been a private discussion between us. If you or anyone else has further questions they may be sent to me personally or through firstname.lastname@example.org, I see all requests.
Here is my revised email:
I think I understand your concerns, but honestly am still a little confused. Your original questions where pointed 1) directly at who funded the foundation, then it 2) evolved into GMO companies planting people into social media outlets, then 3) evolved into the current accusations that gmo companies pay farmers to tweet their views for them.
Now, I can guarantee that the first concern about the foundation has been very transparent about its mission and goals. We are working on the sponsorship page, but when we first collected money from sponsors we forgot to get their approval to list them on our website (something that we have corrected for future sponsors) so it is not listed yet but will be shortly.
The other two concerns are an unfortunate reality of life, I see it used against us every day when it comes to animal rights activists and spam accounts that they use. I truely hope that no companies are using agchat to further their agenda, but if they are its up to readers to come to their own conclusions. Your tweets, most likely unintentional, give the feeling that you are accusing the entire idea of aghcat of being some type of monsanto conspiracy, that I dont approve of as their are several very well intended farmers that participate during, and throughout the week.
As far as my tweets, I have never been paid by ANYONE to tweet or received any discount on seed to do so. I tweet about my farm, and my views on agriculture, I have every right to do so. I am not sure how it is in France, but in the US most farmers have embraced GMO's as a tool they can use to be better farmers. This fact may be the reason why you dont see many farmers speaking out against the seed companies that sell GMO crops, we dont feel that threatened by them. That said I dont use 100% GMO's, I just use them when i find it worthwhile for me to do so. That said me and my father have been running the numbers for next year and may go 100% GMO free. We will see if its time effective and cost effective on our farm.
I completely support other types of farming and encourage diversity so the consumer can have choice in the products he buys. Part of this choice is why I may switch to GMO free as the premium may allow more profits for my farm over GMO plants. I have several Organic neighbors that I have high respect for and work with very well and plant buffer strips between our farms and other methods to ensure that we are not encroaching on their rights to farm in another method. The local farming community is very diverse and has a very good relationship with each other.
Feel free to ask more questions of me and the foundation, very willing to answer them
FINALLY, YOU WILL FIND BELOW THE COMMENT I POSTED, BUT HAS NOT YET BEEN PUBLISHED AS FAR AS I KNOW AT TIME OF WRITING, ON THE OTHER BLOG REFERRED TO IN THE ABOVE CORRESPONDENCE, AND WHICH I CAN TRUTHFULLY SAY TO REGULAR FANS OF 'FARM BLOGS FROM AROUND THE WORLD', I CANNOT RECOMMEND BECAUSE THE BLOGGER CONCERNED IS NOT A FARMER AND NOT VERY NICE TO ME:
HERE'S THE COMMENT I LEFT HERE ON THE ABOVE POST ABOUT THE TWITTER DISCUSSION ABOUT AG.CHAT ETC. (AWAITING MODERATION SINCE TUESDAY I THINK)
I saw a tweet that led me here, and when here, I saw one of your tweets saying why did many farmers need a spokesperson to speak up about concerns re. Agchat.
If I may I’d like to try and answer.
The reason why ‘many others’ don’t want to get into the questions I am asking is because, quite frankly, they are concerned, some have used the word ‘scared’, about the consequences for them regarding their involvement – as farmers and individuals, NOT as employees of companies or members of anti-BigAg Seed groups – in farming organizations, local, state and national groups and indeed within their ‘real’ community and circle of off-line friends.
Now, you can take it or leave it, but I got interested in Agchat.org back in April via my blog – about farmers ONLY – http://www.farmblogs.blogspot.com
I even personally recommended it.
Then I started to follow it a bit on Twitter and as my own concerns about SOME aspects of various peoples involvement within that community space grew, I received a number of emails from people – ALL FARMERS, ALL PARTICIPANTS WITHIN THAT COMMUNITY, telling me of their concerns. Concerns that I shared.
So I studied it a bit more.
Then I decided that as I hadn’t got anything to lose personally in terms of raising certain issues, and because these farmers were not prepared to, and openly said so, one saying ‘because I know the tactics of these people’ (meaning BigAg seed special interests), I decided to stick my neck above the parapet.
I may not have done it in the best possible way – SM and Twitter is a very small part of my life and I’m a relative newbie – but the vitriol and insults and accusations made against some author stuck out here in the middle of rural France made me realise exactly why US farmers involved in Agchat would want to keep their heads down.
But that vitriol has only been matched by the number of DMs/emails I have received FROM FARMERS involved in the agchat community, basically saying they agree with me but can’t get involved.
Now, that doesn’t speak very well of the community does it?
What I have said to FarmerHaley is this: listen Mike, I asked you to email me, you did, I’ve replied, why don’t I make a blog posting about this for my prime readership (people who come to http://www.farmblogs.blogspt.com – a lot of farmers when I only have about 90 followers on Twitter and half of them are new because of this agchat debate) and then I’ll have made an intelligent balanced post on my blog, I can put the link to my post on Twitter and I’ll be done with the damn thing. Mike can obviously do the same, or post my email on the Agchat website in the interests of reciprocal transparency. Mike is a busy farmer, and I’m waiting on that.
What I’m finding alarming about all this is the amount of personal invective directed at someone who questions. I thought this was meant to be a community of diverse views and participants etc? Well I can tell you, and if you follow me on Twitter or look at my timeline you’ll see, I am getting very opaque answers to very direct questions, and repeated accusations that I am this, that or the other, when I have repeatedly explained my position.
The entire experience has done nothing but strengthen my and the suspicions of others about SOME aspects of SOME peoples involvement in Agchat and the entirely less than transparent connection between them and BigAd seed special interests.
As I wrote to Mike, if Monsanto etc want to give AgChat a load of money I wouldn’t take it, but I wouldn’t take it from anti-GM people or PETA either. I don’t think it serves the interests of a ‘farmer-led’ organisation (which actually, I’m not convinced it is on a day to day practical level) to take money from special interests. Surely that is a totally reasonable position that anyone could respect at least, even if they don’t agree with it?
But if BigAg seed want to tweet under their name, declaring their interests, that’s fine by me and lots of other people in the agchat space.
But not via tweeps whose connection to them we don’t know about, nor by ‘volunteer’ employees and lobbyists and social media consultants who have BigAg as CLIENTS and who are claiming to be putting all this time into Agchat as if it wasn’t a part of the day to day job and part of how they earned money from those clients!!
I mean come on, let’s get real here.
Is it just me that’s finding all this a little odd?
No, so that’s one thing.
But I do think an overall sense of protectiveness by real farmers who have nothing to do with BigAg seed money, is causing them are to go bananas about what I am saying because they think I am anti Agchat, anti BigAg seed (not entirely true, my position is more nuanced as I’ve explained to Mike in my email) or whatever.
Their passion is getting in the way of reason.
And all I’m trying to do is to introduce a little bit of reason to leaven the passion with. Not kill the baby.
I hope that’s all clear, but you’ve got my email address if I can answer any more questions.