When it comes to busting food myths, the SciBabe has a simple message for farmers: “Don’t let people without the facts control the conversation.”
Yvette d’Entremont, known to many as the SciBabe, has emerged as a leading crusader against unproven food claims and pseudoscience in the media. Over the last two years, d’Entremont, who earned an MSc in forensic science, has been on a mission to teach people how to better understand the science of food, distinguish fact from fiction, and expose virtual food ‘scammers’ on the Internet.
This week, d’Entremont brought her message to the Grain Farmers of Ontario March Classic meeting where she encouraged farmers to share the story of how they farm with consumers. In her remarks, d’Entremont illustrated how busting food myths on the Internet is a gargantuan task – the digital world is full of hucksters promoting everything from superfoods to non-toxic cleansing diets, preaching the benefits of organic and natural and demonizing GMOs.
“If you are trying to figure out what’s good for you, the Internet is no help,” says d’Entremont who reserves special criticism for her favourite target Vani Hari, also known as the Food Babe. Hari tells consumers if they can’t pronounce an ingredient they see on a food label it must be bad for them. “Hard to pronounce doesn’t mean bad. it’s chemiphobic, it’s anti-knowledge and not really helpful.”
In this interview with Real Agriculture, d’Entremont says much of the fear of food is fuelled by consumers’ inability to determine a reputable information source. In the GMO debate, for example, a new breed of science bloggers like the SciBabe and scientist Kevin Folta have emerged to help give voice to science, but the anti-GMO voices are very loud and paint GMO supporters as shills for corporations who develop and sell the technology.
That’s why the voice of farmers is so important, explains d’Entremont. Consumers are now at least two generations removed from the farm. They don’t know much about their food or how it’s produced, but they want to know. They’re looking for someone they can trust to provide that information and food bloggers and activists, like the Food Babe, are rushing to fill the void.
“I think people need to hear from the farmers,” says d’Entremont. “People hear that Monsanto is a $16 billion dollar annual revenue company. They don’t understand it’s because farmers like the product. They need to hear from the farmers themselves and I think that’s going to be incredibly powerful. It’s going to be transformative.”
d’Entremont says farmers are genuine and have the credibility and expertise to earn consumers’ trust. Their voices are needed to help shape consumer attitudes.
“I spoke to a farmer yesterday who is a third-generation farmer. If this man was on social media, telling people what he does everyday, people would love it,” says d’Entremont. “But he’s not on social media because he‘s farming, he’s doing the real work. People don’t see that. They see a food blogger talking about it.
“I think people underestimate farmers. They don’t understand how smart and savvy these people are about what they do,” adds d’Entremont. “These are people who have to study, they have to understand the chemistry of the soil. These are smart people and they are underestimated by the media and the food bloggers who think they can tell people how they should do their job because they watched a documentary on Netflix.”
And she’s willing to help farmers be heard.
“I hope that (farmers) will get out and tell their story more. If any of them want to come and do a video for my site, I will happily promote it because there is an audience out there happily waiting to hear from them.”