Greenpeace convicted guilty of crimes against agriculture
Regrettably, Greenpeace will not be held responsible by the courts for the false and misleading statements it has made about agriculture. While the federal courts might not be taking action against Greenpeace, my undergraduate Agricultural Policy class has brought Greenpeace to task on a number of statements, finding them guilty on 12 of the 17 charges. This exercise was not to stop Greenpeace from undoubtedly making inaccurate, misleading and bias statements against modern agricultural practices and technologies that would be an impossible task. Instead, the objective was to show the students how to conduct research from multiple viewpoints, communicate it, and to evaluate based on evidence, not emotion.
This class assignment required the students to review Greenpeace public online documents for statements they believed were inaccurate or not based on science. Students collected 30 statements, of which 17 statements were selected for charges in Greenpeace’s indictment. Students were randomly assigned to defend, prosecute or sit as a juror. The jurors were assigned to 5 indictments each, in which they were responsible as one of three jurors to deliver their decision.
While I don’t envy the jury, as both prosecution and defense did a wonderful job arguing in favour of their side, they found Greenpeace guilty on the following 12 statements:
More interestingly are the 5 statements that the students deemed Greenpeace to be not guilty on.
I consider my students to be very informed about modern agriculture as many of them are from farms. For those knowledgeable about agriculture to find Greenpeace innocent of these 5 charges, illustrates where agriculture can do a better job of communicating about the practices and protocols that have been put in place to mitigate some of Greenpeace’s accusations. Changes in how fertilizers are applied through technology like variable rate applications and how crop rotations mitigate the potential for chemical resistance to develop in weeds are examples of how agriculture has changed. It also highlights how informing those interested or concerned about biotech innovations that reassurance is more than just data and numbers, it requires a personal connection as well.
The objective of this assignment was to have students learn how to do basic research on an issue, develop a logical and consistent argument and to be able to present that information is an informative manner. I received many comments from the students in favour of this assignment, indicating that they had learned something from working on their part of the assignment, and it pushed them out of their comfort zone. If we aren’t communicating about what we know because it might make us uncomfortable, how do we ever expect to improve as a society or fix issues we face? Communicating is leading and agriculture needs young leaders. Learning happens in many ways and I’m pleased to report that my class learned from this assignment.