It is officially time of the annual The Farmer’s Daughter USA Santa’s Naughty List 2015!
As you might guess, I put together this annual list to highlight the individuals that have made a detrimental impact on farming and agriculture over the past year. While it is true that this list could be absurdly long, I try to choose individuals that have done something particularly nasty over the past year. So, for example, while it is true that Food Babe deserves only a lump of coal this year, she didn’t make this year’s list because her activities were overshadowed by those of others.
Besides, if the list was the same each year, would you really be interested in reading each year? Probably not. But, I would LOVE to hear who you would have included on this list in the comments below!
Without any further delay, here is Santa’s Naughty List 2015:
Be careful what you share! If you’re on Facebook, you’ve no doubt seen those cute, adorable animal graphics, or those inspirational posts that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Generally, sharing these types of memes is innocent, but not always. Wolfe has mastered the art of using these types of memes to create viral posts that ultimately result in his page having almost 3 million followers. After gaining followers through these sweet or inspirational memes, Wolfe uses his platform to spread his own dangerous agenda, which includes strong anti-GMO and anti-conventional farming sentiments. He also uses the fame to sell his own products. That’s why it is ALWAYS important to check out the source of anything you share on social media – do you really want to support people like this? Each share is like free advertising for that page and allows these types of negative messages about agriculture to spread. Unfortunately for David, being the mastermind of such manipulation has earned him a spot on Santa’s Naughty List.
It’s one thing to engage in a misleading marketing campaign. It’s another thing to put incorrect information on your company’s website about said marketing campaign. But it’s a whole other ballpark when customers come to you about that marketing campaign and its bad information, and you lie about the fact that you’re listening to and considering their concerns. That’s exactly what Aunt Millie’s did. After discovering that Aunt Millie’s had started labeling some of their breads with a non-GMO label, I headed over to their website to express my dissatisfaction. What I found was a whole page dedicated to false and incorrect statements about genetically modified crops. I wrote an article and asked the company to respond. Aunt Millie’s invited me to propose revisions for the website, which I did – complete with fully written text and explanations of why their original information was wrong. In addition, readers and followers of my blog expressed their dissatisfaction with the company’s marketing campaign and website, and asked it to adopt my revisions. While Aunt Millie’s responded to me and those that comments by indicating they were considering my revisions in September, I never heard back from the company. Sorry, but Santa doesn’t like liars.
You may recognize some of these names: Jillian Michaels, Jordana Brewster, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ginner Goodwin, and, most importantly, Gwyneth Paltrow. In an effort to oppose the Safe & Accurate Food Labeling Act, which create a standardized labeling law for genetically modified foods throughout the country, these moms used their power of celebrity to inform the American public just how dangerous and scary genetically modified foods are. But instead of relying on facts or science, these celebrities have decided to use their status as moms to bolster fear and misinformation to their adoring masses. Thankfully, a group of non-celebrity moms pulled together to oppose these celebrity moms and support genetic modification. For being puppets in a political campaign that they can’t possibly understand, for using their kids as pawns in those in political games, and for just being wrong – these celebrity moms are squarely on Santa’s Naughty List.
7. Neil Young
When you’re an aging rock star with failing celebrity, why not jump on a conspiracy theory to bolster support? That’s precisely how Neil Young attempted to save his career when he recorded an entire album aimed at revealing how evil and twisted Monsanto is. He also teamed up with farmer Michael White, who was caught cleaning and selling Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready seed in contravention of the company’s patent rights. Unfortunately, the only thing Neil accomplished was to paint a false narrative that farmers are afraid of and controlled by big biotech companies. Nothing could be farther from the truth and for perpetrating such a falsity, Neil is set to get a lump of coal for Christmas.
The epic battle over the definition of “water” in the United States, at least under the Clean Water Act, has been going on for quite some time. The EPA tends to find itself in the thick of things and in the summer of 2014, when the agency proposed a controversial new rule that would radically expand the definition of water, the stakes were set again. After months of farmers and concerned citizens writing to the EPA, asking them to abandon the rule because it made the definition more confusing and could have very negative impacts on agriculture, the agency adopted the rule in May. Thankfully, through judicial intervention, implementation of the rule has been put on hold…for now. Nonetheless, the EPA is firmly on this list for failing to listen farmers and, instead, demonizing our concerns.
If your opponent is winning, the best bet is just to bully them into shutting up; right? That’s precisely what happened to Dr. Kevin Folta. The US Right to Know of Oakland California, an activist organization that supports GMO labeling, sent out FOIA requests to several prominent pro-GMO scientists. Dr. Folta, a professor and scientist at the University of Florida – and an outspoken biotech communicator – received one of these requests. Dr. Folta’s response to the requests included almost 5,000 pages of documentation, including emails responding to student questions, correspondence with private small businesses, and information related to his non-profit work. But the documents also showed that one of Dr. Folta’s side projects, the Talking Biotech series, which aims to teach science educators and students how to talk about biotechnology concepts, had received funding by Monsanto – for sandwiches. The attacks against Dr. Folta started immediately. As expected, the response by the anti-GMO activists was vicious, slanderous, and just plain disgusting….and they just wouldn’t stop. On November 4, 2015, Dr. Folta posted on his Facebook page that he was exiting the public stage. Sadly, online bullies won and this wonderful science educator was muzzled. For such a disservice, USRTK and every single person that bullied Dr. Folta are on Santa’s Naughty List this year.
Consider these folks the tabloids of environmental organizations. Unlike PETA, this activist organization has a way of making their work actually seem credible and legitimate. Most recently, the organization released what they called a “report” supposedly ousting the national chain restaurants that used meat contaminated with antibiotics. The real story had to do with whether the companies purchased meat from farms where antibiotics are used to treat animals. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the message that the organization spread. Earlier in the year, the organization also attacked yours truly in another so-called report about agriculture spending money for marketing purposes (apparently they think farmers should just lay over and allow them to run amok with the our images and the truth). I was hailed as a front blog for big agriculture companies. I assure you, nothing could be farther from the truth. For just being straight up erroneous, Friends of Earth has earned their spot on this year’s Naughty List.
IARC is a special agency nestled under the World Health Organization that exists to conduct cancer research. One of its functions is identifying and classifying things known as carcinogens. In March, the organization created headlines by declaring that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-Up, which is used alongside Round-Up Ready genetically modified crops, was probably a carcinogen. Unfortunately, several important points were lost in the uproar. First, no other agency that reviews and classifies carcinogens have ever come to this same conclusion about glyphosate. Second, lots of things we encounter much more than glyphosate are also considered probably a carcinogen by IARC, such as manufacturing glass, burning wood, emissions from high temperature frying, and work exposure as a hairdresser. Finally, there are risks all around us and we need to be able to put it into perspective; consumers are not likely to encounter enough glyphosate for this to be a problem.
Then, in October, the organization also classified processed meats as Group 1 carcinogenic to humans, and red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans, or Group 2A. Once again, the organization utterly failed to put their determination into any context and countless headlines read: “Meat Causes Cancer.” Well, not quite. They key, as is usually the case with food and nutrition, moderation is key.
For a failure to communicate and, ultimately, creating sesationalist and scary headlines, IARC gets a spot on Santa’s 2015 Naughty List. To avoid the same fate next year: hire a PR person!
2. Only Organic
Although I fully support the right of farmers to make their own choices when it comes to production methods, I have little patience for organic marketing schemes that throw baseless and unfounded attacks at conventional farmers. This year, Only Organic’s New MacDonald commercial was one of the most vicious and vile examples of this type of advertising. Set at an elementary school stage production, the commercial depicts children singing the classic Old McDonald song. Viewers of the play quickly realize that the farmer is a conventional farmer that pumps his animals full of hormones, uses pesticides that harm the children on stage, and demonstrates animal abuse. Of course, the hero of the play was an organic farmer that rejects all of those production methods. Besides being absolutely twisted for using children, the commercial’s accusations against conventional family farmers across our country was wrong, inaccurate, and just plain nasty.
I spoke with Ray Bowman on the Food Farm Show about the commercial and the use of children to spread such a terrible message. Team Ag also started a petition asking Only Organic to take down the video and, although ultimately unsuccessful, I’m proud that we had over 600 people stand up against this disturbing marketing gimmick. For attacking family farmers across this nation and exploiting children is this sick and twisted commercial, Only Organic set themselves up for a lump of coal this holiday.
Fran Drescher is best known for appearing on a 90’s sitcom and her annoying laugh, but few know that she’s (currently) married to the guy that claims he invented email. Her unfortunate Tweets about GMOs came from the latter. See, Mr. Fran Drescher threw some bad data into a flawed computer program and made the conclusion that glyphosate resistant soybeans accumulated formaldehyde. After Fran tweeted to her followers about the “study,” asking them to read it and share it widely, I politely responded that my family were farmers and I would love to discuss this with her further. What resulted was a series of insults, cheap shots, and (of course) shill accusations. Fran made it crystal clear that she wasn’t up for any type of discussion, yet kept up the barrage of attacks against me for days. For personally attacking a farmer’s daughter trying to support her family’s farm, Fran absolutely gets the top nod on Santa’s Naught List.