Technology abounds in the world around us, from the smartphones we carry to the motorized equipment used in the field. Embracing and talking about the advantages of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) shouldn’t be any different.

Agricultural producers have long looked to technology to become more productive and efficient. We all know the science, technology and painstaking regulatory process that GMOs go through before they can help our industry grow more food, more affordably. It is admittedly a challenge to counter the movement by many in the food industry – be it Nestle, Dannon, Panera Bread or Chipotle – that is capitalizing on people’s fear of what they don’t know: that somehow, GMOs are inherently bad.

You know differently. I know differently. But somehow, for the regular consumer, science isn’t what’s prevailing in their minds.

This is where you come in. You are a credible source who works on the front lines of agriculture every day. People want to know if their values align with the farmers who originate their food and milk. They want to feel connected to farmers and hear from them – firsthand – about how they’re caring for the land and their animals and have embraced GMOs in the farming process. We need you to step up and vocalize the benefits of GMOs especially as the food industry pulls out its megaphones.

Here are a few tips for having respectful and productive conversations:

  • Conversations can occur anywhere, so be prepared. People may bring up the topic or approach you at the feed mill, grocery store or gas station. Or it’s perfectly OK to initiate a conversation if you see an opportunity. It’s also important to ask about opportunities to present in environments such as local classrooms, elected officials’ offices, and service clubs such as the Kiwanis and Optimists.
  • Listen with sincerity, and summarize what you hear. One of the foundations of listening – instead of listening to simply respond – is to take what someone has voiced, summarize it and “replay” it as a way of ensuring the person feels heard. The wording for that may begin with, “So, what I hear you saying is, xxxxxxxx [ENCAPSULATE ANSWER]. Is that correct?” Be respectful of others’ comments and questions.
  • Know your facts. While no one expects you to be the expert, it pays to have a few key points in your back
    pocket about GMOs and why they’re important to the agricultural industry and to consumers at the store. A few resources you can consider:
  • Share examples. Most people ask questions because they seek understanding. Don’t be afraid to answer them and to give specific examples of how GMOs are part of your own operation. The crucial thing here is to share the info in everyday language – remember, these are typically not people who live and breathe agriculture.
  • Ask people to consider the science behind the information you share. Many food companies have latched onto emotion as a means of setting themselves apart. They aren’t coming from a scientific perspective but an advertising one. The number one rule of marketing, particularly if you’re selling a commodity, is to find a way to differentiate yourself. The unfortunate reality is that apparently this “place of differentation” doesn’t necessarily require a lot of substance behind it.

Yes, your education will occur one coversation at a time, but it can be even more powerful that way. By exchanging reputable information, you can be part of the movement toward educating consumers so they act out of a place of knowledge that’s rooted in science and facts presented by a trusted source, rather than an environment of opinion that doesn’t have depth.

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Written by Dave Coggins

Dave is Executive Vice President - Chief Banking Officer of Investors Community Bank. He has been with the bank since 2009 and has over 40 years of lending and leadership experience, including 10 years as president of Business Lending Group and 24 years in various lending and leadership roles in the Farm Credit System. Dave holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He is actively involved in many community/professional organizations, including serving as treasurer and finance committee chair for Progress Lakeshore and a member of the Wisconsin Bankers Association Government Relations Committee. He is also a past chair of the WBA Ag Bankers Section and is currently vice chair of the ABA Ag and Rural Bankers Committee.

Views provided in this newsletter are general in nature for your consideration and are not legal, tax, or investment advice. Investors Community Bank (ICB) makes no warranties as to accuracy or completeness of information, including but not limited to information provided by third parties, does not endorse any non-ICB companies, products, or services described here, and takes no liability for your use of this information. Information and suggestions regarding business risk management and safeguards do not necessarily represent ICB’s business practices or experience. Please contact your own legal, tax, or financial advisors regarding your specific business needs before taking any action based upon this information.

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