Where we lost trust with consumers and how we earn it back

Photo taken by Owen Roberts, 2017.

Canadians are set to celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day February 12, with gatherings, conferences, celebrations, and sharing what’s happening on the farm. The day is all part of the “share our story” philosophy — that agriculture’s customers have simply lost touch with how food is grown and produced, and that if farmers share more, they’ll earn back trust that has faltered in the last few decades.

If only it were that simple.

That said, David Zaruk, who writes from Brussels as The Risk Monger, says that consumers (our customers) don’t fear technology, they fear what they don’t understand. But how did we get here? And is “sharing our story” really going to play a role in shaping public perception and policy?

In the interview below, RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney asks Zaruk to take us back a few decades to the BSE crisis in the UK, to food recalls, and GMO bans — all major events that eroded public trust and a positive perception of food production in Europe. From there Zaruk, shares how food policy in the EU has centred more on human and animal health vs. agriculture and production, creating a market of “luxury” goods. The implications, however, have been felt throughout our truly global market, he says.

Here in Canada, farmers struggle with much of the same mistrust, warranted or not, and are trying very hard to continue to farm for an increasingly critical consumer. Is sharing your story enough? Zaruk still sees the value in it, but recognizes that it’s policy makers we’re up against, not just consumer opinion.

Hear more from Zaruk, below, and you can read more at his website, here.

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