28 June 2023
The digital transformation of our world is continuing at a rapid pace and giving rise to unprecedented disruption, touching nearly every part of society, technology, the environment, the economy, and agriculture.
In 2021, AgriFutures in a report titled "Future Forces - A ten-year horizon For Australian agriculture" set out to promote thinking and planning on six forces shaping change for agriculture, fisheries, and forestry.
One of these key forces is the use of viral disinformation in the food system by activists and others acting in bad faith.
Many of us can relate to the idea of viral disinformation in the food system. The rapid ability for disinformation campaigns to influence the public is not just a risk in the political sphere and a tool for changing the outcomes of elections but can influence consumer behaviour at the checkout. It is now the territory of campaigns targeting food-related issues, which are becoming increasingly susceptible to these disinformation campaigns.
These campaigns often aim to inspire mistrust between the supplier at the farm gate and the end consumer at the checkout. The interconnected and information-driven nature of our age is allowing an almost instant spread of misinformation.
The viral effect leaves us in a fight for the consumer, with the rapid spread of misinformation undermining public confidence in our food production systems and unjustly questioning the industry's decision-making, and even food production safety, often for extreme ideological reasons. Our best defence, as the Agrifuture's report argues, is to recognise the viral spread of the disruptor or campaign, so we can preserve the credibility and transparency of the Agriculture industry through ….
The report has correctly extrapolated that we now see many new stakeholders and many actors who have never been a part of agriculture historically, and they seek to influence and capture the attention across every step of production.
The tactics used by these campaigns include modern tools such as deep fakes, AI and social media ‘bots’ to rapidly and effectively transmit disinformation. The campaigners will exploit sensitive food issues targeting safety and production practices, using emotive language and images to trigger a response in the consumer.
Read More: Incentives open for waste reduction
The challenge then becomes an overwhelming public conversation fuelled by disinformation, which often challenges the scientific discourse and presents claims of profits over animal welfare to smear the industry.
As consumers, we should seek to identify the campaigns and expose the ideas to fact-checking to build a collective immunity to misinformation. As the report is not a prediction but projects the current state it argues we will only see a spiralling increase of constant disinformation as the daily reality, which needs to be mitigated if we are to suspend the decline in trust.
It is only by understanding these viral disinformation campaigns as a disruptive force can we understand how the industry can proactively adapt, innovate, and champion the opportunities presented by the ongoing digital transformation.
This includes ensuring we respond with clear information, supported by facts and figures, to combat this disinformation, as relying on an emotive fight will only result in confusion for the consumer and play into the hands of activists.
Or to put it another way in the immortal words of Mark Twain “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it”.
As the largest advocacy group in Tasmania and the only one that focuses exclusively on farming and the rural sector, the future of Tasmanian agriculture is our focus.
Join the TFGA today for a greater future.
Contact our Membership Manager