Many environmentalists seek to lessen the human impact on our natural world. Our rising global population makes this a huge challenge. GMO crops are one possible tool with huge potential for aiding in this fight. However, the conversation around them has become muddled. It has become about ideologies rather than facts. The Oregon Farm Bureau exists to advocate for Oregon farmers and ranchers and their families, and a large part of this is safeguarding the prosperity of future generations to come. Therefore sustainability of the land they work is a major priority. As the producers of food, farmers have high stakes in this debate. They know what it takes to grow a crop and they know much better than most of the population what can go wrong along the way. This makes the OFB an ideal candidate for this engagement project.
This project would follow engagement guidelines. The goal would be to learn from another viewpoint and not to educate people who disagree with our view. We as a team would research genetically modified crops and try to learn as much as we could about different opinions in preparation. Then we would make an actor-network of people and groups who care about this topic. We would aspire to give each person a new understanding of another’s lense in looking at the same issue as well as encouraging them to refocus on facts. Through this, ideally, some compromise or hope of compromise could be found.
We would identify stakeholders through an actor-network similar to the OFB-focused one that we made at the beginning of our partnership. Ideally, we would identify four or five stakeholders from a spectrum of views. Obviously the first major stakeholder involved would be the Oregon Farm Bureau, our partner organization. Our contact at the OFB is Barb Iverson. In our preliminary interview with her, we did briefly discuss the subject of GMOs. Barb indicated that she believes GMOs to be a potentially useful tool as well as something to be wary of. I think this sums up pretty well the two most prominent arguments for and against GMOs. For our engagement project, we would aim to find stakeholders with more extreme views as well in order to create the most productive conversation we can. If only people who agreed with each other were included, no individual or group would gain much from participating.
One possible method of engagement would be hosting and facilitating a discussion. An open-ended conversation could lead people to explore and question their own views as they become more familiar with others’. Another, which could easily be combined, is to conduct interviews with each stakeholder on their own at least preliminarily. This way, each is free to speak their mind. If this was followed by a group discussion people may be more interested in participating after having thought about and spoken about their views.
Our partnership with the Oregon Farm Bureau presents us with a unique opportunity to engage with a group that we otherwise likely wouldn’t have. GMO crops have huge potential to help both farmers’ and environmentalists’ missions, which makes this topic vital to discuss.