Tricia Braid

Sep 26, 2014  |  Today's News

The anti-GMO front got a short term boost from Dr. Oz this week. Oz, a television personality and MD, ran a segment about what he mistakenly called a ‘GMO pesticide’ that you’ll know as Dow’s new Enlist products. Farmers across the country are peeved and are storming social media to share their outrage.

The farm-centered outrage, blogging, tweeting, and facebook posting is just adding oxygen to Oz’s fire, however. His fanatical followers have moved on to his next recommendation already. We aggies are the ones still bringing attention to his GMO shams.

Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, it’s infuriating. The U.S. Senate already called Dr. Oz to the woodshed earlier this summer for his outlandish claims. He didn’t seem to care.

It appears that most reasonable people can see Oz for what he is…a snake oil salesman that sells his airtime to the highest bidder.

So what’s a well-intentioned farmer voice to do when you hear and see the bogus claims like what Oz is perpetuating? Well, you can help to show people the man behind the curtain, as they say.

Illinois Farm Families research and communication training would say that when confronted by someone who saw Oz’s program, the first thing you should do is listen carefully for the real objection, and ask questions to clarify. Generally speaking, people just want to feel like they’re informed and making good, safe, healthy decisions for their family. Your job is to make them understand that they are.

Secondly, validate and recognize the person’s fear is understandable. Heck, why wouldn’t they be afraid or concerned after watching Dr. Oz’s crazy program this week? It’s a simple as saying something (and being genuine) like, “You know what? I can totally understand where you’re coming from and why you’re concerned. You’ve heard some scary stuff.”

The third step is to identify with that person. Do they have kids? Is a family member sick from some unknown cause? What’s their personal motivation to be questioning the farming methodology of GMO use? You might say, “I have kids, too. And believe me, I would not want to use anything on my farm that would make me responsible for making them sick.”

Fourth, share your experience. People remember how you make them FEEL, they don’t remember your FACTS. Dr. Oz makes people scared. Period. That’s what they remember. How can you remove that fear? Try this. Use the feel-felt-found approach. For example, in its most simple presentation: “I understand how you feel. Others have felt the same way. This is what I’ve found.”

Only after you’ve established a trusted, peer relationship should you bring any facts and figures into the discussion. You can loop back and suggest outside, third party experts. You should ask more questions and check for clarification.

Mostly, just take a deep breath and relax. Dr. Oz can’t be fixed. He doesn’t want or need to be fixed. He’s making lots of money in his shtick as a television doctor expert.

But you can change this in your own peer groups. Be that person that people go to for the straight talk. Work with the people in what we call the moveable middle.

But most of all, don’t be afraid to pull open the curtain. Open your doors and tell what’s really happening on your family farm.