The Disinformation Games

Your safe space for games and challenges related to misinformation and disinformation!

Case study: All Things Food

As any biological species, we humans need food to survive. Food delivers nutrients such as carbs, amino acids, fibers, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Througout the human history food was hunted, collected, cooked in a variety of ways, preserved, selected and grown to improve certain qualities and properties. At the same time taste, personal preferences, access to food and cost of food are all factors which influence what we eat and how we eat it. This case study revolves around issues related to the production and consumption of food such as: healthy eating and healing foods, superfoods, organic food, junk food and GMO-based foods. We adopt different perspectives - from individual choice of food to global implications of food growing.

All Things Food

Recommended for: high school students, university students, adults

Available building blocks7

Tags: food production, economics, environment, sustainable development, health, personal choices, diets

Tips for educators

Building block 5. Food scarcity, price and hunger: a global view

There are currently over 7.7 billion people on this planet, expected to rise to over 10 billion by 2060. In order to feed that many people, we would need to dramatically change either our consumption, or the production of food -- possibly both. With limited resources, inlcuding land and water, scientific developments in the field of GMO have opened up entirely new possibilities for improving the nutrition of humanity. At the same time, production and demand for organic food are booming and organic foods can now be find in almost every supermarket. These two trends seem to contradict each other, but is this really the case? Let's explore the global implications of these trends in food production and consumption.

Suggested resources

1. How much more does organic food cost and why  [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

Organic foods are more expensive than mass produced food, but how much more expensive can vary from season to season, and region to region. The USDA estimates that organically-produced food can cost anywhere from 10 to 30 percent more than conventionally mass-produced food.

2. The superfoods destroying our planet: How those trendy treats are doing far more harm that good  [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

3. The pros and cons of GMO crops, taking into account their potential effects on human health and the environment   [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

A short section near the top of the article explaining how GMO allows scientists and engineers to modify foods and grow them while augmenting their desirable traits, such as taste, crop resistance to climate extremes, productivity and yield, resistance to diseases, etc.

4. Organic Food is Actually Cheaper than Conventional (Yes, Really!)  [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

5. Organic food provides environmental benefits to plant-rich diets  [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

A major new study confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products.

6. The growth of organics and why cheap food is expensive   [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

7. How GMOs Could Potentially End Poverty and Hunger in Africa (includes a video with Bill Gates)   [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

8.1. Are G.M.O. Foods Safe?  [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

It is not possible to prove a food is safe, only to say that no hazard has been shown to exist. The fears of G.M.O.s are still theoretical, like the possibility that insertion of one or a few genes could have a negative impact on other desirable genes naturally present in the crop.

8.2. Same article, comments section at the bottom   [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

9. How GM crops can help us to feed a fast-growing world  [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

10. GM Crops Increase Farmer Profits and Environmental Sustainability  [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

Data-rich article on financial and environmental gains from growing GMO crops

11. Here's what you need to know about the warming planet, how it's affecting us, and what's at stake.   [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

In the brave new world of genetic engineering, Dean DellaPenna envisions this cornucopia: tomatoes and broccoli bursting with cancer-fighting chemicals and vitamin-enhanced crops of rice, sweet potatoes, and cassava to help nourish the poor. He sees wheat, soy, and peanuts free of allergens; bananas that deliver vaccines; and vegetable oils so loaded with therapeutic ingredients that doctors "prescribe" them for patients at risk for cancer and heart disease.

12. GMOs Don’t Feed the World (includes a video) [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

One of the most often touted benefits of genetically engineered (GE) crops [more commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs)] is that they are essential to feed the world’s growing population. There are currently over 7.5 billion people on this planet and expected to rise to 9.5 billion by 2050. If consumption trends continue, in order to feed that many people, we would need to grow one-third more food.

13. Genetically-modified food: For human need or corporate greed? [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

However, under capitalism, GMOs are being abused by large agro-corporations, such as Monsanto, to maximize shareholders’ profits at the expense of ordinary people around the world. Instead, GMOs have reduced the safety and security of the food system for billions of people.


Scientific papers

1. Why We Need GMO Crops in Agriculture [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]



1. Organic Food: Healthy Or Great Myth? We all automatically assume that organic food equals healthy, eco-friendly, and nutritious. Yet several studies claim that "organic" doesn't necessarily stand for "the best."

2. The True Cost of Food - why organic is not too expensive, but conventional too cheap

3. Ted talks: Sustainable food systems

4. Is Organic Food Worse For You?

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes represent the competences which learners are expected to develop as a result of the training intervention:

1. The learner will be able to understand and explain the key global issues related to organic food production and GMO-based food production
2. The learner will be able to discuss how population growth and scarcity of resources present a challenge for the global food supply, including effects on price
4. The learner will be able to discuss environmental issues related to food production, including organic and GMO-based
6. The learner will be able to produce (and show understanding of) arguments on both sides of the debate
5. The learner will be able to understand and provide examples of how motivated cognition influences opinions and the nature of frames
6. The learner will be able to explain how to recognise bias in texts and videos

Suggested teaching methods

> On-line research
> Group work and discussion
> Debate and discuss both positions using arguments
> Brainstorming
> Apply source- and fact-checking to a set of resources

Suggested learning activities

> At the start of the session, introduce the global perspective of the debate. it is important that the learners stay well aware that their work will be focused on global developments and global issues. The personal preferences will have to be set aside. These global issues with regard to organic food and GMO-based food will cover population growth, demand for food, limitations in food supply, implications and solutions presented by the recent trends towards both organic foods and GMO, price, butritinal needs, climate challenges, sustainability.

> Make sure that all learners have the basic notions and understand the complexity of the debate. Stress that there is currently no scientific consensus on a single way to deal with these global challenges.

> Start a quick round of statements of preference by the learners. It is very likely that based on personal opinions some will be "in favour" of GMO, others - "in favour" of organic. Based on declared positions, split the class and form two groups.

> Ask each group to go through all provided resources. Let them choose the order. > Each group takes notes of key findings and arguments in support of their position and arguments to oppose the other group's position. Emphasise that taking notes and building a structure of arguments in a dilligent manner is important if one wants to present consistent and sound position.

> Allow fluidity in the groups. Instruct the learners at the startm and remind them several times, that they can change their group based on the facts and arguments they find in the provided resources. As teacher, take note of the movements between groups and make sure you bring the topic for discussion later - why have people changes their groups, which areguments were so strong as to make them change their opinion.

> Ask both groups to make a short presentation of their findings. List arguments pro and con for each position. Force the learners to find an agreement. It is important to stress again the systemic causality properties of teh debate. Seek reasonable compromise and base decisions and proposed solutions on facts.

> Discuss what, according to the learners, make an argument strong and what makes an argument weak. Discuss the properties of arguments which make them have greater impact. Are these the arguments which have more to do with science, passion/emotions, politics, public benefit or individual appeal?

> Discuss whether it is likely that the "agreed solution" is different in different countries or regions. Why? Can we speak about frames with regard to this issue? How would we define these frames?

> Explain fact-checking and source-checking. Split the class in two groups (you may keep the original groups or shuffle the learners based on the observed group dynamics). Ask each group to re-evaluate a set of 2 resources (#2, 4, and #6 & 10, respectively). Each group is to make a short presentation of their findings. Discuss findings. Define and discuss bias and how one can recognise it. Equipped with information from this last exercise on bias, engage the entire class in a quick review of video #2. Evaluate the video in terms of bias. > Discuss the possible implications of mis- and disinformation for this global debate.

De Facto pillars

Frames and Framing, Motivated Cognition: Instruct the learners to open resource # 8.2 and see the comments below the article. Ask the learners to study the comments, evaluate opinions (group similar opinions) and construct a list of factors, influencing the opinions. These would be the actual points which each comment makes, and this activity attempts to bring in the spotlights the arguments and factors which are most frequently invoked in the comments. Discuss what seem to be the most successful arguments. What is the evidence of their success? Are these arguments stereotypical in some way? Are they "to be expected"? Can the learners evaluate whether most of the comments are attributable to frames or whether the debate is a genuine, constructive and open conversation?

Frames and Framing: As described in the activities, see if the "agreed" solution or path forward could differ from one country or region to another. Are we talking about frames here? What define these frames?

Systemic Causality: Explain Systemic Causality. Ask the learners to reflect and debate whether the global conversation on organic and GMO-based food exhibits the properties of an issue which falls within the systemic causality pattern.


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