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
Tags: food production, economics, environment, sustainable development, health, personal choices, diets
Building block 7. What is the business behind organic and GMO foods?
Organic food and GMO-based food are part of a large industry with immense importance for every economy. These range from food supply, pricing and affordability, health and lifestyle implications. And it's no big secret that businesses have conventional business interests. Often business intentions lack the sincerity and purity they claim to have and attempt to attribute to their actions. But how can we know for sure whether the producers and traders operate in line with the public interest? Marketing tricks, anyone? How easy or difficult is it to cut through the marketing messaging and find out the truth?
1. The organic food industry is booming, and that may be bad for consumers
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/03/14/organic-food-industry-is-booming-that-may-be-bad-consumers/ [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
2. The big business of organic food - view from different angles
https://news.usask.ca/articles/general/2016/the-big-business-of-organic-food.php [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
3. GM Crops Increase Farmer Profits and Environmental Sustainability
ttps://ehttps://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/superfoods/ [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
Data-rich article on financial and environmental gains from growing GMO crops
4. Food shaming: Why I'm avoiding foods labeled 'Non-GMO Project' verified
https://www.agweek.com/opinion/columns/4383556-food-shaming-why-im-avoiding-foods-labeled-non-gmo-project-verified [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
5. Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?
https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/business/organic-food-purists-worry-about-big-companies-influence.html [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
The fact is, organic food has become a wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store. The industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy. Or rather, pure marketing. Big Food, it turns out, has spawned what might be called Big Organic.
6. Genetically-modified food: For human need or corporate greed?
https://www.marxist.com/gmo-human-need-corporate-greed.htm [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.
7. Why bad food is good for business - The business, finance and marketing behind the junk food.
https://theconversation.com/why-bad-food-is-good-for-business-23438 [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
1. Big Organic (click link to play video)
2. Organic brands bloom in the Indian Food Market
Fun part - is this real?
1. McDonald’s Introduces an Organic Burger
https://naturallysavvy.com/eat/mcdonalds-introduces-organic-burger-really/ [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
2. A Finnish company that makes food from electricity, water and air has said it plans to have 50m meals’ worth of its product sold in supermarkets within two years
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/29/plan-to-sell-50m-meals-electricity-water-air-solar-foods [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
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 explain the pros and cons of consuming organic food and GMO-based food.
2. The learner will be able to explain key facts about the organic/GMO food industry and the reasons why they are both in growth
3. The learner will be aware of the food labelling standards and practices.
4. The learner will be able to distinguish and oppose the two ideas: "organic food as a powerful and profitable business" and "organic food industry to serve and benefit the wellbeing of people"
5. The learner will be able to recognize and comment marketing tips and tricks used to promote organic/GMO food and influence customers
6. The learner will be able to show understanding and provide examples of how motivated cognition influences opinions and the nature of frames
Suggested teaching methods
> Searching for information (from diversified sources)
> Self reflection
> Form opinions and formulate arguments
> Discuss both ideas using arguments - group discussion
> Apply source- and fact checking to a set of resources
Suggested learning activities
> Introduce they key opposition in this part of the case study. Can we trust the businesses for their activities and claims with regard organic/GMO foods, keeping in mind that shareholders' interests may conflict with the public interest.
> If this has not been done in a previous building block, instruct the learners to search for a working definition of organic foods and GMO foods. Otherwise remind of the definitions already used.
> Working with the whole class, ask the learners to put together a list of pros and cons of organic food and GMO-based food. Brainstorming can be used. It is important to do this activity before the learners they start using the list of resources. Set aside and keep the list with you. You will use it again later.
> Form two groups. The first subgroup to be focused on resources supporting these two ideas: "organic food industry mostly is a very powerful and profitable business" and "organic food industry works for the wellbeing of the public". The second group will investigate similar ideas - just replace organic with GMO.
> Direct both groups to the initial set of materials. Each subgroup to search for information about the idea they are responsible for. Allow the subgroups to search for arguments and facts in other sources (time permitting). Make them summarise the most important arguments.
> Debate the main findings for each idea being ivestigated. Discuss. Compare the findings with the initially compile list. Discuss the overlaps and new items.
> Ask the group to re-evaluate their position and the arguments already used in the debate (display again the list previously compiled in activity #3). Encourage self-reflection with focus on information/disinformation. In full group: Enlist, explain, provide example to properties which may indicate disinformation or manipulation.
> With regard to the disinformatuion types, ask the learners to match the resource types found and evaluated.
> Present fact-checking, if not introduced in a previous building block. Instruct the learners to go through the Fun facts - is this real? resources. Improvise a competition about who will be the first to fact-check (confirm of disprove) the truthfulness of the two articles.
De Facto pillars
Frames and Framing, Motivated Cognition: Discuss how food stereotypes (frames) are clearly visible throughout this case study. Encourage self-reflection and ask the learners to share if and how their initial frames were supported/reinforced (why are your frames so strong) or changed (which fact/argument from the resources was so strong as to force a change in the frame).
You have selected a topic from the Disinformation Games area. Please be advised that this area hosts, or links to, resources that contain misinformation or disinformation. The presence of such materials is to assist in developing and sustaining skills for navigating and detecting disinformation. To achieve this goal – and with clear intent – none of the materials are explicitly marked as true or not true.