2012: The year we make news

The last three years have been fun and exciting for us here at Biofortified. Even more so the last three weeks – as we have raised almost $2,500 in personal donations (and blog schwag purchases) to keep the blog going and expand our projects into new areas. I have thanked all of our donors personally, and taking it all together, I can’t sufficiently express in words how thankful I am that so many people have been willing to support us, and for so much. If you thought we were wildly happy back when we won the Changemakers contest in 2009, we’re so much more excited now!
We have some ambitious goals ahead of us, from art to videos, tax-exempt status and more, but there is one more thing that I think we should strive for in the coming year – making the news. We are indexed by Google News, so in that sense we are making news as we report and comment on what goes on in the world. But what I mean is making a big enough impact in the world that other news organizations start reporting on us. The more reaching out we can do, the more people may come here and exchange ideas, contribute articles, and learn about science. I know that we have a good following amongst scientists, and it would be great if we could bring more people into the discussion.
We’re also on our way to a bigger league.
At the beginning of December, I thought that we had gotten to the point where a Wikipedia article about our organization (which is more than just a blog) was appropriate, giving the bare-bones rundown on what we do. Other organizations such as the Non GMO Project and GM Watch have pages, of varying quality, why not us? I built it over a few days and it went up on December 6. A few editors helped out with improving it, and suggesting links to de-orphan the page, and everything seemed fine.
Then, right on the New Year, an editor flagged it for deletion. Over about a week, various editors chimed in on how big of a mention in different news sources was big enough of a mention for notability, and I provided what more information I could to help out. I tried to point out politely when a couple editors were not even bothering to read some of the sources, and made sure they were aware that I both created the page and am a founder of the site in question. In the end, our page was deleted, with not enough of a strong ‘keep’ vote from other editors.
I thought it was ironic that editors were arguing that I myself may be notable but Biofortified is not – even though my notability in this case stems from what I have done here on Biofortified. Kind of odd, don’t you think?
I’m not worried about the deletion, because all of my work (and other editors’ additions) has been saved, and the entire thing can go back up once we have but a few more references to meet the oft-arbitrary guidelines of notability. So here’s another incentive for us to make some news!
I would like to solicit some ideas of things that we can do this year. There is on-the-ground public outreach and events, online gatherings, and additional resources that can be put together on the site. What would you like to see?
I thought one fun thing we could do is organize a book reading of the original Frankenstein, which could involve virtual meetings over Google+ or a webinar-type site. Or should we dress up like fools and get people to sign a petition to ban genetic recombination? Serious and silly, there are many ways to get messages out there. Let us know in the comments!
Let’s make 2012 be the year we make some serious news.

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Written by Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Riverside and works on Citrus genetics.

14 comments

  1. Huh. No, that hadn’t crossed my mind. Can you imagine the poutrage though? Or going to Rodale and mowing down their stuff?
    My next thought was glitter-bombing, though–with golden rice! Can we get any rice for that?

  2. Breaking into the UCS greenhouses hadn’t occurred to me partly for the reason that the UCS is not interested in doing and publishing science in their food and environment program. Thus they have no greenhouses to break into! Other programs at UCS have their hands in research, just not this one.
    I notice a few people have joked about doing something illegal or wrong like making things up to get attention – of course I was hoping for something more, um, moral than that. 🙂 I hope to maintain our status of being better than many of these other groups! In fact, I think Biofortified will have a peer-reviewed scientific publication before the UCS food and environment program will. 😀
    Many of the groups we criticize such as Greenpeace, the UCS, GM Watch, Grist, Smith, etc, I believe make the mistake of thinking that if they get their idea out there – however they accomplish this – that they have achieved their goal. But many of the methods they use result in alienating potential allies, and cutting off trust with people who don’t already agree with them. Personally, I would like to do some on-the-ground events and actions, but not designed to mess things up but to encourage people to work together. Tossing a bunch of golden rice (or orange-dyed rice) somewhere will likely reinforce beliefs against GE. Of course I know this is all in humor, of course, but seeing a Greenpeace office orange and glittery with rice might be kind of pretty.
    Is Coexistence Activism possible? Would it be classified as civil disobedience? Or social disobedience? I think that if you can do “direct action” to stop someone from doing something you don’t like, you should be able to do “direct action” to do the opposite – encourage people to work together. What might such an event look like? Are there any places, focal points if you will, where attention can be drawn to the need to work together?
    In the other thread, about getting news coverage, someone suggested this great resource on pitching to journalists, including some recommendations from Andy Revkin, who is pretty awesome. Have a look!

  3. Thus they have no greenhouses to break into!

    This was, infact, what I was shooting at.
    Alas my scud missile like accuracy is showing.
    Perhaps you could visit their offices, and wielding the worlds smallest weed-whacker have at any and all potted plants you see? No? I alas then, have nothing. (I do however utterly agree on the stance of not stooping to their level, but there is a lack of comic potential in being nice to folk)

  4. So we aren’t doing roller derby? Damn. And the left likes glitter-bombing.
    Well, ok–I’ll try to be serious. But let’s think about who exactly is the audience we want to reach. And where are they? What do they notice? What action do we want them to move towards?

  5. Wait–and more: who are our allies? What have they done that’s worked, and what hasn’t worked?
    At a political conference I got some great advice once: find out the public activist groups that are associated and aligned with your topic. They have notes, research, tools, contacts, etc.

  6. No I think you were right on target with your wryness! Just trying to shunt the conversation toward the seriousness in goals. There will be plenty of room for humor in the execution!

  7. Executions will certainly get you in the news.
    You might get your charitable status revoked though.

  8. Ok–here’s a real thought: what about some kind of co-sponsoring of an event with the DIYBio community? Or maybe some support here for something they are doing? Educational materials, webinar, I don’t know…?
    It seemed to me they were natural allies, and a group prepared to think about the issues in a more thoughtful way than some groups.

  9. Hello, i follow your blog, and im interested in other blogs concerning genetic engineering; since you got no blogroll, could you tell me some nice blogs about this topic? thx!

  10. Here’s something I’ve always thought would be nice: how about a comprehensive FAQ? Compile the whole of everyone’s fears and assumptions and concerns into one easy to read page. Everything that’s out there, list it. What crops are GE? How are they GE? Why are plants resistant to glyphosate? Is that safe? Why do plants have an insecticide right in them? What about the Séralini study? What about the Pusztai study? What about the other Séralini study? What about all that stuff Jeffrey Smith says? What about Failure to Yield? What about the suicides in India? Do they really improve farmer’s lives? What about their impact on the environment, is it really beneficial? Do they really decrease pesticide use? They raise herbicide use right? What about ‘superweeds’ and ‘superpests’? Ect ect ect.
    Sure, a lot of good information is out there if you look but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the entirety of every issue raised in one easy to read page. It’d be nice to have something like that to point people to, something that, in one (probably big) page covers everything from patents to Golden Rice to biodiversity to cross pollination to labels, point by point with a boatload of citations so anyone looking can get a real complete view on the topic, instead of addressing individual issues as the come up (and come up again and come up again). I think that would be a good thing to have done, and put under the resources tab for easy access.

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