Podcast: How food bullying spreads unjustified fears about GMOs, animal welfare and food safety

iLHJj rJNh k

We’ve heard a lot in recent years about the harmful impacts of bullying, especially cyber-bullying aimed at children. But rarely do we consider how this aggressive behavior influences our beliefs about food. This is a serious mistake, according to science writer Michele Payn, who says bullying is often used to shame consumers into accepting a particular set of values related to food and farming.

Consider companies like Chipotle or Whole Foods that promote the wholesomeness of their non-GMO products and disparage other foods as inferior, though there is no evidence non-GMO products offer any unique health or safety benefits. These marketing strategies, Payn argues, encourage low-income consumers, both in the US and abroad, to spend more on products they were wrongly told are better for them, or to even avoid nutritious foods altogether.

screenshot agriculture food nutrition speaker michele payn
Michele Payn

It’s those potentially harmful outcomes that underscore why we should fight back against the bullies, Payn argues. Her new book, aptly titled “Food Bullying: How to Avoid Buying B.S.,” explores the social-psychological basis of food bullying and how it influences our perceptions of food safety, farming and biotechnology—and what we can do about it:

Food has become a battleground where marketing labels and misinformation are used to bully and demonize people about their eating choices. What if you could stop stressing about what other people think and make eating decisions based on your own needs and preferences? This startling look at the misrepresentation of food sheds light on fictitious nutrition and environmental claims to help you recognize bullies and defend your food choices.

On this episode of Talking Biotech, Payn joins plant geneticist and host Kevin Folta to provide a snapshot of how we talk about food today. While questions about nutrition and food safety are important, she argues that the issue goes deeper than that. Our beliefs about food are deeply connected to social status and group identity, which helps explain why we argue so ferociously about what we eat.


Michele Payn is a much sought-after speaker, author and podcast host. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @mpaynspeaker

Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta and email your questions to [email protected]

Related article:  Brazil plan to breed gene-edited dairy cattle on hold after bacterial DNA found in animal's genome

The Talking Biotech podcast, produced by Kevin Folta, is available for listening or subscription:

Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS | Player FM | Pod Directory | TuneIn

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend