I never saw the movie “Inception,” but I’m familiar with the
plot — the ability to plant ideas into people’s minds, without them being aware
of it, through their dreams. I thought of “Inception” the other day when I was
perusing my Facebook page.
There it was, among all the recipes for peanut butter
cheesecake and zucchini fritters, newest batches of selfies and sponsored ads
being shared by people hoping to get free stuff, one of those shared posts that
we used to call chain mail when such things were passed around only via email.
“An Information Must Share – HOW TO READ BAR CODES,” it
read. It’s not the first time this post has made the rounds, I’d seen it before,
and I tend to skip over such things because they’re usually packed full of
But I started thinking — I know the facts or how to find the
facts, but most of the folks who are reading these things take them for truth,
don’t know how to find out correct information and prefer to spend more time on
Facebook than trying to find out if these things are true or not.
So I dove in and started reading. I’ve noticed a trend
lately on these posts — eventually, somewhere, they all attack production
agriculture, whether it’s meat sold in grocery stores or GMOs. They all wind
their way around to those topics, which tells me that anti-ag groups have
I’ve also noticed some trends among these posts, too.
They’re posted and shared usually by moms, many of them stay-at-home moms or
moms who are working from their homes or who work split shifts so they’re home
during the day a lot. They’re being posted and shared by moms who aren’t from an
agriculture background, either.
Now, if you’ve heard or read Charlie Arnot of the Center for
Food Integrity, the one takeaway you may have gotten is that people believe
their friends and family when it comes to information about food and information
about our food supply. Moms believe other moms, especially when it comes to
topics such as food.
Barcodes are something we see all the time and something we
are starting to pay more attention to, since when we shop for anything, from
food to clothing to household goods, items are rung up by scanning that barcode.
People have seen that, and they are paying attention since they want to know
what part of the barcode represents the price of the item.
I opened up the barcode post and winced at the first
paragraph: “With all the food and pet products now coming from China, it is best
to make sure you read label at the supermarket and especially when buying food
“Many products no longer show where they were made, only
give where the distributor is located. The whole world is concerned about
China-made ‘black-hearted goods.’
“Can you differentiate which one is made in Taiwan or China?
The world is also concerned about GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods;
steroid fed animals (ex: 45 days older broiler chicken).”
I know. You’re making a face or sighing or just dismissing
it as another batch of false information about ag.
I turned to snopes.com, which is the “MythBusters” of the
Internet. Snopes’ determination? The information is some parts true and some
The part that the folks passing this around on Facebook are
most concerned with — how to determine exactly where a product is made — is
Snopes notes that the numbers on the barcode of products,
including food, sold in the U.S. do not necessarily indicate — as the Facebook
posts suggests they do — where that item was made or processed.
Now, because I’m naturally curious and also, after seven
years of hearing and reading a lot of myths and misinformation about agriculture
and farming and food production, naturally suspicious, I knew to go look for the
facts and what the real story is. And I wanted to do that — I had the desire to
find out if this thing was true or not.
Most of the people reading the posts likely aren’t curious
enough to look beyond the information in the post itself. But posts such as this
one are attractive to low-information consumers.
There are a lot of those folks on Facebook, and that’s where
they’re getting their information. They have the potential, in numbers and in
dollars, to make an impact at the grocery store, using the information they’re
getting from these posts.
The posts themselves are short, they’re to the point, they
don’t contain a lot of scientific information and they look official. The post
itself is attractive to read and appealing to those who are most likely to read
and share on Facebook.
Looking at the post just with a journalist and editor’s eye,
I can say that some anti-ag groups have really been doing their homework.
The posts aren’t labeled as coming from anti-ag groups. In
this case, the originator of this post had a woman’s name and allegedly is in
the United Arab Emirates.
This isn’t the only post I’ve seen making the rounds on
Facebook with misinformation or false information or just enough information to
make low-information shoppers wonder.
It’s similar to the plot of “Inception,” planting an idea in
someone’s head without them realizing that idea has been planted, so they wonder
the next time they go to the store, when they see a box of pasta or a broiler
chicken or a package of hamburger, a box of cereal.
They dig out their handy printout from Facebook. They check
the barcode. And suddenly paying more for “locally grown” and “organic” is
See how they did that?