The 1% You Shouldn't Care About

By Hank Campbell — May 16, 2016
There is a lot of false equivalence in giving the fringe 1 percent of the anti-science movement any attention at all.
Would you argue with him about zoology? Then why argue with an anti-meat person about nutrition? Credit and link: The Burmese Ruby Diary Would you argue with him about zoology? Then why argue with an anti-meat person about nutrition? Credit and link: The Burmese Ruby Diary

The 1 percent is something we hear a lot about these days. To young people who have time to camp out in the streets, they are evil capitalists who must be brought down -- before those marchers loot a small business nearby. To economists like Paul Krugman, the 1 percent should be happy to pay more so that the minimum wage can be $15 an hour (or order from a robot for the same price, as Wendy's is about to demonstrate in 6,000 stores) while to politicians they are an easy source of 'us versus them' cultural grandstanding, until they need money from a SuperPAC.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the economic 1 percent and we certainly spend a lot of time hearing and reading about them in media.

Yet there is another 1 percent that also gets an irrational amount of media attention also, but we shouldn't spend any time at all thinking about them. They are the food 1%.

In agriculture, including the scientific media areas, there is a lot of talk about yields. That's fine, things like modern pesticides and biological technology have made food a true commodity, so plentiful that for the first time in world history poor people can afford to be fat. And in culture, food activists and environmentalists spend a lot of time talking about toxic organic pesticides being healthier to drink than toxic synthetic pesticides, or that mutagenesis can be labeled organic while a genetically modified organism is not.

A whole lot of organic marketing is devoted to labels. Yet in reality most consumers only care about one thing on the label: Price.

Credit and link: Capital Press

Why? Because they recognize that the food is not any different, despite the millions and millions of dollars that anti-science groups like Organic Consumers Association gives to their favorite attack sites. Instead of being educated by advertising about process, 95 percent of consumers make food choices based on things we can all identify with; cost or taste or nutrition. Obviously when it comes to a process like organic food, only one of those is impacted -- cost. Four percent of consumers do specifically focus on self-identification issues, like if food is gourmet or is locally grown or organic. Only 1 percent are truly fringe weirdos about food, and actively demonize normal stuff. Yet movements like anti-meat and anti-GMO get an outsized share of attention from both media outlets and the social sphere.

Why? And why do we enable their behavior by responding to them? It isn't logical, because we realize no amount of evidence or reason will convince everyone. We have all seen chewing gum ads -- there is going to be that one dentist out of 10 who doesn't recommend sugarless chewing gum, and real fringe food activists are instead one out of 100. If Vani Hari, the self-styled "Food Babe," won't let her husband drink beer, that is his problem, not the beer industry's. Yet farmers, companies and agriculture advocates routinely take the bait offered up by the food 1 percent. In RealAgriculture, journalist Andy Vance notes he changed that defensiveness when he noticed fringe people only have 50 or 60 followers. He was providing them with false equivalence by talking to them like they were peers and addressing their claims.

He was talking about the pig industry and uses the mud example so I will add one more, about the swine who glorify in trying to make poor people worried about food; if you get in the mud with pigs, you'll both get dirty -- but only one of you is going to enjoy it.