A new Stonyfield Organic video, which uses four young girls to send an aggressively anti-GMO message, smacks of indoctrination and showcases the seeds of divisiveness being sown with the public.
The girls featured in the 25-second ad are force-fed lines that call GMOs “monstrous” or describe tomatoes being made using fish genes. Stonyfield unequivocally digs in its marketing heels by splashing big words across the screen saying, “Avoid GMOs / Eat Organic!”
The problem for Stonyfield is: The public — and farmers — were having none of it.
The scores of comments with the original post called out Stonyfield for promoting scientific ignorance. What was apparent, too, was that Stonyfield’s social media curator(s) were hastily deleting many comments that pushed back again their narrative, calling the critics “trolls.”
(Editor’s note: After this article was posted, Stonyfield deleted all of the comments we chose to embed here that were critical of the video. By some accounts, thousands of comments in all have been removed from Stonyfield’s Facebook page. This article has been edited to remove the error messages left by those deleted comments, and we have instead added screenshots from those original comments or of more recent ones to help convey the public’s response to Stonyfield’s actions.)
In a piece for Forbes.com, science advocate Kavin Senepathy explains where the “fish gene” statement comes from — and how out of date it is to even hint at that kind of technology.
“There are no tomatoes on the market with ‘fish genes.’ A tomato with the winter flounder ‘antifreeze’ gene — which helps the fish survive frigid waters — was developed in the 1990s with the aim of conferring frost tolerance, but the product was never commercialized,” she says.
Unable to slow the tide of the backlash from the Jan. 23 video, Stonyfield posted the following afternoon acknowledging that “we stirred up quite a bit of conversation in the last few days around the topic of GMOs” and further alleging that many of the comments it has received has come from trolls. But that was hardly the case.
Many of the 600+ comments the follow-up post received talked about the harm Stonyfield has done to its business and how ineffective it is for the organic food company to link to sites such as the Environmental Working Group or Just Label It in its reply, as those are well-documented anti-biotech activist organizations and not credible scientific sources. (By comparison, in 2016, an exhaustive report by the National Academies on Sciences on genetic engineering in crops found the products to be safe for people and animals to eat.)
As if the original video wasn’t bad enough, it seemed that Stonyfield’s reply to the public made things all that much worse.
“It’s a pretty sorry response to the outrage, but does reveal the true intentions of the company,” said Amanda Zaluckyj on her Farmer’s Daughter USA blog. “Even though Stonyfield doesn’t believe eating GMOs is harmful, they are more than willing to keep manipulating children to scare people.”