Stonyfield Stories

Censorship is always a bad marketing strategy

Stonyfield, a company that sells organic dairy products, posted a brief ad using children to spread fear about genetically engineered crops to their Facebook page. Understandably, the science minded community took umbrage and commented. Almost all responses were civil, with many citing established science to refute the statements made by the children in the video.

Stonyfield then posted a link to a response, that dodged the misinformation they had the children say in the video, and ironically asked for fact-based dialog. They then started banning all of those who cited the science that corrected their misinformation, trying to silence the very debate they said they wanted. Once again someone is learning that the cover-up is worse than the crime. Had they left the comments up, the discussion could have been contained to their page. By banning scientists and science communicators, they guaranteed that blogs and posts would spread the word about their disingenuous tactics**. What follows are just a few that came across my newsfeed.

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Kavin Senapathy sets the stage better than I could in my brief introduction: Stonyfield Calls Critics ‘Trolls’ With ‘Fake Names’ After Backlash Against Ad Featuring Young Girls

The Mad Virologist tried to engage them as a parent and a scientist. “ I’m a real person who is not only a parent, but an agricultural scientist.”

The Farmer’s Daughter did some myth busting. “The response also includes some pretty substantial and glaring lies. Allow me to clarify those:”

Thoughtscapism questioned their marketing. “Well I just left a polite comment about the science of GMOs and pesticides on their post under my *actual real name*, pointing out to them that marketing fruits and vegetables under the guise of fear is not an ethical practice.”

Mommy, PhD called them out on the contradiction between their video and statement. “Your response states that you don’t believe GMOs themselves to be harmful, but you have other issues. You also state that you want people to be informed. However, in the video, you are clearly saying something different.

Anastasia Bodnar was looking for answers. “I have joined the ranks of people banned by Stonyfield, thanks to one comment inviting them to speak with me, a second comment asking how they determine whether a commenter is a troll, and then this longer comment…

Kevin Folta was encouraged by the comments (as was I). “It makes my heart happy to see scientific traction catching on. The comments come from hundreds of people — farmers, moms, students — all presenting reasoned rebuttals to Stonyfield’s bad science campaign.

Now for my comments. As you might surmise I’m also a real person. Eclectic Science is not my real name 😉, it is Richard Green and that is what I used when posting to Stonyfield. My first comment was a bit biting, but I think it was the second where I dropped some references that got me banned. Unfortunately, I didn’t take screenshots as I was not expecting to be banned, but I compose in Word before posting, so I know what I wrote.

1) “Good lord. Using kids to sow fear is unconscionable. Let me guess, your next step will be to use “raw water”. This is so wrong.”

2) The second comment was long and spoke to the science that has evaluated GMOs. “That GMOs are an issue for anyone who suggests that they respect science is inexplicable to me.

At Stonyfield you are concerned with climate change. I’m guessing that you agree with preeminent science organizations like AAAS, NASEM , and the Royal Society for their stances on climate change…”

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That was just what came across my newsfeed. Had I done more digging I’m sure I could find many more instances. The Banned By Stonyfield group had ~400 members the last time I looked. That is a lot of real people who were silenced by Stonyfield. AGDAILY has just published an open letter to Stonyfield on behalf of the group.

>>Dear Gary Hirshberg and the Stonyfield Executive Team:

We are real people, with real names, real jobs and real concerns. We are the more than 400 social media users — scientists, farmers, educators, students, mothers and fathers — who you tried to silence when we responded to your recent marketing video. You have deleted thousands of comments, and your chairman and former CEO has called us “trolls” with “fake accounts.”…<<

I’ll end with a quote from The Mad Virologist:

“…If the only way that you can sell a product is to make people think a competitors product will kill them, then there is something wrong, not only with your product, but with you. This video tries to pit the views of children against scientific evidence. As parents, if we listened to children about everything, they’d be eating candy and ice cream for breakfast while watching cartoons all day…”

** Their bid to silence people who understand the facts seems to have back-fired, the volume of comments must be overwhelming the person or persons behind the banning. I checked their page before publishing and people knowledgeable about agriculture and genetic engineering keep making comments on the video and the separate posting of their statement.

2–02–18 Update: Stonyfield has removed their statement that called their customers “Trolls” and “Fake” from both the video thread and as a separate post. The statement can be found in some of the above articles. Recently they started to engage on the video thread with revisionist history and misdirection. They are suggesting the bans were policy violations, and comment deletions were because of Facebook. To be fair, Facebook sometimes prevents comments from posting because their algorithms mistakenly think it is spam, but they tell you that they think it is spam. It doesn’t just disappear without warning. A mea culpa and apology would serve them better than continuing to deceive their customers.