Stonyfield’s Campaign Hurts Young Women. I want to fix it.

When I first saw this short video I cringed, but not for the usual reasons. Sure, propagation of bad information about biotechnology happens all the time, and this example was no worse than the rest in terms of its content.

What made this video paralyzingly egregious was that scientific ignorance was propagated by young women.

Now, it could be that they were just actors hired to read a script, and their message does not match their actual understanding of science. In the rough-and-tumble world of child acting, you read what’s put in front of you.

But I’m afraid that the girls in the commercial are not actors. I fear that they have been deliberately misinformed, and are parroting ideas installed by marketing firms. They should be extolling the beauty of medicine, the promise of technology, and how they can one day participate in sustainable food production.

Instead, they are ecstatic about science-free industry talking points to sell a product.

We need to fix this.

I volunteer to travel to the schools where these girls attend, at my personal expense, and teach a day’s lessons about plant science. We’ll talk about plant domestication, how plants function, what they do for us, and how farming provides food. We’ll talk about environmental impacts, conventional and organic cropping systems, and also about biotechnology. I’ll bring plenty of seeds for kids to start their own gardens.

That’s my offer.

Over the course of my career I have benefitted from strong women as teachers and mentors. I’ve benefited from the dozens of female students that spent time in my lab, and my outstanding technician (she’s the brains of the operation). I am grateful that I had the privilege to mentor Stefanie, Thelma, Denise and Tingting for their Ph.D. degrees, and dozens of others that left my lab to spread and amplify the mission.

The girls in the Stoneyfield commercial are victims of a nefarious marketing campaign. At their early age they may be falling prey to distortions propagated by people they trust. This is why STEM education is so important. They don’t need to be trashing a technology to sell yogurt. They need to be understanding critical evaluation of evidence and appropriate synthesis, making their own decisions.

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