Youth Media for Sustainable Agriculture

From 2005 to 2007, the ISE’s Youth Media program worked to promote youth leadership in Vermont by engaging students in creating media highlighting critical issues for broadcast on Public Access Television.

We worked with students from Vermont high schools to produce videos highlighting sustainable agriculture and the problem of genetically engineered foods. The videos featured interviews with organic farmers, state legislators, food co-op managers, restaurant owners, a community farm organizer, a science teacher and a school principal, among others. They speak out on issues of food safety, food production methods and the environment, as well as the larger food system and its effect on our local economies. These videos aired on Vermont Public Access stations around the state and tallied over 17,000 individual viewings on YouTube. This program aimed to strengthen local communities’ awareness and activism around issues of food safety and biotechnology.

Children, and perhaps adults, spend hundreds of hours a year using media, and absorbing media messages without examining them. The influence of media is exploited by the advertising industry, which employs media’s power to shape the beliefs, behaviors and attitudes of the American public. The Youth Media program addressed the biotech industry’s advertising and public relations campaigns by helping students develop the skills to decipher the messages in media products, to recognize influential media strategies, and to actively respond by producing their own media product.

The biotechnology industry spends tens of millions of dollars each year in media campaigns that paint a rosy picture of agriculture in the United States by suggesting that GE foods can “feed the world”, portraying GE foods as “inevitable” and putting forward that there is no alternative to corporate market control of the food system.

Students learned about the science and politics of genetic engineering by viewing documentaries such as “The Future of Food” by Deborah Koons Garcia, “Global Banquet: The Politics of Food” by Old Dog Documentaries and Jeffrey Smith’s “Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals – Genetically Engineered Foods”. “The New Intervale”, a film by Ken Peck, documents sustainable community agriculture in Burlington, and provides examples of positive solutions. We also worked with students to “deconstruct” media materials produced by the biotechnology industry.