CAST Award Goes to Dynamic Scientist/Communicator

October 16, 2014

Agricultural Communication Takes Center Stage

at CAST Event

Alison Van Eenennaam Wins Borlaug CAST Communication Award  
 

For the fifth year in a row, the winner of the Borlaug CAST Communication Award was honored at a World Food Prize side event, and this year’s recipient—Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam—gave a memorable keynote address (scroll down for further coverage of her presentation). The October 15 morning session began with short remarks by CAST EVP Linda Chimenti, DuPont Pioneer scientist Wendy Srnic, and CAST President-Elect David Songstad.

As Chimenti said, "CAST was honored to once again present its award for excellence in communication during the World Food Prize and Borlaug Dialogue events. And guests at the award breakfast were treated to a real-time demonstration of Dr. Van Eenennaam's capability as a skilled, passionate communicator." In the photo, Chimenti (left) hands the BCCA sculpture award to Van Eenennaam.

CAST organized the event, DuPont sponsored it, and attendees included scientists, journalists, farmers from around the world (guests of the Truth about Trade and Technology Organization), and dignitaries such as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance organized a second session—a Food Dialogues event, with noted journalist Mike Pearson as moderator. Panelists joining Dr. Van Eenennaam included Julie Kenney (farmer and blogger for Common Ground), David Sutherland (Founder of VeganGMO), and Jay Byrne (president of v-Fluence Interactive). They discussed various topics centered around the way GMO issues are perceived by the public, and they fielded questions from the audience.


“I’m Willing to Deal with Controversial Topics," says Van Eenennaam


A good communicator gets the message across, and this year’s BCCA winner has a way with words. The University of California-Davis animal science extension specialist and researcher believes it is important to step out of the lab and classroom often enough to let the public and policymakers know the facts. “Hunger is the enemy,” says Van Eenennaam, “and starvation is a story that needs to be told.” She believes that tech and science play major roles in the struggle to feed billions, and she also worries that scientists are being outmaneuvered by bad science and skewed sources.

Dr. Van Eenennaam proposes ways to rectify this imbalance. The agriculture community needs to

  • be proactive and develop communication skills,
  • stick with the truth and peer-reviewed facts,
  • listen to all stakeholders while weighing the pros and cons, and
  • push for more interdisciplinary publicly funded research.

 

What Do the Facts Say?

Dr. Van Eenennaam puts her words into action. She has participated in 60 respected publications; she continues to teach and perform research; and she uses various methods to communicate, including scores of presentations, TV appearances, and press interviews. During the past few years, Van Eenennaam has also used video production as a “medium to deliver her message.” With help from students and staff at UC-Davis, she has won acclaim for several film clips, and her newest production combines insights, humor, and tech skills to ask the question: “What Do the Facts Say?” This parody of a Ylvis hit cleverly looks at the need for scientists to not only find the facts but also be willing to wave the truth like a flag as the agriculture community strives to produce enough food for our growing population.

In this year of the 100th anniversary of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s birth, the selection of Alison Van Eenennaam as the 2014 Borlaug CAST Communication Award winner is especially appropriate to honor his legacy of science research and agricultural communication. 

NOTE: At the upper right of this page, links are provided for two influential CAST papers chaired by Dr. Van Eenennaam.