Sometimes speaking up and saying something does make a difference!
Following my post about General Mills’ “Save the Bees” campaign, I was put in contact with the company’s public relations director. He wanted to reach out to me and discuss the concerns I had about the campaign. If you recall from my original article, I had several. My biggest was the message that bee populations are in decline (they aren’t), without also mentioning the varroa mite. Also, the company’s citations on its website linked to the activist organizations Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace, including a link that blamed genetically modified crops for pollinator deaths.
The Director informed me General Mills has a pollinator program and donates money to the University of Minnesota Bee and Pollinator Research Lab. Included in their research is work to combat the varroa mite. I wish the company would have considered the mite important enough to at least mention on their website. The campaign was an excellent opportunity to educate the public about challenges facing bees. If General Mills feels the varroa mite is important enough to fight with a financial donation, certainly telling people about it on the website would have been a good idea. It also would have raised awareness about an issue most people know nothing about. Nonetheless, I’m happy that General Mills donates money to legitimate scientific research through a public university.
But those citations…
In his email, the Director stated only this: “It’s always best practice to cite to research directly, and we’re updating the website to do that.” True to his word, the citations on the website are updated to more reputable links (though not directly to scientific research…).
Honestly, I’m confused about the initial citation debacle. Were they just not prepared to launch “Save the Bees” so they decided to simply grab whatever citations were handy? If they work so closely on these issues and with the University of Minnesota, why didn’t they have citations to actual scientific sources? Why even think it was appropriate to link to extremist organizations – especially one as heinous as Greenpeace? Did they read the article from Greenpeace, which partially blamed genetically modified crops for bee problems? Or did they just get caught doing something dumb and that’s why they decided to change them?
Whatever the case, the citations to NRDC and Greenpeace have been removed. That’s a win.
I’m still irked that we are “saving” the bees when they don’t exactly need “saving.” Perhaps the campaign could have been something about helping the bees “thrive” or “supporting” pollinator health. I know, that doesn’t quite sound as snazzy, imminent, or heroic, but at least it would be more honest. In my response to General Mills’ PR Director, I shared this concern. Hopefully, future campaigns can more carefully consider wording choices. It isn’t that the campaign is bad or wrong, but is it a bit misleading and tries to capitalize on the bee-pocalypse type headlines.
So, go ahead: order your wildflower packets and don’t feel so bad about it now.