Gardening / Social Media

Riding on the Wave of Fear – Gardening and Facebook Delusions

It is gardening time. So, many of my Facebook-friends are publishing albums with flowers, some with the typical filter to give it a nostalgic atmosphere, some without. The pride of garden-owners is everywhere. Just in time news arrived on Facebook that the European Commission plans a new law concerning seeds which allows only registered seeds – even in private gardens. The author described that old sorts would disappear under this direction.



I did not trust this article because it did not tell me the source of this news. But the article contains a link to a draft legislative provision on the homepage of European Union. 35 pages which none of my Facebook-friends read before sharing this scandalous news about the possible new law. The article is published on a homepage which I have never seen before, but looks like a newspaper. So, many people trusted the information and shared it – million times in two days.

The consequence: Many people are worried about the future of their own gardening activities and they spread the news. Some of these people are networking with politicians in their hometown and they tried to find out how they can avoid this law.

I have talked to our members of the European Parliament as well – as soon as I got the news. I am reporting about agriculture and food controls often enough, so I could not imagine how someone might control private gardeners as strictly as the food industry should be controlled. Why are there so many scandals about our food sold in the supermarkets? Because even for those standards it is impossible to control everything and our agricultural system still works as a system of trust and believe, which means: “We trust and believe in the quality management of the farmers and firms.”

Even with our current standards and agricultural laws the European Union is not able to regulate everything. Why should someone invent a law against private gardening with old sorts of vegetables? Of course, it is difficult to sell (!) the seeds of old sorts. You need a special license which proves that it is registered and you are allowed to sell it. But a law against producing seeds for your own and perhaps your neighbours’ use sounded incredible.

The members of the European Parliament were surprised about the news on Facebook. They told me what they are really preparing: a more simple law which contains and summarizes all the different laws since 1962. They do not want to support a big American firm producing seeds. They want to make clearer rules for farmers about which seed they are allowed to buy and how to handle them. They did not even think about any rules for private gardeners. But after the news spread on Facebook they got many calls from shocked citizens.

I admit: I am guilty of sharing the news in the social network, too. But I did correct myself and wrote a comment about the wrong alert very soon. What might be interesting is that many people believe that they are powerless against lobbyism in a globalized world. In social networks they find the possibility to react as a swarm – even if this means riding on a wave of fear and not facts. The more you share the articles which contains your protest, the more power you are gaining.

Unfortunately often enough this leads to nothing because social networks are a chaotic system: They give you the impression to inform the world but it is not like journalism which is more often taken seriously by politicians. It is a fox in the hen coop but not the fence to make him stay outside.

Revolution and protest seem to be easy in modern times. All the Office-Che-Guevaras “inform” their friends about worldwide problems and they are feeling better by posting and sharing. But what about all the people at the basis of democratic parties and organizations? They are posting and sharing too but they are spending their spare time to become well-informed and try to find their special field in politics.

It is disrespectful that so many people are thinking that they are informed enough to spread the news and to change the world. Not to be misunderstood: I am really happy if people notice that big firms try to control our food. But I think it might be more useful to support the party with the lowest common denominator. It is simpler to ride on the wave of fear than to be noticed as a respectable journalist or politician. In social networks you only need a headline which causes emotions.

A comment by Stefanie Riepe

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