In the great food debate, there are many options - local or commercial, GMO or non-GMO, organic or non-organic, with or without this ingredient. The options are numerous, but somewhere along the way we bought into the angst that food is either good OR bad. We all want choices, BUT we reserve the right to declare those that are different from mine to be wrong! A more respectful stance is to allow different views along a spectrum of choices of this AND that.
Recently, I moderated a panel discussion at the North American Millers' Association Corn Conference in Peoria, Illinois. Initially, the conversation was going to focus on non-GMO labeling and corn products. The panelists included experts in seed certification, seed production, corn milling, post-harvest testing, and a non-GMO certifying/labeling organization. During the panel discussion, we talked about labeling standards, food safety, corn production systems, grain handling and processing, food products, and consumer marketing. It would have been easy to referee a food fight with accusations, mistrust, half-truths, and BUTs/ORs, as if there were two sides clubbing each other with their ideas. Instead, we focused on AND which kept everyone engaged in the conversation. We talked about consumer confusion, market disruption, targeted uses, as well as trust, credibility, integrity, and affordability. In the end, we didn't agree philosophically and yet we agreed to continue the conversation recognizing our responsibility to consumers, farmers, families, and all the other stakeholders.
How much more progress we can make if our exchanges deepen our understanding rather than deepen our divides. Imagine a news program in which one expert pauses and says, "Hmm, I never considered that before. I think we should explore that more deeply." Listening may lead to better understanding.
So the next time someone wants to BUT in or asks you to BUT out, offer your AND instead and see where the conversation goes.