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It is urgent to separate the police agenda from Brazil’s sustainable development one

The author studied Environmental Journalism at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris). He worked in the "State of S. Paulo" for about 20 years, inaugurating the coverage of environmental themes in the Brazilian press. He also coordinated the economic area of the same newspaper. He was for four years a correspondent in Paris of several press agencies, in Paris. He has been involved in the study of Strategic Marketing (Risk Management in Communication) for about fifteen years, focusing on structuring sectors of the economy, especially the food value chain. He is currently the Executive Manager of the Forum Forum of the Future, a "Think Tank" dedicated to the debate on sustainable development in food value chains in Brazil.

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By Fernando Barros

We Brazilians have finally learned, at a very high price, the economic and social significance for our country of animal proteins’ production, industrialization and commercialization.  

It was necessary the breaking of  the meat scandal to society get informed that Brazil’s meat industry  accounts for 0.7% of the country’s GDP and exports to 160 countries at a value of almost $13 billion yearly.

It  is now clear to everybody that gaining space in  international markets is difficult, complex and time-consuming;  that the food value chain is the most structuring and dynamic part of the Brazilian sustainable development projet.

Brazil has around 5,000 meatpacking plants, of which three were suspendend and less than twenty are currently under investigation. Around 850 thousand shipments were made last year, of which in less than 200 were found anomalies of any kind, many of which unrelated to health protection.

But have we truly learned from this episode that the world has changed?  That strategic communication should be part of strategic national policies? That the “total transparency” environment we live today  no longer allows companies to have any degree of leniency between their processes of governance and quality controls with the political-analogical world, echo of a past we are literally watching to melt?

Does Brazil’s Federal Police gets the necessary advise on risk management in Communication to properly assess its statements and initiatives impacts? Wouldn’t be a bravado to make statements such as “the biggest” operation in the force’s history?  Wouldn’t it be a whim aimed at gathering public opinion support  this explosive cocktail mixing agribusiness and social impatience with corruption?

Government, companies and institutions of science still relates with society through information platforms designed in the 20th century, as it’s the case of press services that in most cases acts reactively. This simply doesn’t work in our days, when information id instantaneous and widespread, with explosive reverberation through social networks.

Key words of this new era are not anymore  read, heard, interpreted, considered, but sharing, interacting, post-truth.

We haf a good example of what not-to-do in Brasilia, recently, when a high Ministry of Finance official tried to present to the press an important and very complex proposal of reform on social security. He tried to do it just talking, without support of power-points, infographics and even without a previously prepared paper. The result was a complete mess, and a negative impact in society that is blocking the reform up to now.

I sincerely hope that we do not repeat the misjudgment we made eight years ago when the chairmant of the Irish Fresh Meat Union called a press conference to accuse Brazil of offering meat without traceability. Our unpreparedness to answer caused about $ 1.5 billion in losses. But worst, it seems we have not advanced in the structural debate under the perspective of Strategic Communication. What we need now is to dialogue through the construction of new contents.

Why not introduce in the national agenda the debating of the urgent need to implement standards of regulation, traceability and certification of origin? Why not work the structural armor of the sector that would allow us to invade the cultural universe of opinion makers and realize the social production of meaning of the facts of agriculture.

Brazilian companies have been investinf a lot in advertising, which is an important piece in the world of communication, but that in crisis periods only shows the real dimension of its fragility.

Why not to make an effort to  describe the contribution of sustainable tropical agriculture to the well-being of people in the field of the democratization of food supply? The last 40 years of research, innovation and technology in the country’s food production and industrialization reveal the most substantive Brazilian contribution to the civilizing process of mankind.

How many people  even  here in Brazil know about this?

Why do we still live in the net with grotesque information such as the one that accuses Agribusiness of “consuming” 70% of the water available in Brazil? Why not decisively change this cognitive picture regarding the strategic role of the food value chain in Brazil’s future vision by insisting on the economic, technical and scientific narratives that preside over the dominant discourse of the sector in the direction of society.

William Gibson, an American writer, teaches us that “the future has arrived, it is not evenly distributed.” In this future, Communication will be a central issue for government, companies, consumers and citizens.

What this crisis is saying to us is that we have to draw constructive answers capable of inserting a new agenda in the national debate. That it represents an opportunity to emphasize the relevance of the debate on the effectiveness of indicators available in the economic world to capture the tangible and intangible contribution of the food sector to society as a whole.

At the heart of these challenges are research funding, incentives for innovation, which will no longer come from Government in the dimension required by Brazil’s new role in global food supply. It is necessary to dialogue with the citizens, who ultimately holds the power of choice, determination of the future itself.

It is urgent to separate the police agenda from Brazil’s sustainable development agenda.