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The integrity of the seafood industry doesn’t lie solely in the marketing of a single fish or the sustainability story of a single species. It lies with the ability of a community of competitors to look outside the industry and confidently say – yes, that’s how we do business over here and we stand behind both our messaging and our methods.
The cola wars have been a well know battleground for both product and marketing innovation. But never have we heard Coke erroneously claim Pepsi is a dangerous product that could sicken consumers. Could Coke commission some quasi-science about sugar content, dyes and artificial sweeteners and then go guns blazing after Pepsi with a half cocked misinformation campaign? Sure, it could. But would it? No.
Coke knows false allegations, exaggerations and spin would strike at the integrity of the whole soft drink industry and it’s smarter than that.
Some members of the domestic catfish industry continue to rely on a worn out strategy of distorting science and abusing public trust in the discussion about food safety by targeting foreign competition with unsubstantiated public health claims and, quite frankly, xenophobic attacks. This strategy is and has been an embarrassment to the seafood community and continues to undermine the whole industry’s integrity.
It doesn’t help the rest of the industry when major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal make note of the domestic catfish industry’s “protectionism veiled as food safety” (07.14.09) or comment that, “this Keystone protectionism would be funny if it weren’t so serious” (05.20.10). Likewise, having the Washington Post mock the domestic catfish strategy by leading its reporting with “what follows is a fish tale, though this one is actually true” (03.11.08) does nothing but make the whole industry look bad.
A business model that includes stifling competition by attempting to regulate imports out of the market with exaggerated attacks and twisted food safety claims is one that threatens the integrity of an entire industry.
If not careful, reaping what we sow can be a painful process.