There are some issues that polarize everybody and the debate over GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) does that. People emphatically declare that the facts are black or white, wrong or right one way or the other. If you’re on the wrong side, you are not only politically incorrect but you offend science, religion and the environment. This does not sound like the win-win situation that we are encouraged to seek in most areas of life. Indeed when it comes to GMOs we are determined to prove only one thing… and that is that… the OTHER side is absolutely wrong.
It’s a no win situation with both sides throwing dirt at each other in the press, on TV, in rallies, parades and even, resorting to boycotts and stand offs. There’s an old saying that my grandmother (a mother of 10 and grandmother of 43) quoted effectively when rivalry escalated to harmful levels, “Whenever you throw dirt, you lose ground.” Today`s dirt throwing GMO war of the words has shifted the focus from the production of sustainable, healthy food to a challenge of the very character of the producers. Like anything, even when incorrect, if it is repeated often enough, it gains the perception of truth. As a result consumers are beginning to bite the very hand that feeds them.
Emotions run high when you’re talking about the life-giving food required by every living thing. Add into the mix, the conspiracy theory that money will make food producers sell their souls and it becomes a battle between right and wrong, good and evil. At the other extreme, the equally evil fanaticist viewpoint is that farmers, unlike their apparently perfect forebears, are working fiendishly with big science or big companies to give you cancer, make you fatter and, generally, ruin your good health.
The underlying fear of sickness, misinformation about food-raising processes and a desire for an absolute answer propels the attack on food producers. If only it were that simple. A target allows us to lay the blame for sickness and obesity onto someone else. But at the end of the day it isn’t some agricultural trickster but our own choices that are making us sick and fat. It’s the choices that are made that produce the results that raise alarms for the health of future generations. And choice is a fundamental part of the GMO or anti-GMO debate. People who are anti-GMO have the absolute right to choose what they eat. People who produce food have the absolute right to choose what to grow. It’s hypocritical to limit the choice of either side.
We often look to the past and assume it must have been better and healthier then. We must not overlook the facts. There are reasons that the life expectancy for our farming forefathers was considerably less than today’s norms. Every early farmer practiced genetic selection to improve food production. It’s even harder and more necessary to select for improvement today. Try growing an organic garden in the city with all of the challenges – air pollution, lack of water and too much or not enough sunshine. Imagine if your life depended on the results. That’s farming!
That’s were kudos go to the scientists who are creating seeds and foods that can withstand so many adversities. Kudos to scientists and farmers who are taking responsibility for reducing chemical applications. With the advent of GMO crops there is significantly less usage of insecticides and herbicides. With so few farmers providing for so many, subsistence farming is now obsolete.
Whether you`re talking animal genetics or plant genetics, survival of the fittest has been nature`s way of modification. Weeds, like any other life form, adapt to survive. Weeds adapt to cultural practices as well as chemical. Growing food or crops in a “steel city”, as we do, is a challenge before a single chemical has been applied to the fields. One “strong” unrestrained monoculture that provides no edible benefits for man or animals is an ever present challenge. Drive along any roadway and ask yourself what has happened to biodiversity? It’s not blame but “better” that we need to aim for.
Here at The Bullvine we raise the question of animal genetics and GMOs (Read more: Are You Ready For Genetically Modified Cattle? ). Again ours is an industry with numerous regulations and scientific studies driving profitability and sustainability. Again there are big guys, bad guys and concerns for safety and health issues of the food products we are producing. And again, it isn’t blame but “better” that should be the driving mantra for the future. It will be too bad if we resort to, “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up”.
Total agreement is not the goal. Total vindication of one side or the other doesn`t serve any constructive purpose. Regardless of absolute right or wrong there is one absolute truth,
During the next 40 years the world`s population is projected to reach more than nine billion people. Demand for food is expected to increase by 60 percent. The competition for land, water and food will escalate and is having a very real impact on food production and therefore on health, poverty and hunger. We must find a way to safely and sustainably support the world`s poorest and most vulnerable.
Without returning to everyone becoming a food producer, there is no way to feed the huge and growing demand. Yes! Small scale farmers feed 70% of the world…but they are subsistence farming to sustain their own family. North American farmers are producing to provide for a growing population. Not every country can do this. But imagine a scenario where everyone ate only locally grown, organic food. Where does that leave metropolitan areas? We cannot turn back the clock on large cities. In that scenario, what would become of Tokyo, New York, London or Rio de Janeiro?
In every responsible home there is the desire to make better choices for the health of our families. On the farm, we make those choices too with the added responsibility of providing for others. There is a time and a place to hear the concerns of all sides of the debate. We farmers must defend and guarantee the food products we produce. Don’t throw dirt but hold our ground. We must not be silent.
Bullvine writer, Karen Hunt, is a dairy-farm wife who is an author, entrepreneur and champion of all things rural and family farm. Karen loves the wordy side of life. Husband, three children, eight grandchildren, thirty cows and Jack Russell terriers are her inspiration!