Archive for Genetically Modified Organisms

GMO’s – It’s a political issue!

On November 4th the issue of GMOs made it to the USA ballot box. For the first time Colorado, Oregon, Hawaii and California placed the question of GMOs before the electorate. Although the results didn’t rise to the same headline level given to the Republicans winning control of the Senate, many hurried to put their spin on the outcome.

The Actual Results of Four Votes

Initiatives requiring labels for genetically altered food were defeated in Colorado and Oregon. Voters in Hawaii and California adopted two county level bans on the production of genetically modified organisms. Does that make it a tie?

Here is a Closer Look

  1. Voters strongly rejected Proposition 105, which would have mandated labeling for genetically modified foods.
  2. The vote was much closer in Oregon, but Measure 92 still failed.
  3. Maui County, Hawaii. A ballot measure slapping a temporary ban on genetically engineered crops passed by a slim margin. The new law will prohibit the growth, testing, or cultivation of GMOs until environmental and health studies declare them safe.
  4. Humboldt County, California. Voters handily approved Measure P, which will prohibit growing genetically modified crops in the northern California County.

Looking at GMOs from Both Sides Now

Hawaiian opponents to the proposed law, which included agribusinesses and family farmers, called the law flawed and said it would hurt the local economy. Indeed, the GMO seed corn industry on Molokai Island, which is part of Maui County, may be threatened as a result of the election. But supporters, who were reportedly outspent by more than 87 to 1, hailed the result. “Residents of Hawaii are acutely aware of their islands’ ecological uniqueness, and they are willing to stand up to chemical companies to ensure that biodiversity is protected,” said Ashley Lukens of the Hawaii chapter of the Center for Food Safety.

Everybody is Claiming Victory

Regardless of the outcome, both sides are claiming victory.  This alone should signal that something irregular is at work here! Those in support of GMOs claim science won.  Those anti-GMOs say that million dollar campaigns made the difference.

Can’t Get Respect

You have often read here in The Bullvine that it is hard for farmers to be accorded respect for the 24/7 labor they put into food production.  However relative to GMOs, the real lack of respect is being given to the food consumer.  GMO activists see them not only as being easily manipulated by the big money interests, they are apparently unable, without threats and manipulation, to make healthy choices when feeding themselves and their families.  Of course, farmers don’t eat the food they produce or so anti-GMO activists would have the public believe.  Anti-GMO activists find that farmers are somehow immune to the deadly effects of something that would kill not only the animals that provide their living but themselves too!  These poor farmers simply don’t know any better!!

Finger Pointing at the Villains

Of course when any discussion descends to shouting and name calling, it is less and less likely that something beneficial to anybody will be the end result.  No one has a perfect answer. Extremists are lined up on both sides of the issues.  Agricultural is frustrated with misinformation.  From their viewpoint, ballot initiatives at the state level seem misguided at best and fear mongering at worst. With barn boots dug in, they are as unbending as the anti-activists who can only rally the cries driven by fear and mistrust.

“It is time to step back and choose elected leaders — from both viewpoints—who are willing to work together to find solutions.”

History Repeats Itself

The results in Colorado and Oregon follow similar ballot initiative defeats in California in 2012 and in Washington State in 2013. The food industry spent nearly $70 million to thwart those efforts.  The expenditure is not seen as information or education but, negatively, as brain-washing.

Put a Label On It

Now, legislative action around GMOs may shift to Congress, which will see Republicans take control of the Senate and expand their control of the House in the new year. A GOP-led Congress could add momentum to the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The bill was authored by the food industry and proposes voluntary GMO labeling nationwide.  It would preclude states from adopting their own mandatory labeling laws. The nominally bipartisan bill has had few co-sponsors, but a more business-friendly Washington could give it new life.

What in The World???

Genetically engineered foods must be labeled as such in 64 countries, but in the United States only Vermont has approved labels. Even there, the law doesn’t take effect until July 2016—if it can withstand legal challenges. Maine and Connecticut also have passed GMO labeling bills, but both remain dormant unless and until other states also pass similar legislation. Legislation to label genetically altered food has been introduced in 20 states.

From the Feed Box to the Ballot Box Which Way are the Tides Turning?

Despite the setbacks for GMO opponents, public distrust of genetically modified foods seems to be growing. And companies that make and sell food are paying attention. One example which is held up is that General Mills changed the recipe for Cheerios.  This was so that the product would no longer include genetically modified ingredients.  Another national retailer (Whole Foods) plans to label genetically altered products by 2018.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

So what does this mean for the dairy industry? The world of labeling products is changing. Consumers have the right to know what they put in their bodies.

Our industry needs to be proactive in the face of changing perspectives. Instead of fighting are we prepared to show that using GMOs is one way – one safe way – that we may be able to feed nine billion in 2050 and our milk products are not negatively impacted by GMOs.

Sitting on the fence is not an effective way to think outside the GMO ballot box.  



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Are We Safe, Sorry or Simply Afraid to Stand Up for rBST?

Mark Twain once remarked, “Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this…except that it ain’t so.”

For more than 20 years articles supporting the truth about the safety of rBST have been stacking up but have had little impact on settling the debate.  Critics are either unwilling or unable to accept two decades of findings regarding the safety of what a recent Hoard’s Dairyman article referred to as “the most studied product in the history of U.S. dairy farming.” All of which brings me to our love hate relationship with food and, most particularly, with health risks based on the use of rBST, GMOs and other modern livestock rearing practices.

Protests and Politics

The heated debate over so-called Frankenfoods is not only about the pros and cons of genetic manipulation to improve nutritional value and resistance to disease; it also concerns  honesty vs lies, ethics vs deceit  and fact vs fiction.

The trouble with trying to inform the misled or to defend those who would attack dairy producers, is that you always feel that you are perpetuating the drama.  However, when the industry is under constant attack, it is necessary for everyone of us to take a stand.  For those not inclined to active retaliation and the resulting frustrations, a less aggressive step might be as simple as sharing a well-written book. “The Frankenfood Myth” by Henry Miller and Gregory Conko takes a long, hard look at both the new agricultural biotechnology and the policy debate surrounding it. At some point, we must encourage all sides, including ourselves, to proactively encourage change.

From Panic to Prudence

It would be wonderful to declare categorically that all dairy farmers understand the science and nutrition of the products they produce and that everything is 100% safe. That would be wonderful but would it be true? There is no doubt that the technology is safe but are we accepting the responsibility for making sure the consumers whose purchasing power we depend on are as well-assured.

For one thing, before we ask the general public not to swallow the headlines from either side of this debate, we need to take a look at what is in our own glass and on our own plates.  It doesn’t matter whether you are involved in dairy farming 24/7 or only connect with dairy products at mealtime , it’s impossible to ignore headlines that blame everything from early onset puberty to excessive obesity  on hormones found in dairy products.  These truths or lies and the resulting consequences have frightening implications for every food consumer.  Of course, we all know that the easiest way to stir things up is to raise fears!  Fear of hormones is much easier to focus on than taking responsibility for what is happening to our hearts and waistlines by our own hand. Once you have an enemy to blame for obesity, heart disease and cancer, you can protest that this enemy is responsible for our one way ticket to a hospital ward and continue to be oblivious to the dangers of the “drive through”, “fast food” and “heat it and eat it” convenience foods.

Early Puberty and Rampant Childhood Obesity.  Who`s Responsibility is It?

Of course, farmers join all food consumers in having concerns about the potential problem of feeding hormones to our children.  But let’s start with the known before we raise the unknown fears. A child’s body produces 50,000 nanograms of estrogen per day.  A non-pregnant adult will produce 480,000 nanograms of estrogen daily.  Furthermore, when hormones in food  are eaten, they break down in the process of digestion and are largely neutralized.  The following listing of the amounts of estrogen in common servings of food is not to disparage in any way the food source itself, but is given as facts to understand not fears to react to.

Beef                     1.9 nanograms
Potatoes                225 nanograms
Peas                       340 nanograms
Ice Cream              520 nanograms
Cabbage             2,000 nanograms
Soy Milk           11,250 nanograms
Soybean Oil    170,000 nanograms

The 1.9 nanograms of estrogen in implanted beef is also miniscule.

At some point, farmer or not, we have to step back and take responsibility for our own health and that of our children.  Responsible dairy managers wouldn`t think of harming their calves and cows by feeding them a diet that would give them a body condition score of 5 (or at the other extreme -1).  Restricting bovine diets because of unsupported fears overheard or read about is also rarely done on farms.  In fact, there is extreme attention paid to balancing diets, providing minerals, proteins and nutrients that provide the energy needed for production and reproduction.  When I was first married and a young mother myself, I often was amazed at how much careful attention was focused on the pregnant bovine and felt that human nutrition could benefit from the same careful consideration.  Of course, as with most things we “discover”, the information has always been available, it is the implementation that is missing or ignored. Before we blame the farmer or accept unfounded fear-mongering, we have to use the same careful consideration on our family’s health that we apply to the dairy herd we care for.

That is part of the answer of where dairy products should fit into diets for youth.  Unfortunately, more than we want an answer we sometimes want to avoid responsibility.  When we are afraid it’s easy to point the finger at dairy farmers or, if we are one of those farmers, we yell back at the unreasonable name calling. Finding a guilty party lets us off the hook because we are not personally involved in food production and processing.  However, we can only remain oblivious as long as we ignore the obvious.   The obvious cause of obesity (on or off the farm)  is a direct result of excess calories consumed and the resulting increased levels of body fat.  “BMI (body mass index) is the biggest single factor for the onset of puberty.”

Which brings us back to fears laid at our dairy farming doorstep because the public is concerned about how their food is produced and, for today’s discussion, fears over the safety of rBST.  They are not wrong in their concern.  But we mustn’t sidestep our responsibility as dairy producers. It is our responsibility to  provide the right information, in open and honest discussion.  So let’s look at the facts that we can and should be sharing.

We Dairy Farmers Take Pride in the Progress Made in Providing Safe Healthy Food

  1. Recombinant bovine somatrotropin (BST) makes milk and money for producers who use it.
  2. rBST has been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) and by JECFA under the administration of the United Nations`Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization
  3. rBST has been approved in 1993, 1998 and will be reviewed again in 2016
  4. “Research has demonstrated that human somatrotropin increase immune system function in HIV infected people.”
  5. Overall, there is no evidence of increased expression of retroviruses in cattle treated with BST
  6.  or that retroviruses in cattle would pose a risk to human health.”

Dairy farmers can take pride in the self-regulating they have done in providing ever-healthier milk products to consumers.

percentage of bulk tankers testing positive for antibiotic residues 1995 to 2013

Somehow, in the modern media rush to condemn, we have lost sight of the basic principles of nutrition that we all know. Science supports the health benefits of the products dairy farms produce.  “In 2010 the U.S. Department of Agriculture even identified dairy products as a major source of 3 of 5 nutrients of concern that are marginal or inadequate in childrens’ diets.”  The other side of the equation is that healthy food must be provided for a dramatically increasing market of consumers. We must find efficient, productive and profitable ways to do so.  Research and resources will focus on that goal. Progress is built on discovering and using safe, healthy technology such as that provided by rBST. We need to speak up in defence of our industry.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

rBST is safe.  Does that mean our children, or even we ourselves,  are consuming the best possible diets?  Before we dig in to immovable positions on either side of that argument, we need to consider what we are digging into on our plates.

Achieving optimum health, like managing a productive dairy operation, is based on choices and, ultimately, we are all responsible for the choices we make.  Make good ones.



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Introducing The New Pick Your Own Crops: Education, Litigation and Regulation!

Many dairy farmers wear the name “Jack-of-All-Trades” with pride knowing that the extra skills they have mastered from welding, to machinery repair, to construction are positive contributors to the day to day work of dairy farming.  However, three new job skills are finding their way onto the farmer resume: teacher, lawyer and media expert. Although they have nothing to do with crops, cows or milk they are becoming necessary to keeping farming sustainable in the long term. It’s ironic that some of the biggest challenges facing the modern day food provider revolve around politics, legal challenges and negative publicity.  How they are handled, particularly, in developed countries could have a huge impact on choices on both sides of the agricultural fence.

It is hard to imagine that any passionate cow breeder would have foreseen the day that they would reach out to regulators, lawyers and reporters in an attempt to find common ground.  Of course, there are still many who don’t see any of these as a logical part of their farm team …. and are facing the fallout as a result.

In an earlier Bullvine articles, “GMOs Beyond Right and Wrong” and we urged farmers to speak up in order to clear up misconceptions regarding dairy farming from motivation to production.  Many excellent spokespeople continue to do exactly that but, for those who are keeping score, there have been both hits and misses on the target of using communication to avoid litigation and regulation.  At the same time that any one area leads us forward (for example genomic selection), there are fifteen “anti” positions that demand answers and throw up roadblocks.  The same is true, if we expand our viewpoint to include environmental issues. And that doesn’t begin to cover what happens when you stir media and emotion into the mix.

Of course, it is part human nature and part media hype that means that the most negative stories are the first to come to mind.  Five years ago DeRuyter Brothers Dairy in Outlook Washington became the defendant in a suit brought by the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment.  Although the suit was eventually dropped it was two years of legal hell for the DeRuyters.  Sadly, at the end of the day, the activists weren’t really as concerned about air quality as they were at making headlines.  The issues that were addressed barely blipped on their radar.

Also in Washington State, twelve dairies in Yakima County worked with air-quality scientists and regulators to reduce air emissions (for more information see reports of the Western Dairy Air Quality Symposium).  Their efforts and responsible approach to the issues didn’t inspire the dramatic headlines that accusations of guilt earn on the front pages.

It is unfortunate that the assumption of farmer guilt is the starting point.  With this negative mind set it actually works against agriculture to present scientifically backed arguments.  Remember when Mother used to be suspicious of overly long protestations of innocence?  Today any positions proclaiming a scientific defence are seen as “extravagant claims” that can’t possibly be lived up to. And, of course, if it’s a benefit to the farmer, it must obviously follow that there will be environmental and health issues for the non-farming public.

Somewhere in the evolution from a time when everyone was connected to a farm or farmer, we consumers appear to have lost trust in our food providers.  Is it possible to return to that “rosier” time?  Not likely.  However if full trust is unattainable we can still use common sense.  I have to ask why it is assumed that dairy farmers – who also must eat to survive — would invest a million dollars (at the least) to provide food that does harm to themselves and their children? The profit motive doesn`t stretch that far. So where does that leave us?

There is no quick and easy answer.  Education is slow.  Regulation is slow.  Conflict, on the other hand is fast and furious.  What we need are credible current studies. We also need to pay for them! Another rub as how this solution hits producers’ wallets. Proven facts need to be placed alongside the emotional fallacies.  And this adds even more time investment problems in an industry that already faces the time constraints of raising animals from birth to production and also  deals with the seasonal calendar of crop production. Which brings us to even more slowdowns as the anti movement puts the brakes on crop production development.  There are many examples. France and Austria are anti-biotech with the result that some GM crops have waited 10 years and there is still no progress.  The current regulatory delay sits at 5.5 years – a substantial increase from 3.7 years in 2002. (“Worried Sick about GMOs”)

These are very real concerns.  Then you add in the financial implications.  CropLife International is a global federation representing the plant science industry (Read more A CropLife report suggests that it costs nearly $140 million to discover and commercialize a new crop.  To these two issues we can add the continuous growth of the bureaucracy that builds around them, including regulation, education and litigation. This is growing heavier all the time.  In ironic contrast, the growth in crop yields in major food crops is stagnating.  This is completely upside down to what is needed. The crop growth statistics are the ones we need to see growing if we intend to provide food for future populations.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist on less productive methods – such as organic– and then turn around and say that land must not be turned from nature to agriculture.  Agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk. But logic doesn`t always win the day. You can literally play “true or false” until the cows come home but what is really needed is continuous support of myth-busting (particularly in the media) and comprehensive rules and regulations that support the proven science.  Now this should be welcomed by those sides.  However, there currently are not such comprehensive systems in place and past history leads us to fear that when rules are enforced and regulations met, the fallback position frustratingly becomes that “either the rules or the enforcers are insufficient, ineffective or in some way defective”.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

At some point, we have to admit that we cannot allow the conflict to become more important than the issues that need to be solved. What we really need are more cool heads and fewer hot buttons.  Now that`s something I would like to see on resumés from both sides of the debate!


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Worried Sick About GMOs!

Arguing about the methods used to grow our food is a luxury of people living in affluent nations.  There are one billion chronically undernourished people of low income in underdeveloped countries. They would find it appalling to reject a plate of food based on whether it was natural or genetically modified. Daily they face a life and death situation. So called “consensus based best practices” mean nothing to their struggle.

We need to put food production into its proper perspective.  Biotech or organically produced food inspires wildly opposing positions. But are they really so far apart?  The answer is “Yes!” if you hold the all or nothing position that natural is all good and artificial is all bad.

I have been part of conversations (usually after eating too much of a delicious meal) where the proposal from full stomachs is that the world would be a “better place”  if we in the west ate less meat and fewer calories so that people in developing countries would have more.  Pardon me.  But that is baloney! Appreciate what we have? Definitely. Believe that our restrictions can be fairly doled out by some imaginary balanced delivery system?  No way.

Do I dislike natural?  No.  But there are good reasons why most of us live longer than our natural farming forefathers. That reason is that some of the natural killers like e-coli and mould are not now taking their toll on our crops, our food and our years. I am also a realist and decided when my children were young to make it a mother-task to take classes in Materia Medica and Pharmacology. Like everyone, I am surrounded by naturals such as foxgloves, castor beans and lily of the valley that are all natural and all poisons that I keep away from my loved ones. Natural sugar, a not so obvious poison, is a particular sick-maker in our family. You won’t find me saying, “It’s natural so how much harm can it do?”  “Natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown” and “all natural” are the holy grail of anti-GMO law makers who seek to keep those terms off of genetically modified or genetically engineered crops. The label alone won’t make any difference if sustainable agriculture becomes impossible.

Natural does not mean harmless. Everything has a chemical makeup which can be studied and copied and or modified – hence Genetically Modified Organisms.  We are chemical beings.  The good and the bad are derived from the combinations not the source of the combinations!  So if you’re forewarned and realistic about natural, what is your position on modern technology?  If it’s new, shiny, computerised and different…. does it necessarily follow that there will be health risks?  We need to be responsible for the choices we make to nourish ourselves.

There has to be reasoned decision making.  For example in 2011 natural organic bean sprouts were the cause of fifty-three deaths and thousands suffered kidney failure in Germany. The bean sprouts from Egypt were infected by animal manure.  Closer to home, I have often marvelled at neighbouring organic farmers, who without bias use manure from their less enlightened neighbours to raise “all organic” food products that are then sold at a premium price.  Talk about a loaded pitchfork. Any natural organism can be infected by pollution from ALL sources around it. Like the people in Germany, consumers chose this food because they thought it was safer, healthier and natural.  The unfortunate conclusion.  There are many natural ways to get sick and die.

In the 60’s we were bombarded with warnings that, because of overpopulation, millions of people would soon starve and that there was absolutely nothing that could be done to prevent it.  Thankfully Paul Ehrlich’s “It’s already too late” warning in his book “Population Bomb” was proven to be wrong.  His advice to allow people in India to starve sooner rather than later also never became the solution to population growth.  Instead, Norman Borlaug, who did not succumb to this “truth”, was inspired to create the Green Revolution.  Malnutrition was cut dramatically and India became self sufficient.  Poverty and malnutrition continue to need addressing.  Today there are close to 800 million people who go to bed hungry each night.  They are the ones who need food that is safe to eat.

We are told that GM foods have not been shown to be safe to eat.  If you accept that statement, there is nothing to be said to help you.  If twenty years of people consuming genetically modified corn, soy and other crops isn’t proof enough, nothing will be. In actual fact corn has been genetically modified since the first Europeans arrived in North America.  Imagine the trillions of meals consumed without a single substantiated case that GMOs have caused harm. Where do the naysayers place the documented cases of death from organic causes?  Organizations including the World Health Organization and the National Academy of Science believe GM foods pose no likely health risk.

Let’s turn to the potato for another example.  A blight-resistant potato was being developed by both the Sainsbury Lab and Teagasc, a publicly-funded institute in Ireland.  However the Irish Green Party was so adamantly opposed that they took court action against it. The attack was undertaken despite the fact that the blight-resistant potato would require 15 less fungicide sprays per season. Further pollen transfer was not an issue because potatoes are clonally propagated.  The offending gene came from a wild relative of the potato.  The case was won and for the second time in their history, the Irish suffered potato loss.  The first time a million or more died during the 19th century famine. In the 21st century they lost the opportunity to defeat blight.

There are emotional stories on both sides of the GMO issue.  It affects me personally and several members of my family. We would suffer if there was a total GMO ban. As a diabetic and two-time cancer survivor, I am really quite happy to keep chugging along with GMO insulin. Facing the issues with a balanced approach and trusting in the science makes an informed decision the healthiest one for me.

The issue is never about who is right and who is wrong.  It is about who is fed.  Who is healthy?  As discussed in today’s challenge is how we will manage to feed 9.5 billion people by 2050 (Read more: GMO’s Beyond Right and Wrong).  How can we do it on about the same land as we use today because we do suffer if natural areas are taken over by agriculture. How do we achieve this production using limited fertiliser, water and pesticides in the context of a rapidly changing climate?

Angry voices are raised by people who would not have their own children grow up to be farmers or grow food themselves.  They are angry about how the food is produced – despite the abundance. Yet in countries where growing your own food is the only option, these same voices insist that food production must be done in the slowest method possible. Sitting at a computer where you can “share” anti-GMO sentiments with the tap of a finger does nothing to provide for those with empty stomachs.  The image of natural works best when you have three meals a day!

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Today we face risks as food producers and consumers.  But the risk is definitely not who will be harmed by GM food but who will be denied enough food.  Yes the image of “natural” has appeal!  But only for the rich.  And that’s exactly what has me worried sick.


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GMOs: Beyond Right and Wrong

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.

GMOs Throw Dirt… Lose Ground

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.

The Win-Sin Battle between Good and Evil

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.

It`s Your Choice

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.

Take off the Rose Colored Glasses

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!

Where Praise is Due

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.

Survival of the Fittest or “Who Controls Who?”

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”.

Two Different Paths … the Same Destination

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,

The world must be fed.

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?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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.


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