Thursday, September 12, 2013

College, Education and Agrculture

The college experience is a great time in everyone’s life, for many of us it is a time to start living on our own, to gain new experiences and to see what the rest of the world is like. It is also a time when most of us are exposed to many points of view and not all of them are good or truthful.  College newspapers are a good source of “new philosophy” and recently once such column was brought to my attention.
The column was about the benefits of organic farming and the evils of conventional agriculture. Right off let’s make one thing clear; I have no problem with organic farming. All of us in the realm of agriculture are on the same team and I am supportive of my organic counterparts. Producing food and fiber is a tough job, no matter how you go about it and we all need to stick together.
I do, however, take offense to those who directly attack conventional agriculture. I do not know this writer’s background, I am fairly certain they are not directly involved with farming or ranching and that they get the majority of their information (if not all of it) from the internet. The column was filled with bad theories, twisted assumptions and outright fiction and it needed to be answered.
Right off the title of the article said organic farming was more efficient and healthier. Let’s look at the efficiency part first. We all know that the development of new technology like gmo crops have made us far more efficient. Before the introduction of Round-up Ready crops we all spent more time cultivating and weeding our crops. Prior to no-till many more passes were made in preparation during planting season. We are far more efficient whether we are talking about fuel, labor or any other input.
The author also asserts that the soil in an organic setting is healthier. I whole heartedly disagree with this. No-till on our farm has allowed us to build the organic matter back to levels that have not been seen since the sod was broken. It does my heart good when I can see the remains of the last two crops on the ground under this current crop. Because we are not tilling the residue slows the rainfall down and we lose much less soil to erosion.
The author also makes the assumption that organic farmers are promoting a more environmentally sound method of agricultural production because they rotate crops and do not promote a monoculture. We all know crop rotation is something that bridges across all segments of crop production. We have all learned that a diversified mix of crops is good not only in terms of pest management but also for economic well-being. No one wants to put all of their eggs into one basket.
Finally, the columnist alleges that organic food is healthier for us to eat. No credible research has ever borne this out. I have seen no peer reviewed, fact based articles stating that conventionally raised food containing gmo crops pose any kind of a health risk. The only articles I have seen stating there is a health risk are those on the internet from dubious sources with no iron clad research to back them up.
What I saw in the Collegian’s column was the same inter-net based rumors and outright lies that the author had extrapolated into a very well written attack on conventional agriculture. The column went on to say that all the food we need could be grown locally, even in cities. While this theory is nice and may even work on paper, those of us in agriculture know that it will not work.
The accusation was even made that modern agriculture was somehow contributing to hunger and starvation. That is the most outright lie in the whole mess. It is a well known fact that we need to increase production of food significantly to meet the demand of a growing population and we need to increase it on a curve steeper than the one we are on right now. I am sorry, but this cannot be done in any other way than to increase and continue to develop those technologies available to agriculture.
The bottom line is that the column highlights the misinformation our next generation of consumers is being exposed to. We need to step in and provide them with the facts and tell our story. If we stay silent more people like this columnist will fill the void with sensational propaganda and influence a whole generation of consumers. We must all be vigilant and take the time and opportunities to dispel bad information with the truth. That truth is that we are all proud producers, using the most up-to-date technologies to feed an ever-growing world.

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