Saturday, February 15, 2014

Anti-biotic Free GMOs

All of the sudden it happened. Kind of like a car wreck or being pulled into quick sand. There I was minding my own business, doing my chores and wham, we were calving and lambing. Sure we have been lambing for about a month now and that endeavor is starting to wind down. Another couple of weeks and we will be down to the stragglers but I got my first calf yesterday.
Now let me preface this whining by saying I love this time of the year. That is I love it when things go right and so far this year, things have went pretty right. Oh sure we have had a couple of hiccups with the sheep, but so far so good. Things have gone pretty good, especially for the cold weather we have had. Cold weather and lambing mean a lot of late night and early morning checks.
I was joking with someone the other day that I felt like the Duncan Doughnuts baker. For those of you too young to remember, the Duncan Doughnuts baker would say “Gotta bake the doughnuts” as he walked out of the house and past himself coming back home from the doughnut shop. Lately I have wondered if I would meet myself walking back from the lambing barn on my 5:30 am check.
During this time of the year I generally don’t venture too far from home and I work really hard to keep myself awake so I can go out at 10:00 and check the ewes.  Because of that I probably spend more time reading, watching TV and surfing the web than usual. What I have noticed is a couple of trends that I would say are threatening agriculture.
First of all, is the trend of promoting anti-biotic free, hormone free meat.  This past week I had a lamb with pneumonia that I saved using the best in anti-biotics available to me. I have no doubt that this lamb would have died and suffered needlessly if I had not given it medicine. I also have a ewe and a cow that I am feeding antibiotics to for foot infections. I really think both would have lost their foot or maybe even died if I had not been able to treat them.
I know the argument is more about the feeding of anti-biotics, but I assure you it is a small leap to banning them altogether. There is still not credible proof that any of the anti-biotic resistance in humans is caused by what we do in agriculture. I take great pride in the ability to care for my animals and provide them with the best of what I have to offer. Because of this I take great care to follow all of the instructions for their use.
The other disturbing trend I see is the demonization of gmo crops. Cheerios has come out and vowed to try to make its original cereal gmo free. Well, that might not be such a stretch since oats are not gmo crops, but the message they are sending/ caving into is troubling. I have done a lot of reading in the past month and I can find no credible, peer reviewed source that can say that gmo crops pose any kind of risk to us at all.
I can find lots and lots of sources that claim gmo crops pose any kind of risk from Alzheimer’s to digestive problems to behavioral problems in children. One such article claimed that genetically modified wheat is harming our digestive systems because of added DNA. That is totally false and incredibly misleading. First of all, wheat is not a gmo crop and secondly even the crops that are pose no risk whatsoever. Most of the bad information comes from politically motivated groups and nations or those wanting to make a quick buck posing as nutritional “experts”.
How do we stem this tide of over active fears spurred on by false accusations and misleading information? We need to be active and spread the word that the technology we rely on in modern agriculture is safe. We need to make sure that we tell our story and let people know that if we are going to feed an ever growing world population we must have these tools in our toolbox.
Even in my sleep deprived, blurry calving/lambing zombie state, I have tried to answer any false claims that I come across. I have tried to refute bad information with good, sound science and in the process tried to tell the true story of agriculture as we produce the food and fiber we all need. Now if you will excuse me, I must go check the lambing barn. Gotta check the lambs, gotta check the lambs.

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