Saturday, March 19, 2016

GMOs, Food and First World Problems

I often tell people I am a proud producer of the food we all need. I am also not embarrassed or ashamed that the food I raise includes GMO crops or animals that have had antibiotics. I truly believe that both are important tools that help me produce more food with fewer inputs. In the case of antibiotic use in my livestock, I believe them necessary to take the best possible care of my animals. I am also certain that the food produced from GMO crops and livestock who have been given antibiotics properly are perfectly safe.
That is why it is so maddening when I hear or see ads that proclaim products antibiotic or GMO free. Of course the implication is that those products are somehow safer than food from GMOs or animals that have been given antibiotics. Each time I want to shout at the TV and tell them that GMOs are completely safe and all meat is antibiotic free. I do realize it is the consumer’s right to purchase the products they want.
However, the idea that we can decide how food is produced as a society is a first world problem and one that is very troubling. Several states have had referendums on GMO crops. In the forum of public opinion GMO crops are continually maligned and theorized to cause health problems. This is even though nothing has ever been scientifically proven and GMO crops have been deemed completely safe for human consumption. I challenge anyone to provide peer reviewed, proven scientific papers that prove otherwise.
The bottom line is that GMO crops are an important tool that allows us, as farmers, to produce more food with fewer inputs and less impact on the environment. We need them to feed an ever growing world population. We are also in the business of producing what the consumer wants, which creates a dilemma. Again I have absolutely no problem with producers who decide not to grow GMO crops. We are all part of the same team. However, as farmers who do choose to grow GMOs we need to stand up for the crops we grow.
It is up to us to dispel the myths perpetuated in social media and other channels. We need to talk about what we do and let the public know that our crops represent many years of scientific research and even more years of testing to insure their safety. In a world with a growing need for food we cannot let our food abundance lead us down the road of allowing assumptions and theories to override science.
Our use of antibiotics in livestock is also in jeopardy. Any of us who raise livestock understand the importance of their use. Antibiotics are a necessary tool for us to insure that the animals we care for are healthy and comfortable. If their use is limited or taken away completely animals will suffer unnecessarily. We will also not able to produce meat as efficiently as we need too.
Again, this restriction of animal antibiotics is based on theory and assumptions and not at all on hard science. What makes the antibiotic issue even more troubling is that our own government is falling victim to this hysteria. Again, I challenge anyone to provide me with undeniable proof that the antibiotics we use in the production of livestock have anything to do with antibiotic resistance in humans. The antibiotics we use in our livestock are safe, have been tested and we follow precautions to make sure they remain safe and reliable.
I know I am preaching to the choir. Most of us in agriculture understand the importance of all of the advances in modern agriculture. GMO crops and antibiotics for livestock are just two of the most important discoveries and they are crucial technologies when it comes to our ever growing world demand for food. We may not need them to feed the United States but they are critical to feed the world.
It is great that we have enough disposable income to allow us to pick and choose what foods we eat. I say more power to those who want to control how their food was grown and have the money to pay a premium for food that was produced in less efficient systems. That is their choice. However, I do have a problem when they try to force those decisions on others who may not have the means to afford those choices. That is why it is so critical, that we stand up for the technologies that help us produce food efficiently, affordably and safely.  

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