By Mike Barnett

Texas Farm Bureau:A high-tech world for everyone but farmers? Get real.

Am I going nuts?

Okay, don’t answer that.

But the food crazies are driving me insane. Seems that every production practice modern agriculture uses is condemned by some group out there who thinks the world would be rosy if we would only go back to the good old days.

I heard Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples the other night say that modern agriculture is as technically advanced as the Silicon Valley. And he’s right.

Yet many food crazies long for the days of 40 acres and a mule and human cotton-picking machines. What’s this world coming to?

Today’s farmer has to be part computer geek, half techno freak with a good dash of policy wonk just to make it through the work day. Astounding gains in farm productivity have been made with the advance of machinery and tools. Computers and microchips help farmers get the most out of every input. Satellites soaring 12,000 miles over Mother Earth guide the farmer working the field with precise application of pesticides and fertilizers via Global Positioning Systems (GPS).

A chip in a calf’s ear can help a rancher monitor that animal’s growth and productivity. A chip in a dairy cow’s ear can help the dairyman monitor feed intake and milk production.

Through biotechnology, crops are becoming more drought resistant. Fruits and veggies are receiving improved tolerance to frost. Insect-resistant crops will reduce the need for pesticides. Genetic research could lead the way to higher growth rates, better milk yield and quality, tenderness, disease resistance, heat and cold tolerance, and hundreds of other traits important to livestock producers.

Yet all of this is bad. Why? Because someone with no connection to the food they eat—other than sticking it in their mouth—says so.

They watch their anti-agriculture documentaries on their 50 inch flat screens in their air conditioned homes, hop in their gas-guzzling SUVs to take a trip to Whole Foods where they’re faced with astounding array of food and come home, fire up their Netbook or Notebook or I-Phone and label modern food production practices as evil industrial agriculture. Technology drives their lives yet they attempt to create firewalls between farmers and science.

Do these people really long for a simpler way of life? There’s a way for them to achieve it. A hoe, rake, seeds and some backbreaking work could help them reach their goals.

It’s enough to drive me crazy.

Technology is not an option for agriculture or consumers. It is the key for safe, affordable food in this country and to feed an ever-growing world population.

Visit the Texas Farm Bureau website at www.txfb.org.
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Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

42 Responses to “A high-tech world for everyone but farmers? Get real.”

  1. John Dayo says:

    Rarely do i see articles so devoid of fact, or any real piece of information. Technology is most assuredly not the best option for safe food, and while it is more affordable in the short term, when it comes to the long-term health costs of GMO food, the jury is most assuredly still out.

  2. "written by an suv driving, flat screen watching, food shoveling, and let me take a guess…. over weight writing critic? Well, I am a non- tv watching, home grown food lover, powered by my own energy and AWARE of GMO monsanto science. Give me a break and get real."

    "and I’m not condemning "modern production practices". I don’t disagree with any of the practices you mentioned except biotech – for crops or animals. Biotech may be important to some farmers, but it is not wanted by most consumers, once they know what they are being fed. If consumers are not willing to "stick it … See Morein their mouths" it isn’t going to be … See Morethe key to anything and growing them won’t be a profitable option for farmers. Simple supply and demand. "Food crazies" are achieving a "simpler way of life" by growing our own and by giving our hard earned money to farmers who grow what we want. Oh, did you forget, those people "with no connection to the food they eat – other than sticking it in their mouths" are how you get paid? Perhaps offering them what they want would be better than trying to shove biotech down their throats."

  3. ‘well, if we only take what this blogger is saying at face value, he is correct. Food is seemingly more abundant, drought resistant, etc. All the bells and whistles of technology must make his job a bit more fun than during the time he would have been soaking up the heat of the glaring sun on his back and making his 10 children work at an early age… See More, also. However, has Mr. Barnett ever scratched under the surface of what the future is already looking like under the current farming policies and practices? Pesticide-laden water tables, Honey bee problems, children with many MORE health problems than before…What does he think the future looks like with such short-term benefits guiding his actions? Not a beautiful future for my children, in my estimation."

  4. Jeff Dowd says:

    It is astounding, isn’t it? How the food crazies can ramble on and on about how organic and locally raised food tastes better than the bland, yet gorgeous food that science can yield? Or the fact that prior to 1913, a heart virtually NEVER attacked its person. Or the notion that family farm after family farm has been literally destroyed by industrial farming?

    it is appalling how the whacked out food Nazi’s drone on about how genetically altering the food that we eat, chemically alters the make up of the food, thus, changing the chemical make up of, well, us. And how can they actually draw the conclusion that this is somehow linked with our health. Clearly, the reason that Americans are so fat and unhealthy, with astounding levels of heart disease and diabetes is because they are lazy and can’t lay off the transfats and sugars.

    I mean, everyone is responsible for their own body, right… or, wait… maybe we can just continue to eat untested GMO garbage, and let the Federal Government ration out "care" as we, like cockroaches, continue to carry this scientific poison back to our nests, and give this refuse to our children…

    Sir, I think I have just convinced myself… you are the food crazy.

  5. John: Technology is the best solution for safe food. That’s my opinion.

    Lilac, I am a SUV driving, flat screen watching, food eating, writing critic. But I’m not overweight. I watch what I eat and have no fear of our food production system. I don’t have a problem at all for your simpler way of life. I have a problem with those who choose that way of life trying to force it on me.

    Jeff, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. Prior to 1913, life expectancy was much shorter than it is now. It’s my contention that if you live long enough you’re going to die of something.

    Mike

  6. GMO are not "untested." There is not much out there that’s been tested more thouroghly. And the FDA? They are a pretty aggressive regulatory agency, now free from the 8 year regulatory speed bump of the Bush Administration. They want to regulate raw milk for pete’s sake. I’ve consumed thousands of gallons of it in my growing up years. Some of our Farm Bureau dairymen have warned me that it isn’t safe, but I’m in pretty good health today. If the FDA perceives a food safety problem with anything they go after it hard, including some things that might not be that much of a problem. They were created to regulate and they go at it hard. Farmers are generally comfortable with that watchdog role. An overweight America – sure it is. I think part of the blame rests with Play Staions, X-Boxes, Blu-Ray Video Players, HD-TV and remote controls. I dropped some pounds when I joined a gym six months ago. Could have lost more if I’d altered and reduced my eating habits a bit more. Those of you who practice what you preach, altering your lifestyle to what you believe about food – I respect that – a lot. Still, I don’t think legions of stock brokers, reporters, business folks or others will pick up the 1950s tools of agricultural husbandry and set out to grow their own food and fiber. There is now less than two percent of the U.S. farming. That’s what stands between us and buying our food from other nations with less restrictive food safety laws than we have here. Modern agriculture is not utopia, but its consistently improving yields have resulted in greater production per acre, which has had significant postivie impact on the environment. This is particularly true of climate change. A lot of folks to feed and we’re doing it on pretty much the same acreage with lower amount of chemical inputs.

    I faithfully read the links you folks send me. Trouble is, I don’t know what to believe since there is always a refuting article by reputable scientists. And it troubles me that things I want to take a second look are right there along with the folks that think tomatos are crossed with scorpion DNA. Actually I can’t find any evidence of any GMO tomatos since the Calgene was taken off the market.

  7. Notice to all responders – We are having trouble getting some responses to post. Our IT people are working on it. Be patient, we intend to get them all up, pro and con.

  8. As a member of the Texas Farm Bureau, this article upsets me. I think it’s a little obnoxious to claim that my only connection to my food is to stick it in my mouth. That’s the most intimate connection of all. I let it nourish my body and that of my wife and unborn child. You are more than welcome to eat genetically modified food if you think that it is best for you and your family, as is anyone else. The problem is the agribusiness lobby and their efforts to prevent me from knowing where my food came from. They oppose laws to label food that was produced using synthetic hormones and pesticides. I don’t believe you when you say that they don’t harm me and my family, and I will not buy food unless I can be reasonably assured that it does not contain poison. Whether the chemicals are proven safe in the long run, it doesn’t change the fact that I have the right to know about the food I consume. If you want to claim that your food is exactly the same and you shouldn’t have to label it as different, you are against consumers as the ultimate determiners of what they want to buy.
    Now as a personal matter, I’d also prefer that fewer chemicals end up in the drinking water, that antibiotics wouldn’t be overused to the point of creating superviruses, and that farm workers wouldn’t be exposed to chemicals that are harmful to their long term health. But I’ll settle for now on the right to have my food properly labeled so I can make my own decision about what to buy.

  9. Jeff, I respect your opinion. See Gene’s comment above concerning FDA’s regulatory actions.

    Mike

  10. @ghall: there has indeed been lots of testing on GMO products, and virtually ALL of the testing that shows how "safe" it is has been done and/or financed EXCLUSIVELY by GMO producers, primarily Monsanto.

    There have also been more independent studies that show frightening trends toward genetic problems in future generations of living organisms fed GMO food, not the least of which is TOTAL reproductive sterility a early as the third generation. I wish I were making this up, but no such luck: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/utility/showArticle/?objectID=4888 for a link.

  11. Deb,
    GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health, according to the World Health Organization.

    Mike

  12. Mike- If you have a problem with "those who choose that way of life trying to force it on you", then can you not see how genetically altering our food can do the same thing?

    If GMO’s could be contained and labeled so consumers who don’t want it are positive they are not being fed this and farmers who don’t want their crops contaminated by GMO’s could be sure the seeds won’t spread, then maybe we wouldn’t feel as though this way of genetically altering life were being forced upon us. We all know this won’t happen. So, you are forcing your way of life on us, not the other way around.

    Ghall – I have much less faith in the FDA than you do. If you weren’t aware, there are now university studies showing the health implications of GMO’s

  13. Gen, you have a choice. You can buy GMO foods or you can help create a demand for non-GMO foods by not purchasing them. I don’t agree with your reasoning.

    And yes, there are studies on the health implications of GMOs…that support any view a person chooses to take.

    Thanks for input!

    Mike

  14. GMO has brought ruin to many a farmer. Mad scientist experiments threaten world food security. The HIGHEST of high-tech is to work with nature, not attempting to exterminate it. Pesticide, antibiotic, etc = death & disease. Biodynamic & Organic = life-positive, healthful, and SUSTAINABLE. Just say no mon san toe, the Supreme Court did ! If you grow GMO UNfood, and your pollen pollutes your neighbors crop, YOU ARE LIABLE for damages. Get off the petrochemical mad science, work with Nature for a rebirth of agriculture ! Grow food that is HEALTHFUL instead of mad scientist crap which has already been show to create infertility and other problems.

  15. We are not trying to enforce anything on anyone; we are asking to have a CHOICE. I want to walk into ANY store and have the choice based on a label that states if the food I am buying states it is a GMO food. If everyone else wants to eat GMO food that has been tested to grow hair in animals mouths and the animal be sterile by their 3rd generation, than you go for it. Or drink and eat food that has so much hormones that are little girls are developing by the age of 8, which will lesson their lives – All I want is a choice and to have the freedom to let others know about Monsanto’s unethical practices which stems all the way back to Agent Orange…

    Its not rocket science Mr. Barnett, we just want to know what is in our food – I really don’t think that is to much to ask for. All other Industrialized Nations give their people the choice its time America does the same…

    If you don’t want to know about it – then don’t read about it and don’t watch the documentaries about it or any other telecast (which are practically none). If you come across someone politely tell him or her you don’t wish to discuss it. Instead of writing this article that is disrespectful to those who just want a choice, isn’t that what America was based on….

  16. Angela, Freedom of Speech is a wonderful thing. For you and for me.

    I’m not being disrespectful. I’m stating my view much as you are stating yours.

    And I’m sharing my views just as I am letting you share yours.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Mike

  17. Fleece Williams says:

    I am a farmer. I love technology. I love that we can farm with great tools and equipment. I love the use of computers, and that we can produce food in mass quantities. I love that technology has made farm life easier.

    I stop there. I sit on both sides of the fence. I believe that technology for technologies sake is insanity. While, as a farmer, I can appreciate it, I also know that there is another side to the tech coin: big biotech. I believe GM foods are great for Monsanto but not so great for human consumption, and in no shape or form will I have anything to do with them until they are proven, beyond a doubt, with transparency and third party testing, that they are truly – safe.

    I don’t want that "karma" or whatever you call it, on my head, should this big biotech experiment fail. I also don’t want to put any of my great neighbors into jeopardy by contaminating their fields. I watched Percy Schmeiser lose everthing he had, and his neighbors as well. Their community still lives divided.

    I also farm without pesticides, have a market that I can’t keep up to, and make more profit at the end of the day than most of my GM crop friends. In the end it’s about profit, not yields. What is the point of a train full of corn when you can’t even get a buck for it? My market is driven by profit, and my farm practices are driven by responsibility. I will never be a slave to Monsanto.

  18. Phyllis says:

    If Monsanto wasn’t afraid of people rejecting their products, they wouldn’t have a problem with the labeling. I want to know what food has been tampered with and have a chance to make a choice! I also believe what they are doing to the farmers trying to re-seed is appalling!

  19. Phyllis, it’s not Monsanto’s decision whether to label or not.

    Phyllis and Fleece, it is not my intent to defend or condemn Monsanto.

    However, I believe genetic engineering will be critical to feeding a growing world population.

    Fleece, I commend you for following what is profitable for you. As I’ve said many times before, there’s a world of opportunity in niche markets for agricultural producers.

    Mike

  20. Whenever we talk about any of these issues I am aware of two things. A lot of folks suggest that we shut up and not talk about the other side of these issues, and we also devolve into Monsanto bashing. It is not my job, or Mike’s, to defend Monsanto, and we won’t be baited into that. Mike’s blog was about a lot more than GMOs and I am pleased to see that we may have some areas of agreeement with some of you. No U.S. industry can survive against foreign competition with yesterday’s technology. U.S. ag, big or small, has a ton of overseas competition. We are a high labor cost nation and we like it that way. Technology is our sole competitive advantage. I am not convinced that any significant number of our citizens will take up hand tools to grow their own food. It’s hard, as those of you doing it know. Anyway, thanks for the lively discussion. – Gene

  21. Fleece where are you located?

    Mike:
    Its not America’s responsibility “to feeding a growing world population.”

    But hey, if we want to help out, let’s do it with harmful food that lessons their lives. Maybe that’s the goal behind it all . . . . .

  22. Whoa Angela – America has always been there for nations that are food deficient, and also there in philanthropic and business related ways to help develope other countries agriculture. That’s why many of these new products have so much promise. Did America not have a responsibility to help Haiti with food in the aftermath of the Earthquake? If we do not have that responsibility, then it reverses half a century of U.S. policy.

  23. And Angela – your contention that we ship food to any country that is anything less than safe is just not so.

  24. Fleece Williams says:

    Thanks Mike for your response. I think though as farmers, we have to take the initiative to really look at the GMO issues. There is more there than we realize, and once I did some real investigating and speaking to geneticists, I found that GM foods were not meant to feed the growing population (there is much research that our world population, at this juncture, is not growing). I also found out, through much calling to government agencies around the world, that it’s a political issue. There was a great video today on CNN that described the whole issue brilliantly: they can’t distribute food properly. It’s political. They already have enough food, but no one can get it to starving people. We, as farmers, really need to study these issues in depth before speaking so blatantly about them. I for one, do not listen to the rhetoric that Big Biotech corporations spew. I have also spent time with a friend that is part of a large NPO in Africa. She teaches them to farm conventionally with the seeds they have used and evolved with for centuries. I currently use some on our farm: they can be grown in soil with no water, and they have for years. We are currently growing Moringa trees from Africa as well. Amazing plants: they know how to adapt, without technology and alteration. This is what farmers know: we understand that seeds have years, if not centuries, of knowledge on how to survive, adapt and feed us. It was never broken in the first place, that technology needed to fix it. Technology for technologies sake is not always best. And I for one am all for it, except when it comes to putting it into our DNA. I ask all farmers to rethink what we are doing, as it applies to the future of all living human beings.

  25. Robinson says:

    "Gen, you have a choice. You can buy GMO foods or you can help create a demand for non-GMO foods by not purchasing them. I don’t agree with your reasoning."

    How can I do this if they are not labeled? And didn’t you just make fun of people for doing just this in your post?

    I do create a demand for non GMO food by raising my own, buying organic when possible, and knowing my farmer. Unfortunately, GMO has such a hold on the soy and corn market that I CAN’T find non-GMO feed for the pigs I raise. Farmers were even approached in our area and asked to grow non-GMO/non-Monsanto feed grains and refused. So, tell me where my choice is?

    And by the way, I have no problem with science. I only have a problem with capitalization on science without regard to the consequences of using technology just because we can.

  26. Lots of holes needing to be poked here.

    Monsanto has lobbied furiously against any requirement that GMO foods be labeled in the US. They are also trying to make it illegal for milk to labeled hormone-free. They are AGAINST these labels, and so far their former employees in the FDA and USDA have backed them up on this. To say it’s not up to them, then, is not entirely true.

    The only way I can currently avoid GMO foods in a supermarket is to purchase organic or find companies which voluntarily label their food. Even so, in the US, "organic" need only be a certain percentage GMO-free, not 100%.

    So I grow my own – and STILL I have to find GMO-free seeds. Given that Monsanto has been buying up seed companies right and left, this is getting harder and harder to do as well. So yes, GMO’s ARE pretty much being shoved down our throats without our consent, and pretty much without use being able to be informed about it without a ridiculous amount of research – which most people don’t even know they should be doing if they want to avoid GMO. After all, if our government thought it was dangerous, wouldn’t it be labeled already? Wouldn’t our government agencies and lawmakers NOT be persuaded by millions of Monsanto’s lobbyist dollars? We all wish. Ignorance is bliss. Dangerous bliss.

    GHall: I wish I had more faith in the WHO, but frankly I put them perhaps only a notch above the FDA and USDA. They aren’t above Monsanto’s influence, and they have not conducted any of their own research that I’m aware of, but have instead relied on industry reports on the safety of this technology.

    My original response to this post hasn’t made it thru the publishing process yet, so I’ll add in that this weed and insect resistance has come at a VERY high cost to farmers. We are seeing more and more insects and weeds that are resistant to this technology, and are requiring more and more potent insecticides and herbicides needing to be used. Cotton farmers in the southern US are being crowded out by huge spreads of Roundup-resistant pigweed, which is now so strong that it requires manual labor to pull up as it grows – and does it EVER grow! Roundup-resistant corn in volunteering in fields of soybeans, making cultivation and harvesting of that crop more difficult and labor-intensive. It’s already coming back to bite us in the backside, and it’s showing no signs of getting better.

    Technology in and of itself isn’t the problem. It’s the blind use of it WITHOUT the research to make sure it’s safe first, and the blind rush to yield and corporate profit instead of any inkling of safety and health and nutrition that is causing the backlash.

  27. ghall, sorry you do not understand. we can be there for a nation when there is the need. but to say, it is America who should be feeding the world with genetic engineering food, when there is not enough studies and what studies there have been have been very negative, that’s not right. We should be teaching them not destroying them. you can debate all day long, that’s not my purpose. I know what I want for myself, my family and those I care for. I am worried about my own backyard – my choices… The goal is to get labeling on food that contains GMO foods. Supplying it to those who are not aware of the dangers, is morally wrong. This is not a debate on if America should be feeding the world.
    For those of you who agree that GMO food needs to be labeled please visit http://www.takepart.com/foodinc/
    And sign the petition at the bottom.
    Thanks and I wish you all good healthy eating and a change in America!

  28. tigerlily says:

    As someone who grew up on a farm and has taken several classes through the local extension service on gardening, farming systems, and soil ecology, I feel I am properly "educated" to comment on the role of biotechnology in agriculture.

    Monoculture and ubiquitous use of pesticides and herbicides ABSOLUTELY degrades the longterm health of agricultural plots. These techniques require further excessive chemical inputs in order to urge the land to produce as it otherwise would in a more balanced ecological system.

    Additionally, allowing upwards of 70, 80, 90% of our major crops here in the United States to derive from just a handful of seed varieties is a guaranteed recipe for "the eggs in one basket" scenario. Nature is far more complex and variable than our technological capabilities can yet account for. It is a classic case of Hubris to think we can stay one step ahead of natural selection and evolution.

    The emergence of Round-Up Resistant weeds speaks to this point. Remember the BioAG companies assuring us their plants could not spread beyond their control? That their genes would be contained and controlled? So then how is it that this emergence of Round-Up Resistant weeds happened at a rate much quicker than anyone in the industry supposedly foresaw?

    There are also the health implications of allowing plants we eat to produce their own toxins within the cell structures of the plant. The possibility of THESE genes finding their way into other species of plants could spell widespread disaster with no real remedy.

    I also take serious issue with the failure of the FDA and Department of Agriculture to require labeling of products containing GM ingredients. Consumers should have the right and the freedom to decide what they are willing to eat and what they are not. To allow GM crops on supermarket shelves without labeling is subverting the ability of people to make informed decisions in regards to their own health.

    Many may not be aware they are eating GM foods because of the lack of labeling. Far more people probably do not realize that approval of most GM varieties on the market was done on the basis of a 90 day lab trial run by the companies wanting to sell these products. This is by no means an independent method of research, nor would it be likely to reveal longterm health implications… such as those cropping up in longer research trials being done in Europe.

    Many argue that the use of GM crops is essential to our ability to feeding a burgeoning world population with increasing demand for animal protein. Clearly if the developed world wasn’t already eating well over it’s fair share or what is even a healthy amount of animal protein there would be plenty to go around.

    The clear counter-argument here is whether it is actually beneficial or reasonable in the long run to feed the entire world population from a food source that has not been properly risk assessed by a third party research firm. And whether it is beneficial and reasonable to allow just a handful of massive, exclusively profit-driven corporations (with just a few lines of seed varieties marketed per crop type) to hold ultimate control of our global food supply and seed propagation.

  29. There are now two comments I’ve posted that haven’t made it up. Sorry this is going to be long, but it’s now 3 posts’ worth.

    1) The WHO: Don’t trust them any more than I trust the FDA or USDA. The WHO is no more above the influence of lobbyists than any of our own Federal agencies. Most of the "risk assesments" they’re relying on are the industry’s own research, which can in no way shape or form be considered objective or transparent or reliable, and to my knowledge the WHO has done no research of its own regarding the safety of GMO technology.

    2) The supposed benefits of insect-resistant and Roundup-resistant GMO: GMO cotton with BT toxin has led to the growth of BT-resistant bollworms. The plants themselves, which used to be left for livestock forage when spent, have KILLED the livestock that feeds on it, and cotton farmers in India are committing suicide by the hundreds as they don’t see the increased yield and profit promised by Monsanto and are in fact going broke.

    Roundup resistance is developing in more and more weeds; in the southern US, cotton farmers (among others) are having to contend with HUGE spreads of Roundup-resistant pigweed covering hundreds and hundreds of acres, requiring more potent herbicides and labor-intensive weeding to reclaim cropland. Roundup resistant corn is volunteering in fields of soybeans, making that crop harder to cultivate and harvest and also requiring more human labor. The benefits are disappearing and being replaced with more and more of the same kinds of chemicals you’re trying to assure us that technology will render unnecessary.

    3) To say that it’s not "up to Monsanto" whether GMO foods are labeled is patently false. Monsanto has lobbied furiously to ensure that in the US, GMO foods are NOT labeled; they know (there have been plenty of documented polls and surveys) that the general populace does not want GMO in their food and would avoid it if they knew it was in there, and so far the USDA and FDA staff, many of them former Monsanto employees, even attorneys, have backed up Monsanto’s efforts. Monsanto is also lobbying to make it illegal for milk to be labeled hormone-free; want to guess who makes the hormone milk consumers are doing their best to avoid?

    The only way I can avoid GMO is to grow my own, and how many backyard gardeners are aware that Monsanto has been buying up seed companies right and left? I can look in stores for organic foods, or foods that have been voluntarily labeled GMO-free by their manufacturers,and hope that the labels are indeed honest and deserved. But given the spread of GMO pollen long distances from its fields of origin and many recorded cases of contamination of other fields by GMO crops, how sure can I be that even these labels are correct? GMO is INDEED being "forced" on us. We are guinea pigs in a huge experiment, as long-term testing was NEVER done on GMO plants before they were approved and unleashed on us. People assume that if the government isn’t regulating it, it must be safe – as if.

    4) A question for ghall: You assert confidently that we do not ship food to any other country that is "anything less than safe." We process and distribute plenty of food right here in the US that has sickened and killed people, even with (possibly because of?) all the technology now inherent in our food processing; how completely confident can you be that our exports are any safer?

    You want livestock that’s healthier and meat that’s more tender? Feed cows GRASS, not government-subsidized GMO corn byproducts. You want insect- and weed-resistance? It’s possible that we’ve already lost that for good due to this "beneficial technology." Technology in and of itself isn’t the problem. The drive for corporate profits, fueled by the erroneous belief that more yield is better for everyone regardless of how it’s been obtained, with a healthy dose of government subsidies all lead to blind acceptance of and belief in the supposed benefits of these technologies, whose benefits really aren’t proving to be all that, well. beneficial in the long run.

  30. John, lilac, and Jeff: I beg that you understand and accept that the agriculture industry cannot meet the world’s demand for food and fiber (now and most assuredly in the future) without the advancement of technology—including biotechnology. Not everyone in this country or others has the option or desire to live lilac’s lifestyle. That’s not reality for me and most of today’s food and fiber consumers. So, as you say, “get real.” The rest of us in the world have to be fed and clothed, too. Until something better comes along, I will have to trust the regulatory watchdogs to ensure that what products are available to me have a reasonable assumption of safety. And it is my opinion that anyone who believes these regulatory agencies inadequately police every facet of the agricultural processes has had no personal interaction with them. And regarding the many links to articles and studies that are routinely provided to us poor misguided fools who are carrying “this scientific poison back to our nests,” I’ve not read one that I trust. I believe sound science is science that is conducted by individuals who are experts in their fields of expertise—not someone who is motivated by attention-grabbing, emotion-evoking news articles or so-called studies. So believe what you want to believe—so far, we still have that right in this country. At the end of the day, the market will drive the agriculture industry the same way it drives every other industry. Surely we can all agree on that.

  31. Fleece Williams says:

    Marcia, GM technology is not the way to solve our problems at this point. While it may in the future, there is still inherent risks that need to be addressed. Your blanket statement to John, Lilac and Jeff is not credible: it only fuels their anger towards farmers, and I for one, am on their side at this juncture. Also, use YOUR head as well: no one believes we have to go back to horse plows (unless they want to). I don’t farm like that: I use technology and I use it responsibly. I know how to farm sustainably and how to make a great profit at the end of the day without any government subsidies. I live from the sweat of my own brow, not the sweat of the taxpayer. How many biotech crop producers can say that? Can you?

    I have had TONS of personal interaction with agricultural agencies, and believe me, they are as corrupt as you can find (I’m in Canada). Our governments have taken to side with the strongest voices, that being lobbyists. We are now governed by big corporations, not us anymore.

    Yes, markets will decide. That is why I am listening. And farming for profit, not yields.

  32. Deb – Been having some technical troubles. Everything I’ve seen has now been posted. We are not covering any new ground here, so I am going to state what I know to be true and end my participation in this thread. Mike can weigh in again if he wants, but I’ve got some other stuff to do today.

    I know that it’s a natural tendency to reject any study or research that does not support one’s position and embrace any that does. I think there’s a lot of that going on here. Maybe I’m a bit guilty of it too. I know there’s a ton of research on both sides.

    I know from 32 years experience with the environmental movement that often, the tiniest theoretical risk is extrapolated to near certainty.

    I know that GMO corn has been grown in Texas for many years, mostly for livestock feed. When it has been used here it has allowed previously unproductive land to produce. It has greatly reduced the use of pesticides on those crops. I have talked to several farmers about its use and they have not experienced the weed resistant and cross pollination problems discussed here.

    I know that I have far greater confidence in an aggressive – sometimes overbearingly so – federal regulatory apparatus than many who have posted here. I also tend to trust the World Health Organization from what I’ve read about them, but then again I am always suspicious of conspiracy theories.

    I know that it’s hard to achieve zero risk in anything, but I strongly believe the food and technology we export to other countries is safe.

    I know that if we stopped exporting food – and I’ve been told today that it’s not our responsibility – we would not only cause hunger abroad, but greater unemployment at home. 20 percent of U.S. job are related to agriculture.

    I know that for everything I’ve read of the links you guys have sent that makes me want to stop and think, I read five of the "scorpion tomato" variety. The Internet is handy, but it’s not holy writ.

    Lastly, I know I will not convince any of you of what I know or believe. Likewise you have failed to convert me.

    You good folks may have the last word. – Gene

  33. @Marcia: the US throws away, completely WASTES, a HUGE percentage of the food we grow. We grow more than enough to feed ourselves and a significant portion of the world. No amount of GMO technology will save those in countries whose governments are preventing its citizens from having access to food in the first place due to political action. Sudan just scratches the surface. Plenty of countries where we hear of a starving populace are at the mercy of political forces,but before that had their own sustainable agriculture which, barring climate disasters such as drought, were feeding plenty of people.

    We ourselves grow crops we don’t need. It’s not necessary to feed corn to grass-digesting livestock. We don’t need to feed it to farmed salmon. We don’t need to turn it into frustose-laden sweeteners which are NOT, despite the commercials, "equivalent" to table sugar. If we were to go easy on the oil consumption, it wouldn’t be necessary to grow corn for fuel, a process which has driven up the cost of food all over the world and particularly impacts poor countries – yes, we grow corn and BURN it in our CARS instead of feeding the world! – and is vulnerable to flood and drought, which affect the cost of fuel as well as food. Our government subsidizes the growing of more and more corn THAT WE DON’T NEED.

    Marcia, if you want real studies done by people in their fields, why in the world would you trust spin by attorneys of companies that have done their own research, reported only what they want anyone else to read, and keep the rest secret under the guise of "corporate security"? You’re discounting and not-trusting independent studies while accepting the word of the industry which has everything to gain by spin and by outright lies; you’re trusting a government whose food safety staff has worked for those very companies, right up to Clarence Thomas, who refuses to recuse himself from Supreme Court cases about GMO technology due to conflict of interest. You are a far braver woman than I am, for sure.

    Me, I have children with food sensitivities to substances the FDA assures me are safe, many of which are banned in other countries after they’ve done their own tests (artificial colors come to mind first off, but Aspartame, I mean AminoSweet, is a close second). I MUST watch what we eat. We’re healthier without it, we’re happier, we don’t get sick with real food.I HAVE had dealings with some of these agencies, I HAVE had a harder time finding safe foods for my kids because of these agencies, I HAVE had to go farther and farther afield to find farmers who haven’t had to give up because of the cost of doing business. I hope that you never find yourself in such a position, but I can also say that for me it has been a real eye-opener. Perhaps the world of "real food" is over and done with for the country as a whole, but it will not be for me as long as I can manage it.

  34. Fleece Williams says:

    ghall, or shall I say, Gene Hall, you are from the Texas farm bureau, and are a pro-GM person yourself. I believe the day will come when all corporations will invite other "ends of the pendulum" into their board to ensure they make viable, safe and profitable solutions. Not the kind we have now, that swing on either side of that pendulum.

  35. Fleece, my "blanket statement" is at least as credible as anything I’ve read on this blog. I concede that the jury is still out on how beneficial GMOs will become. I’m not arguing that, and in fact did not even mention GMOs in my post. I don’t comment on issues that I don’t have personal experience with. There is more to biotechnology than GMOs.

    And I’m not understanding your comment that I should use my head–that no one believes we have to go back to the horse plows. My comment made no reference whatsoever to horse plows. I did comment that not everyone could or would choose lilac’s lifestyle (which she states is "non- tv watching, home grown food lover, powered by my own energy…"). I don’t think that necessitates a horse plow. I stand by my comment that her lifestyle is not reality for many.

    Regarding your dim view of regulatory agencies, I cannot comment because I’m not familiar with Canadian government. I’m sure your "blanket statement" would offend them as well.

    Sounds like you have a great operation that affords you great satisfaction. I choose to ignore your taunts that I might be less scrupulous than you, except to correct your misconception that I am a biotech crop producer. I am a consumer who chooses to weigh in on a very controversial issue. I’m also involved in the agriculture industry and speak from my own knowledge. I respect the comments that come from personal experience. You obviously have lots of personal experience that supports your style of farming–as you’ve explained in detail in two posts. There has not been one post here that suggests you shouldn’t run the type operation that suits you. And of course you farm for profits; I don’t know any farmers who don’t.

  36. To say that people speaking up and educating themselves through well-written, factual documentaries that depict ONE aspect of the commercial food industry have no connection to their food but ‘putting it in their mouth’ may be very TRUE. But to say it as a cutdown is very off base, because even if that is the only investment I have, I know it is killing me. slowly. painfully depleting a body and a mind of what it needs. and that is enough connection to care so much that if it is killing me, [b]I am going to do WHATEVER IT TAKES [/b]to hold the source accountable for the end result.

    which is why it is about time ‘those people’ wake up and realize that the only connection the ‘industrial farmers’ go back to is the BOTTOM DOLLAR.

    What I find to be true is that the industrial farmers do not care if I can move. they do not care if I have seizures when their planes fly overhead spraying their precious GMO corn and beans. They do not lose any sleep over my children suffering from ADHD or Autism or Obesity that is a direct result of the ‘science’ that is inserting foreign genetic code into their bodies one tiny particle at a time. A farmer does not take accountability for selling his corn to a distributor who sells to a producer of cereals, fillings, sauces, drinks, snacks that are altering the way my body can function.

    These industrial farmers do not take responsibility for participating in the act of knowingly harming and to a much more evident degree epidemically endangering the neurological and cardiac conditions of anyone/anything that consumes these genes over time.

    In all of the movies, lectures, and first-hand experiences I have had in the past 3 years while spending countless hours getting educated in how to live my fullest life, I have not once heard anyone say that GMOs are entirely bad. In fact, I’ve seen the ‘higher yield’ statistics (nominal at best where only the biggest of big farmers truly make a serious gain) and seen the results of what research has shown to be ‘beneficial’. But after each of these diplomatic reviews, one common thread is that [b]the benefits DO NOT outweigh the detriment that is happening in regards to OUR SAFETY.[/b]

    This society is awakening to an experience of trust. SELF-TRUST. and in that experience, the facts, the figures, the lab rats (or no rats, please…), the certain levels of this and intricate mixtures of that DO NOT MATTER ANYMORE.

    [b]This is a time for Personal Empowerment and coming together as a People.[/b] For regaining health through natural foods, for nurturing each other with community, for standing together to create abundance and prosperity without having to ‘sellout’ and be ‘strongarmed’ into continuing along because ‘it is just how it is’. I Call BULL$&!%.

    It is a time for learning new ways to realize that higher yields won’t mean a thing if there are no children left to feed. It is a time for letting go of judgment and privacy and distrust and seeking communion with neighbors, friends and families to create new pods of areas that THRIVE in excitement, nourishment, adventure and pride. It is a time to BE A STAND and take care of each other.

    It is a time to be fired up and share personal stories that resonate with others who are experiencing the ‘same ole life’ in order to spark a fire to develop leadership and compassion.

    It is time to [b]GETLIT[/b]!!

  37. I must say, Holly, that your charges against the farming community are, as you so eloquently state, bull. But thanks for the interesting perspective.

    Mike

  38. Thanks, everyone, for the lively discussion. But things seem to be getting unproductive as the same old points keep being hashed and rehashed. If anyone has a different perspective, it’s welcome. If it’s more of the same thing that’s been repeated in previous replies it won’t post.

    Mike

  39. Billy B. Brown says:

    Interesting anti-GMO comments by a number of folks with too much time on their hands and not a good understanding of agriculture and how it works……particularly at the farm gate.

    Emotions have taken them over and reasoning is but an echo of the past.

  40. Technology is important to keep agriculture going strong. Technology keeps my family’s farm and ranch going strong. As an 18 year old, I don’t know much about GMO crops so I won’t address that issue but there are a few things that I do know. Relaying on seeds to adapt to produce crops is an idea. But how long will it take for those seeds to adapt to produce the quality and quantity that today’s crops can? Grass fed beef is also an option if you want to wait on the cattle to get to the ‘harvest’ stage. While waiting for them to get to the optimum stage, you have the extra expense of keeping the cattle for longer periods of time, rotating them on pasture land so they will have enough grass to eat, making sure they stay healthy, and worrying about them getting out on the road and hit in the middle of the night. Personal preference will tell you which type of beef is better tasting but my personal preference is corn fed beef all the way. We feed our cattle the corn that we grow. If it is GMO or not I couldn’t tell you but I do know that this beef is the best tasting beef that you will ever have.

  41. Thanks, Dakota, for bringing a different perspective to this debate.

    Mike

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