Give consumers the facts and they will make wise decisions

By Mike Barnett

Texas Farm Bureau recently conducted a public opinion survey of Texans about food. Those surveyed readily told us that they didn’t know much about how food was grown, didn’t know much about GMOs, didn’t know much about pesticides and herbicides or the use of other modern food production practices.

Yet, those people came right back in focus groups and told us that GMOs, pesticides and herbicides are horrible. They can’t tell you any particular reason. It’s just what they see and hear. And they are adamant about it.

It reminds me a bit of a parrot who will mimic whatever he is told and poops on everything else. These consumers  search GMO or chemicals on the internet and find pages and pages of pseudo-science by agenda-driven people who have learned to manage Google better than agriculture has.

I had a conversation with a Baylor Public Relations student the other day.  She asked me about GMOs. She proceeded to ramble about evil Monsanto and  cancer-causing genetic modifications  and on and on.

“Is this stuff true?” she asked.

“No,” I told her, “but don’t take my word for it.”

“One thing you need to remember when you read these wild accusations is everyone has an agenda. Ask yourself what are they trying to accomplish by scaring the hell out of you? Let me point you toward some unbiased information that might help you make a wise decision.”

That made sense to her.

That’s why it’s important for farmers and ranchers to get in on these food conversations.  That same Texas Farm Bureau survey showed farmers and ranchers were by far the most credible spokespersons when it comes to agricultural issues. They ranked higher than farm organization spokespersons and even scientists and researchers. When it came to credibility, they left food activists and celebrities in the dust.

There’s a real disconnect between consumers and the food they eat. Farmers and ranchers have been silent for far too long on these food issues. You have the credibility to help them connect the dots.

Show them your side of agriculture, the side they’re not hearing about. Explain why you make the decisions you make.

When it comes to information about modern agriculture, give consumers a choice. And wise decisions will follow.

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.

9 Responses to “Give consumers the facts and they will make wise decisions”

  1. Mr Barnett, first time I been on this page and I would like to say I respectfully disagree with you about the GMO foods. I have studied a lot about this and what it causes to happen to the body and I know quiet a lot of people who like myself have had problems with digestion, and more. In reading the Word of God, when God created every thing, he even mentioned to not sow seeds together to keep them with their own kine, same with cattle, raise them with their own kind. If this doesn’t tell you not to mix and modify foods, I don’t know what will and I know that God knows what he is talking about and knows best. He said man would destroy himself and man is doing just that. I know what the GMO is all about and why some of you take up for it, it all has to do with money, greed. If this was not bad for people, why has monsanto been kicked out of many countries and I believe it was France charged him with poisoning their people. So stop taking up for this person because all its about is greed, not matter how sick they make people, just like the FDA poisoning meds with their chemicals and making people sicker not well. Its a routine to put older Americans on high blood pressure meds, collestrol meds, statins, and people are supprised when they find out I am not on none of that junk and I am 71 yrs old. I look for the natural things to keep me well. like niasin a B vit keeps your collestrol in check, been taking it for many years. God provides natural meds for us but of course the feds don’t want our physicans to let us know because this will stop all the moneys they are making on their chemical meds not matter how it makes people sicker. So how much of a kickback are you getting for up holding the GMO foods? If farmers are upholding this GMO stuff, its all for money you can bet your bottom dollar on that. I will trust God and what he says over how to raise foods, veg. and meats. Man has made a real big mess out of everything, and they will pay for it. I hope you wake up and quit letting money influence you to uphold a product that is deadly to the human body.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      Pat, you can believe what you want too, no matter misguided I think it is. But please don’t infer my integrity is for sale just because you believe different.

  2. Michael Osweiler says:

    “Integrity for sale”. Like it or not I think Pat hit the nail on the head.

    • This argument always produces interesting reactions. You have on the one side, a mountain of evidence, endorsement by virtually every scientific body and food organization in the world and not a single case of human health damage in nearly two decades of planting GMO crops! Bangladesh last year became the 29th country in the world to plant GMO, drastically reducing pesticide spraying on the country’s vital eggplant crop (brinjal). On the other side, you have a made up crisis that exists mostly as a fundraising ploy for major environmental groups. Where “research” supporting this point of view exists it is easily debunked and you can find most of it’s “researchers” on Quackwatch. But – if you buy into this stuff, you get to question the integrity of those who disagree with you and call them bad people. Neither Mike or I get a dime from Monsanto. We work for the family farmers and ranches of Texas. Those who plant GMOs (most of them) would object sternly if you tried to take those proven tools away from them. It’s tough to come to grips with the fact that something you’ve believed with great zeal is not true.

  3. Michael Osweiler says:

    I think perhaps you may be missing the point.
    Anyone can say today that GMO’s are safe. Well, maybe today but, what about tomorrow, and what at about 10 to 20 years from now. You mention “not a single case of human health damage in nearly two decades of planting GMO crops”. How do you know? You have no long-term health studies to validate such an elementary remark.

    We are dealing with an industry (GMO seed companies) that drive their products (GMOs) into society using tainted political and financial tactics, couple with bully demeanor’s and a disregard for long-term unbiased testing. These companies and your lobbyist organization go to extreme measures to discredit anything/anyone, any information that shows a warning signal, a potential inherent risk in the use and deployment of GMOs. Primarily, we are talking about a lack of credibility in the industry. You need to go back to 1992 when FDA released its policy on modified organisms and falsely claimed that the agency had no information showing that GM foods are substantially different. Once you dig into this, you will find that literally, there were thousands of secret memos later made by a lawsuit that revealed just the opposite. Well respected FDA scientist’s had repeatedly warned of possible allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. They urged long-term studies but were ignored. It just happened to be at that time, Mike Taylor was the FDA official in charge, Monsanto’s former Attorney and later their VP. As of January, 2010 Mr. Taylor is now deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, which was created along with a new Office of Foods in August 2009. Does this give you a credible feeling? In any event the GMO approvals were “ram-rodded” through the system disregarding the scientist concerns.

    Interestingly, your statement, “you have a made up crisis that exists mostly as a fundraising ploy for major environmental groups”. I think you need to look deeper into your industry. Look at the operating budgets of the major GMO seed companies and your lobbyist organization that try to convince/belittle the public and buy off/belittle well respected researchers who discover risk issues with GMO’s. I think you are confused on who initiated and continues to provoke the crises.
    What is disturbing about this whole issue (GMO’s) is that there is a void of any long-term testing. Industry repeatedly insists that their GE products are safe, but they do so on the basis of studies that have never been repeated and have been criticized by independent scientists as deeply flawed. Repeating a talking point is not the same thing as repeating a study. Meanwhile, contrary to popular belief, U.S. regulators at the Food and Drug Administration do not require independent studies verifying safety before approving the release of these products into our food supply.
    GMO’s have an inherent risk, and unfortunately major biotech seed companies along with your lobbyist organization have a callous and reckless demeanor about managing the risk of this non-precise, unpredictable technology. Again your trump card is to throw big bucks at your campaigns and bully/belittle the public to make your flawed case.
    Let me ask you this, what is going to be your response 15 to 20 years down the road if/when a manipulated gene goes bump in the middle of the night, hence produces adverse/devastating consequences to human health and the environment. Unfortunately, I do not think you conventional folks really give rats’ darn. You are all wrapped up in the current moment/immediate bottom line results at the expense of responsible risk management to prevent adverse, long-term consequences.
    Your statement about “it being tough coming to grips with the facts”, perhaps you should insert the word “funded” facts. As long as the biotech industry continues to buy its facts I guess anything is possible.
    One last point in the “Mother Earth article “No, GMO’s Won’t Harm Your Health” Dr. Novella acknowledges that “the complicated nature of genetics means that GM technology could conceivably have “unanticipated consequences,” but, he says, “we’ve been doing this for decades now, and there have been tons of studies looking at the results of genetic modification, and we’re not producing these scary monsters—this so-called Frankenfood. It just hasn’t happened.”…. With that statement in mind, I challenge you to go look at the baseline funding source for these so called studies. He states that “we have been doing this for decades and have not been producing any scary monsters”. He failed to mention the lurching warning signals coming out of the studies. An interesting test plan, just continue to use this risky technology and if no one dies or gets ill after a decade it must be ok. This is an example of the flawed methodology that you, your lobbyist organization and many of today’s farmers use to promote your GMO product. It is no wonder a credibility gap exist with many of today’s farmers and your biotech industry. Why not error on the safe side and better yet give your domestic and global customers what they are demanding rather than belittling them in to taking your product. It is for this reason, that after 20 years of GM use, we are transitioning our farm to a non-GMO platform and have cancelled our 20 year long-standing membership with the “self-servicing” FB. The stuff we produce, we take on a moral responsibility to make sure it that is not only safe today, but will be safe for future generations. At least we have the sensitivities to do the right thing.
    You and your organization can keep on touting your twisted GMO script, but the domestic and global public are not buying it. Like I say why not save yourselves some money(a lot)and deliver the non-GMO products requested by your customers.

    • Farm Bureau is not for everyone sir, and I wish you well has you go off in another direction. You can rest assured that I’ve not uttered a word here that was not approved by farmer delegates who write our policy. Actually, your use of words like “twisted” and the fact that is was you who challenge our integrity tells any reader all they need to know. You, sir, challenged my integrity, and Mike’s, which is something I have yet to do where you are concerned. There is a lot here about comparative budgets and the like. The size of mine might surprise you. That and some guy holding some job and then another. That doesn’t sound like much proof of anything to me. This link might interest you. Pretty impressive list, huh? This is very old post you’ve stumbled upon and this is the last I will say. If you can avoid questioning my integrity again, then I will give you the last word. Try arguing on the merits instead of impugning people you do not know. It’s refreshing. I give you credit for posting under your name. Many folks who attack me don’t have that much courage.

      • What the heck, there’s nothing on TV – Let’s review the chronology shall we? Mike posts on Oct. 13 of last year. On Oct. 26, Pat comes along and throws a lot of widely discredited mumbo-jumbo at the wall then gets out the broad bush to question the integrity of anyone who disagrees with him. On Feb. 18 of this year, you come along and do the same. I defend our point of view in broad generalities. You are not going to find an instance of me pointing a finger at an individual and saying “you are dishonest.” I just point out the holes in a position that loses more credibility every day. Look at the link again. You will be quite busy if you question the integrity of everyone who rejects Luddism. Adios

  4. Michael Osweiler says:

    My last comment.

    We can agree to disagree. However one point I make in all of this is that you apparently feel no harm in questing integrity i.e., your comments ” you have a made up crisis that exists mostly as a fundraising ploy for major environmental groups. Where “research” supporting this point of view exists it is easily debunked and you can find most of it’s “researchers” on Quackwatch. But – if you buy into this stuff, you get to question the integrity of those who disagree”…. Keep in mind the road runs both directions. Suggest you dig a little deeper into the the behind the scenes activities with respect to GMO’s. It took 20 years before I saw the light. Adios Amigos.

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