First, it is becoming obvious that for the first time in several years the area is experiencing and “active” weather pattern. Active translates into a more unsettled weather pattern where lows (storms) will tend to track further south and moisture will be brought north from the Gulf of Mexico. It will be interesting to see just how “active” this pattern will be and how much snow/ice comes our way. Now onto to today’s topic.
This past Thursday, the Great Bend Co-Op hosted a Sustain event in conjunction with Land O’Lakes. The purpose of this event was to introduce a program to perform two basic tasks. Help producers become more sustainable, i.e. protect the environment and sustain producer operation, and spread the word to the public of what the agricultural community has done/is doing as stewards of the environment. This involves admitting mistakes, demonstrating what is being done to “fix” these problems, and showing through data the progress made. Finally, a major goal is to compete in the media with a variety sources flooding the media with inaccurate or deceptive information regarding agricultural production.
Some of this is misinformation is amusing. Some contains a kernel of truth twisted to suit a narrative. Some is simply dangerous. All of it points out that it is possible to manipulate a public that is scientifically and agriculturally illiterate. Following is a short list of myths and deceptive headlines/statements made without comment. See if you can spot the fallacy/lie.
• A grocery chain advertising non-GMO water for sale.
• Certain restaurant chains promoting antibiotic and hormone free chicken and other menu items.
• Organic food is safer and healthier than “conventional” food.
• Non-GMO Himalayan pink salt.
• GMO foods are more expensive than conventional and organic foods.
• GMOs have increased pesticide use.
• Unpasteurized milk is healthier for you and pasteurized milk is bad.
The goal isn’t to demean those who want to consume only organic foods or avoid GMO foods. Consumers have the choice to purchase what they want. But they should do so armed with accurate information.
Lastly, this column isn’t meant to totally let those of us in agriculture off the hook. We have made mistakes and screwed up. We do need to get a better handle on groundwater and surface water contamination from manure, fertilizers, and pesticides. We are getting better but can do better still. We do need to work harder to minimizer wind and water erosion, to continue the progress that has been made.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.