Feeding the masses
By Trent Loos
February has been a great opportunity to spend three consecutive weeks at different universities. First, I was at Kansas State for the Swine Profitability Conference where the Humane Society of the United States flew in a person to attend the day-long event.
Last week I was at Oklahoma State where a core group of animal science students is preparing to seize the opportunity to promote meat, milk and egg consumption because of a PETA display that is coming to town.
This week I spoke to a large group of people at Western Illinois University in Macomb and apparently alarmed some of the faculty on campus. In fact, I have received one email since my visit that suggests I should issue an apology to the students for misleading them. What did I say in error?
I said that organic food is no better than conventional food produced with biotechnology. Am I the only one who finds it just a little ironic that within our institutes of higher learning we can so easily find people who are opposed to the implementation of science and technology?
First, make sure you understand that I did not say all faculty at WIU are that way but as in most cases, you have a very vocal minority. So don't run off thinking that only WIU has some nut case professors, because you all do.
I have worked hard at not being critical of the food production system of yesteryear because I do not want to promote any further division within the ranks of agriculture. However, the time has come for people to get a real good dose of what organic food production really is.
Organic food production is a religion that the elite in this country want to somehow proclaim to be better for you because it fuels their esteem. "I drink only organic milk" is a statement in a modern-day culture war and quite honestly we don't care what you drink. What we care about is that you are not interfering with the day-in and day-out production of food that is carefully generated with the working class and the majority of consumers in mind.
When you attempt to force your elite food policy on the rest of the nation, it should really be positioned for what it is: Making it tougher on the 97 percent of the people in this country who only care about the availability, cost and safety of the food they buy.
If we truly care about feeding a growing planet, then we must adapt the technology to get it done. Furthermore, is it not our moral and ethical obligation to produce more with less? Organic food production will not get that done.
Mischa Popoff is the author of the book "Is it Organic?" and his family has been producing organic food since the 1970s in Canada. I wanted to share his observations as he responds to a Nature article indicating that organic food production is 25 percent less efficient than conventional. Popoff says:
"In the meantime I will continue to believe what I saw with my own eyes while carrying out over 500 organic farm inspections: that organic yields are closer to half what conventional and biotech yields are, which is perfectly fine because, after all, organic agriculture is all about quality, not quantity. And anyone who attempts to promote organic agriculture as an alternative to conventional and biotech agriculture would do well to keep that in mind."
In 2012, a Stanford study actually documented that organic food is not healthier or any safer than conventionally produced food. It requires twice the amount of land and costs at least twice as much to purchase.
If this is not just a religion, then tell me what is it?
Again I don't care if you choose to worship certain food production strategies if your financial means allows you to do so--just don't get in the way of those of us who have accepted the challenge to feed the rest of the world using a mix of science, technology, hard work and good conservation techniques to do so.
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.