What we do to improve life for you
By Trent Loos
The “buzz” about genetically modified organisms in modern food production has reached a new level and is now better termed a “roar.” In the past six weeks at least one day of radio programming each week was devoted to the facts as they pertain to GMOs in food production. The worst-case scenario came to light from friends near Junction City, Kan. The Hildebrand family markets retail products from their dairy farm. Melissa Reed contacted me about a rash of calls they received from direct customers and retailers asking if they feed their cows GM crops. They do because they believe in the science and technology of producing more with less. As a result, they are losing customers. What shall they and the rest of us do?
I have always led the charge in pointing out that the consumer is not always right. Sometimes we need to educate them rather than allow them to demand that food be produced using yesterday’s technology. That is easy for me to say if I am not the one losing customers. However, what impacts this family dairy will impact all of us in food production in a hurry.
Ironically, within a week or so of my coverage of the Hildebrand dairy situation, I was speaking at the University of Kentucky Ag Roundup.
There I met Paul Vincelli, a plant pathologist who has spent the past 23 years study plants and soil health. We launched into a conversation about his most recently published paper, which scientifically described how Bt corn will have less mycotoxins than non-GM corn. As you can image I then asked him about the rash of new concerns shared by consumers about the risk of GM crops. One name continually popped up during this discussion: Don Huber, Ph.D., professor emeritus from Purdue University.
Over the past two years I have been following the work of Huber and recently he is in high demand as a speaker to share his take on the dangers of GM crops and in particular the risk of the chemical glyphosate. I recently invited Huber to be on the radio with me to discuss the notion that glyphosates are killing us.
We had a tremendous discussion on Rural Route Radio but I must agree with the dozen other scientist I have visited with about the issue. Huber makes outrageous allegations and does not provide one scientific, peer-reviewed piece of literature to back up any of his claims. At the core of his message, he has serious concern about the chelating components of glyphosate tying up key minerals resulting in reproductive failures in plant and animals.
He specifically spoke about beef and dairy cattle reproductive failures. I shared with him that in my county in central Nebraska, we could not be in the beef business if it were not for the grazing of corn stalks each fall and hopefully through the winter. If this were a legitimate concern, would not 30 years of glyphosate in the system have rendered our cattle sterile by now?
The dairy that has been feeding the whole plants of Roundup Ready alfalfa and GMO-corn should have severe reproductive issues. I will concede that dairy cows may be harder to get bred than they were when my dad milked 12 cows every morning before school. However, those cows were not producing 6.5 gallons of milk a day. Everyone who understands animal agriculture knows the toughest animal to breed back is the one that milks the heaviest. One could have a discussion about how much a cow is encouraged to maximize milk production but nowhere is there science that says GM feed is causing the problem.
I am writing this knowing that farmers from coast to coast are going to read it and weigh in and I hope they do. I think that thing that concerns me most about my conversation with Huber is his overall perception that agribusiness companies like Monsanto have duped the American farmer into believing they must use this technology no matter what. The trends in corn and soybean production actually suggest that yields and efficiencies in crop production have increased dramatically despite the greater variations that Mother Nature provides us in weather patterns.
Before it takes a wrong turn, let me just head what’s coming off at the pass. In the world where everybody wants to know who is paying whom, I do not take any money from Monsanto or other GMO supplier for that matter. I simply want American agriculture to continue to plow the furrow that leads the world in converting our God-given natural resources into the essentials of life for all of mankind. If, in fact, what we are doing now is wrong, let’s get it on the table now and then proceed. If it is not a path of destruction, let’s get the B.S. behind us and get to educating the consumers about why it is that we do what we do in order to improve their lives.
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.