In recent months, op-ed pages from The New York Times to the Des Moines Register—and numerous blogs in between—have taken a swipe at agricultural biotechnology and the Farmer Assurance Provision, which attempts to afford some protection for the use of these technologies.
These mostly misinformed pundits stir a cauldron of fear, saying the provision “underminds both the public health and democratic process.” They cast everyone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Monsanto in the role of the villain, and they attempt to persuade the general public that GMOs—and anybody associated with them—will destroy our world.
Good grief. Let’s pause, take a deep breath and do a quick fact check.
The reality of these attacks has nothing to do with food safety—GMO crops have been proven safe time and again—or environmental protection. These are just red herrings to distract from the special interest groups bent on dismantling modern agriculture.
Truth About Trade and Technology board member John Rigolizzo Jr., who also happens to be a farmer in New Jersey, summarized the need for the Farmer Assurance Provision when he wrote: “(The provision) was created to prevent such frivolous lawsuits from impacting my ability to grow a crop. Attempts to misrepresent what this provision actually says and does—to further a special interest agenda—is a personal attack on me and the farmers and ranchers who provide safe, affordable food for our families and yours.”
Farmers have enough challenges. They battle drought, floods, swarms of insects (ask Madagascar about locust), devastating crop diseases, depleted soils, eroded land and countless other natural obstacles so that we can survive. Instead of giving them another tool in their never ending war with Mother Nature, special interest groups have tried to install more regulation and slow down even further a process that moves at a glacial pace. Because the one thing every crisis needs is more bureaucracy.
And we are in a crisis.
In the next 40 years, agriculture will face the most daunting test in its history. This planet, which already has more than 1 billion malnourished residents, will balloon from 7 billion people to more than 9 billion. Farmers and ranchers worldwide will have to produce 70% to 100% more food using fewer inputs and increasing geopolitical and environmental limitations.
How do we get there? Technology.
Technology can provide answers to improved transportation and production systems that will reduce greatly the amount of spoilage. Technology in the form of GMO plants will give our farmers and ranchers a fighting chance to increase yields with less resources.
Right now, the government has a chokehold on biotechnology. It takes more than a decade, tens of millions of dollars and a Mississippi River worth of paperwork to move any biotech product to market.
This entire issue then is about a farmer’s freedom to operate within commonsense guidelines. We have the right to develop these crops. And, when proven safe—to us and the environment, we should have the right to use these crops. We have the right to try and meet the historic challenge.
We do not need the courts, litigators, or activists setting policy. Instead, we need to trust the process that has been put in place and the agricultural “engine” that continues to successfully feed this world. We must give farmers and ranchers the tools and support to be successful. Otherwise, we may all regret it.