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This outbreak must be stopped

Monday, March 9, 2015

There has been a lot of news coverage about the current outbreaks of measles in the United States and Germany. The disease, which had previously been eradicated in these countries, has resurfaced because some people choose not to have their children vaccinated. They base that decision on a study done in the United Kingdom that alleged a connection between vaccinations and Autism in children. The study has been proven to be fraudulent and the doctor who authored it has had his medical license revoked. Subsequent studies have shown vaccinations to be safe and highly recommended. Nonetheless, some people still choose not to have their children vaccinated.

Why am I writing about measles on a blog focused on agriculture issues? In fact, the outbreak I believe must be stopped is not measles but rather the anti-technology movement. The truth is consumers love technology when it is in the form of their smart phone or tablet computer, but they are scared of technology when it comes to anything else—especially food. We have seen great technological advances in the computer industry but we are not seeing the same kind of advances in other industries, such as agriculture and medicine. This is largely because the computer industry is not highly regulated by governments and other industries are—making it hard for those industries to advance new innovations.

Food is a topic of interest to everyone. We all eat. This makes it a popular topic for the media to focus on to get ratings. Unfortunately many of the stories you hear in the media spread messages which have been proven to be scientifically unsound. Whether it is crop technologies like GMOs, veterinary technologies like growth hormones or medical technologies like vaccinations, there are celebrities and writers who will be happy to tell you how dangerous they are and how they should be avoided. Of course, all of these technologies have been studied by respected scientific organizations all around the world and found to be safe.

There are moments when I think this outbreak of anti-technology hysteria has turned into an epidemic and we have lost the battle. I worry for our future when I read about a poll in which more than 80% of consumers responded that products containing DNA should be labeled. Everything we eat, except salt, contains DNA and hormones. I feel better when I look at research on what global consumers really buy—95% make their food purchasing decisions based on taste, cost and nutrition; another 4% are luxury/status buyers, and only 1% are on the fringe and want to impose their ideas on other people. Unfortunately, that 1% is very vocal and want to use governments to impose their views on everyone.

I support all farmers and their right to choose the production practices they use or don’t use on their farms. I also support all consumers’ right to choose what products they buy. These rights should not be infringed on by government-imposed bans on farming practices or products produced using those practices. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the vocal fringe 1% of consumers work for every day, and they have been successful in several places including Europe.

I am interested in all farmers being productive and having better lives. I am interested in having enough food to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050. I think it is incredibly arrogant of the elitists, who don’t understand agriculture, to want farmers to go back to the way we did things in the early 1900s. If that happened, there would not be enough food for our current population much less future growth. So we must find a way to fight the anti-technology movement.

Farmers are great at talking about science and economics but those messages don’t work with today’s consumers. The activists use emotional, personal messages to persuade people to join their cause. We must find similar messages to support the use of agricultural technology. Do you have a positive message about how agricultural technology has made your life or consumers’ lives better? Please join me in the fight to end this outbreak!


Hope Pjesky Hope Pjesky (rjp@kanokla.net)
Oklahoma rancher

View more posts by Hope Pjesky

The views and opinions expressed in AgChllenge2050 blog posts are solely the opinions of the authors, and not those of Farm Foundation, NFP.