The Dangers Of Not Speaking Up

In last week’s column, I pointed out the potential dangers to crop yields and profits when growers don’t listen to the sound agronomic advice of their ag retailers. But in addition to being good listeners, the people that make their living in the agricultural world also need to speak up on their own behalf once in a while.

Or else.

I was reminded of this fact recently by two stories that crossed my desk. The first had to do with food retailer Whole Foods declaring that all products sold through its stores in the U.S. and Canada by 2018 carry labels stating whether or not they were produced using biotech crops. “We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,” said Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb. This decision comes despite the fact that a recent initiative in California to label foods made with biotech crops (Proposition 37) was soundly defeated by the public.

The second item had to do with the European Union’s proposed ban on certain classes of insecticides that some researchers believe could be harming honeybee populations. Despite the fact that only 13 of the 27 member country governments voted for the ban, observers say that the European Commission could still force through a ban by this summer if member states don’t agree to some kind of compromise.

So in both cases, even though the majority of consumers/country governments sided with agriculture’s view on these issues, industry opponents may still carry the day because they have been the more vocal lot. This needs to change, and fast.

At a recent industry seminar I attended, Michele Payn-Knoper, author of the book “No More Food Fights,” pointed out how easy it has been for agriculture supporters to rest on the laurels and not speak out when threatened. “The reality is for agriculture that if your voice is not in the conversation somehow, someone else is probably speaking on your behalf,” said Payn-Knoper.

I agree. It’s time for agriculture to start acting and stop re-acting when it comes to its own interests.

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