The rate of change coming to agriculture is growing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This was the message delivered by Rob Saik, CEO for AgriTrends, to Mid America CropLife Association attendees at the group’s 2016 annual meeting. “The rate of change will only get faster,” said Saik. “Standing still is death.”
But before considering the future, Saik spent time reflecting on agriculture’s recent history. In particular, he focused on many of the decisions being forced upon the industry based largely on emotion. “I believe that the non-science movement is the greatest threat we have to global food security today,” he said. “I’ve been asked ‘can agriculture feed nine billion people?’ and I’ve answered ‘the real question is will agriculture be ALLOWED to feed nine billion people?’”
To illustrate this point, Saik pointed to the continuing battle between modern agricultural practices/proposals and legislators in the countries of the Europe Union (EU). “Europe is quickly becoming the museum of farming because of the Draconian legislation going on regarding agriculture,” he said. “I don’t care if you are talking about meat, seed, fertilizer, or whatever – it’s all under attack.”
In particular, Saik added, EU consumers have a decidedly negative view of anything sporting the name genetically-modified (GM), rejecting all such efforts to improve the food supply as “bad.” But this overlooks many facts of modern life, and the role GM has played in it. “If you know someone who’s diabetic and takes insulin such as Humalog to stay alive, which is probably derived from GM technology, yet people protest against using all GM products,” said Saik. “The Economist magazine recently pointed out that the number of children under the age of five that have died of malnutrition over the last few years is more than one million. But the number of people who have died from eating GM crops, ever, is zero.”
Unfortunately, this non-science movement has made its way into the U.S. as well, especially when it comes to labeling legislation in states such as Vermont. “Vermont is known for its cheese, and 90% of hard cheeses in the U.S. today contain a GM product – a coagulant used to make them comes from using GM technology,” said Saik. “Yet when Vermont recently passed its new anti-GM labeling law, it hypocritically exempted cheese.”
To fight back against this non-science movement, Saik suggested that anyone involved in the agricultural marketplace become educated on GM science and share this information with anyone that will listen. “We have to start shouting out of the darkness and standing up for what we know is true,” he said.