That Old-Time (Anti-Modern Agriculture) Religion
When I was growing up, my parents always warned me against discussing religion when meeting new people. “Religious views are based on long-held beliefs, and you won’t be able to change them,” they advised. The trouble is, in today’s world, many different beliefs have morphed into their own kinds of religion, including in modern agriculture.
To see this phenomenon at work, consider the recent “beliefs” on display during this fall’s election. Many voters strongly identified themselves with either the Republican or Democratic parties to the point of viewing each as their “religious” duty to support, no matter what. In fact, in many cases party affiliation outranked personal character in the same fashion that a religious affiliation might outweigh other considerations.
The reason I bring up this example, citing politics and its religious overtones, is that both of these trends seem to be working full force in the world of modern agriculture. Historically, both of these areas have been used by opponents of modern agricultural practices/products to stifle market growth and question the long-term safety of new innovations, such as biotech crops and gene editing. It’s no accident that anti-ag forces have long referred to one of the industry’s largest crop protection/seed producers as “Monsatan.”
For a clearer example of this religious furor on display, consider the recent court case in California involving glyphosate and cancer. In July a jury ruled in favor of a groundskeeper who had claimed that using glyphosate gave him non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, awarding him $289 million in damages. Although Bayer/Monsanto presented evidence using science to refute this claim, the jury sided with the prosecution, perhaps swayed by the preacher-like argument that “it is your duty to award a big damage figure in this case because champagne is on ice in Monsanto’s offices and ready to pop if you don’t.” Ultimately, the judge in the case ruled that this award seemed “excessive” and reduced it to $78 million but still let it stand.
And make no mistake — now that the anti-modern agriculture forces have this “win” under their belts, their religion is likely to find new converts. Religion has long been effective in spreading its message in the face of scientific facts that the average person might not fully understand. The majority of proponents of modern agriculture have thus far seemed unconvinced to take this route when “preaching” the benefits of their practices to the general public. Many still simply say that “the science is on our side” and leave it at that.
But this needs to change. Instead of continually pointing to the science and facts to support its views, modern agriculture should work on reminding consumers that without allowing the industry to expand its ability to produce more crops through new technologies and farming techniques, their families might end up without enough food to eat in the future.