Agriculture In-Fighting: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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Here’s what I’ve been stewing about for the past few weeks. Why is it that organic farmers or producer organizations (and random celebrities, but that’s another post) vilify conventional agriculture? Ever notice that conventional-management farmers don’t do the same? Case in point: I’m sure by now you’ve heard or read about the completely de-bunked GMO/lab rat study. This study is one speaker’s topic at an upcoming organic conference to be held in Saskatoon next month. According to the agenda, a researcher is going to stand up and point to a (hopelessly flawed) study and say that conventional producers are poisoning waterways and causing cancer.

That’s one very serious accusation. Does it matter that the study holds no scientific merit? Apparently not.

To turn it around, though, do conventional farmers host speakers attacking organic agriculture? And don’t tell me there aren’t practices in organic production that stray from “beneficial management practices” — tillage is just one topic, off the top of my head, that some would argue is less than ideal.

I recognize that conventional agriculture is the “norm” and organic production is the niche here, but why can’t farmers and farm groups respect that there are different ways to produce food? Why the need to attack conventional practices? Why is anything deemed “organic” insulated from criticism?

The sticking point for me is this: farmers, regardless of management system or geography, have far more in common than they have differences. What’s more, producing high quality, safe food in a profitable way is the goal of both conventional and organic agriculture. The very real threats of urbanization, trade barriers, high land prices and an aging peer group, to name just a few, are a large enough challenge, thank you very much, for the industry to tackle. Why add in-fighting and finger pointing to the mix?

I, for one, am supportive of a vibrant organic industry. I also think supporting local farmers is a great idea. Grass-fed beef is tasty and so is grain-fed beef. I buy my non-organic produce with no fear for my family’s health. I’m happy to have the choice between organic and not, local or imported, and I’m pleased that some farmers are making a good living serving niche markets or, for that matter, non-niche markets. Why is all of this so hard for some to accept?

Let’s stop trying to one-up and out-do each other and, instead, recognize there is more than one way to produce a crop or cow or egg or turkey. And then let’s all work together to share the story of where food comes from, no matter which path it took.