Posted By Cindy October 24, 2013
The 2013 World Food Prize symposium was probably the most controversial ever with the spotlight on biotechnology but while there may have been a handful of protestors outside the more than 1200 attendees from countries all over the globe seemed to largely be in agreement about the importance of genetically modified crops for the future of our world.
Scientists from two agricultural biotech companies – Monsanto and Syngenta – were honored for their work in the field, but it was Monsanto’s Dr. Robert Fraley who was the focus of the GMO critics. During a press conference with the three laureates, Fraley was asked why he thought Monsanto was the target for critics. “Sometimes that’s frustrating,” said Fraley. “I always assume that means we’ve been really successful and people see us as a leader and that’s part of the responsibility that goes with it.”
Syngenta’s Mary Dell Chilton said she didn’t really understand why Monsanto is the main target of critics but she believes the industry as a whole needs to “have good communications with the public about the safety” of the technology.
The third laureate, Marc Van Montagu of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium, said he believes that the critics have singled out Monsanto as the “villain” because it works better than talking about the industry as a whole. “If you start gossiping about a person, people always start believing gossip – humanity is like that,” he said.
One comment from Dr. Fraley really sticks with me. He said that, considering the thousands of studies and decades of research that have gone into the development of the GMO crops on the market, one of the “rumors” that “hurts him the most” is about their safety. It was as if he was talking about someone calling his baby ugly!
No matter how much people may love to hate Monsanto as a company, it is very important to realize that the motivations of the majority of scientists who have pioneered the work of genetically-modified crops are sincere. It’s not for money, fame or fortune or to help a company sell more product. They truly see their work as a way to help humanity and and for that they deserve our respect and recognition.
Listen to how the laureates answered some tough questions from the media here: World Food Prize Laureates press conference
Posted By Cindy October 18, 2013
Since 2006, Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT) has been bringing farmers from different countries together during World Food Prize week in Des Moines to attend the event and share their knowledge and experiences with each other at the Global Farmer Roundtable. This year there were 16 farmers from 14 countries at the Roundtable, including Wisconsin farmer Jim Zimmerman who is chairman of the National Corn Growers Association Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team. Jim is pictured here (back row, second from right) with some of his fellow roundtablers.
Jim told us it was really interesting to spend the week with his fellow farmers around the globe. “There’s a lot of differences, but there’s also a lot of similarities,” Jim said, noting that he was very honored to be nominated and chosen to take part in the event. “Any time that you can participate in an international event like this, it’s a very good learning process.” Interview with Jim Zimmerman
NCGA Chairwoman Pam Johnson of Iowa had a seat at the global roundtable in 2010 and she was happy to reconnect with some of her fellow alumni during this year’s World Food Prize symposium. “There were 20 of us from all over the world,” she said. “We’re all still working and engaged in agriculture in some way to be a leader and to explain why it is biotechnology is so important as a tool for food security.”
Pam was very pleased to see the focus on agricultural biotechnology at World Food Prize this year with the winners all being scientists who have pioneered its development. “Biotechnology is size neutral, it’s good for everyone,” she said, adding that World Food Prize is a great place “for the personal stories and the truth to get out.” Interview with Pam Johnson
2013 TATT Global Farmer Roundtable photos
Posted By Cathryn October 17, 2013
Daily news stories rail against attempts by the foodie elite to dictate the diets of Main Street Americans. From parents protesting school lunch menus to New Yorkers rallying in defense of the Big Gulp, average citizens stand firmly in support of their right to make decisions and ardently defend their personal freedoms.
Yet, with carefully crafted theories and a plethora of plausible-yet-false facts, New York Times writer Mark Bittman gets away with forcing his theories about the redistribution of wealth, land and scrapping the basic ideals of the right to property and freedom of choice. He wants Americans to buy into his supposed “paradigm shift,” a regressive jump back to a pre-specialization of labor economy, and therefore aide in his effort to dictate diets not just to Americans but also to the rest of the world.
Bittman’s bitter tirade represents not only an agenda-driven, slanted view of modern agriculture heavily reliant upon idealized imagery but also an ongoing intellectual trend toward a world of pseudo-imperialism that would allow cultural dictators to rule over Americans and the international community alike. Displeased with how a dispersion of power and innovation has left their theoretical musings impotent, Bittman and his self-aggrandizing elitist posse cunningly plot to play on fear of the unknown, of all things “big,” of change, to gain support which, once firmly garnered, they would use to create their own utopia of the urban and urbane literati.
Know that this utopia does not take into account the realities of life most Americans face. It does not account for a lack of land, a lack of time or even a climate lacking the conditions needed to actually grow a crop. It does not account for land ownership, the ability of either farmers or consumers to make choices or the economic reality that those who grow food and those who purchase it know intimately.
While he hits on many touching topics, invoking the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised and the unjustly treated, he does these groups no substantial good. In forming his fix for a system he knows little about, he ignores the deeper issues surrounding food waste and productivity. He ignores personal choice and takes the idea of food security for granted in a way which early Americans never possibly could.
So, stand up! If each of us rallies against these covert attacks on the freedoms which make our country and our lives great as hard as we stand up in defense of their more obvious counterparts, we can make a difference. Theory and idealism have a place, but they do not put food on the table when they fail to account for reality and value the rights of individuals.
Tell the foodie elites like Bittman to close the doors on their intellectual imperialist dinner party. Tell them Main Street refuses to accept their invitation.
Posted By Cathryn September 20, 2013
Painting a seriously skewed portrait of the Farmer Assurance Provision, Elizabeth Kucinich played on anti-Monsanto, anti-capitalist sentiment in an attempt to whip up public fervor against a sensible law designed to protect America’s farm families. The resulting piece, which ran on the Huffington Post, uses a truly ridiculous combination of ominous implications and arguments based to mislead the masses and, in doing so, further the lack of understanding that makes so many people many fearful of their food.
The Farmer Assurance Provision, in its essence, protects American family farmers who, due to often-frivolous lawsuits based in procedural arguments and directed at major corporations, could face serious economic harm. This provision reassure farmers that they can plant and harvest crops developed through biotechnology already approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under a temporary stewardship agreement in the event of litigation against the agencies decision.
In simple terms, the FAP removes a potentially significant financial risk facing farmers. Without this important piece of legislation, the regulatory process for biotechnology would leave the family farmers who purchase seeds approved by their government vulnerable to costly losses should an activist group choose to legally challenge the government’s decision. Without this provision, these men and women, acting in good faith, become collateral damage in an ideological battle between those who embrace and those who eschew science.
The need for such protection has been made evident over the past several years as opponents of agricultural biotechnology have repeatedly filed lawsuits against the USDA on procedural grounds. In filing these suits, the anti-activists aim to disrupt the regulatory process and, in a broader fashion, undermine the science-based regulation of biotech ag products. These lawsuits strain USDA resources and delay the approval of new, innovative products America’s farmers need to grow abundant, affordable food and remain internationally competitive.
Kucinich goes so far as to advocate for these types of attacks. Implying that chemical herbicides and genetically engineered crops should be met with public rage, notably without giving any reason why these extensively tested, proven technological advances are anything less than revolutionary, she rages blindly against a world in which innovation generates a profit.
Furthermore, this farmer-bashing fiasco of a post then begins makes a massive leap into the realm of food labeling to continue its tirade against the companies who provide farmers with new technologies. She points out companies such as Monsanto and DuPont have spent money to fight GMO labeling campaigns. She fails to evaluate the actual propositions in any way. In the case of California, she conveniently forgets to mention the proposed legislation was actually backed by trial lawyers looking to find their next cash cow. Presumably, she feels comfortable with predatory lawsuits that generate no value for the community but not with companies investing in ag research and supplying the innovations needed to feed a growing world turning a profit.
While she may not understand sound science and live in constant denial of the overwhelming evidence that biotechnology is not only safe but is beneficial, she masterfully demonstrates her knowledge of how to engineer panic and fear. Her post expertly manufactures the perception of public outrage and uses it as grounds on which to attack a provision intended to protect America’s farm families from her assault on science. The scorched-earth mentality of this assault demonstrates her deep desire to maintain a weapon that inflicts massive collateral damages on honest, hardworking farm families. Rather than demonstrating a deep insight into the FAP, GMO labeling initiatives, sound science or capitalism, she exposes both her ignorance and rage-fueled fervor to burn down anything which she doesn’t understand.
Don’t fall for the self-serving hype disguised as righteous indignation. Take the step she doesn’t and get the facts. The rhetoric may be rousing, but her assault on the Farmer Assurance Provision is actually on America’s farm families.
Posted By Cathryn September 11, 2013
Farming looks quite different in America than it does in Europe. While many offhandedly write off the modernizations that allow American farmers to produce such an abundant, affordable food supply by characterizing U.S. farmers as passive pawns of agribusiness, The Economist magazine dug deeper in recent article and found American farming to be a product more of a forward-looking, achievement-driven national character. A character carefully cultivated in young farmers very much by design.
To see the full article, click here.
This close examination finds that the history of the New World necessitated farmers find ways to feed a fast growing, wide spread population. The attitudes embraced by immigrants, forward-thinking and innovative individualists, led American farmers to more easily embrace changing technology and science. The New World looked forward. The Old World embraced the past.
Today, as the article notes, organizations aimed at developing a scientifically minded, industrious generation of new farmers, such as 4-H, mold young agriculturalists to embrace science. Through programs such as these, America continues to push forward in farming, as it does in many other areas.
As Americans, we must continue to focus on the core values that fueled the incredible growth of our nation. As a society, we embrace technology rapidly, craving the newest medical and communications advances. By applying the same fervor to agriculture, we can use the tools developed in our research labs and in our nation’s fields. Together, we must embrace the technologies that move agriculture forward to meet tomorrow’s demands.
America’s young farmers see a vibrant vision of what farming can be. Why encumber them with a social and political environment that would prefer looking toward the past?
Posted By Cindy August 27, 2013
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is out in full force at the 2013 Farm Progress Show, with both president Pam Johnson of Iowa and First Vice President Martin Barbre in his home state of Illinois on site.
They were doing interviews with all the farm media at the show, talking about a variety of topics. We chatted about the condition of the crop – which Pam says is “coming along” in Iowa and Martin says is “better than we’ve ever seen” in southern Illinois.
The farm bill is still a big concern for the corn growers and Pam says they are “not waiting very patiently anymore” for Congress to get the job done. They are strongly encouraging all members to contact their representatives during this August recess and urge them to make some real progress during the few days they are in session during September.
When it comes to membership, NCGA is now over 40,000 strong, which is a lot of voices that can make a big difference. “Our association has shown membership growth every year for the past 15 years,” Martin said. “Makes us feel like we’re really doing our job, really promoting the policy that the members create and making it happen.”
Pam and Martin also talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard, trade, WRDA and biotechnology in this interview.Interview with Pam Johnson and Martin Barbre
Posted By Cathryn July 29, 2013
Everyone may be entitled to an opinion, but the trend toward steadfastly believing completely unsubstantiated claims about food has hit a new high. According to a New York Times poll discussed in an article last Saturday, 93 percent of Americans felt food containing genetically modified or engineered ingredients should be identified with a label, but most went on to affirm their belief in false facts about GMOs disseminated through agenda-driven propaganda.
Applying the thirst for knowledge a bit more liberally might benefit many Americans.
With sizeable portions of those responding to the survey expressing worry over the safety of GMOs, claiming the foods might cause cancer, allergies or were toxic, the desire among these persons for more information about the science behind their food seems lacking. Scientific studies conducted by credible researchers following established protocols continually show that there is no added risk associated with foods containing GMOs. Yet, in spite of a formidable and ever-growing body of evidence, they cling to their irrational fears.
The battle may continue over whether or not labeling should reflect if a product includes foods grown through the use of biotechnology but, as the war of words winds up, let’s not forget that simply knowing if a product contains a GMO food or not does not mean much on its own. The real key is knowing about the scientific study and regulatory procedures that ensure we have a safe, affordable variety of foods from which Americans can choose.
To learn more, click here.
Posted By Cindy July 10, 2013
Assuming they get past the National Security Agency spying issue, negotiations on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) may ultimately hinge on agricultural issues – and they are big ones.
“It is important that we get it right,” President Obama said about the proposed trade agreement last month in Ireland. “That means resisting the temptation to downsize our ambitions or avoid tough issues just for the sake of getting a deal.”
Congressman Steve King of Iowa is hopeful that means access to the European market for genetically-modified crops will be addressed head on. “I think we have to just keep pushing the GMOs and push the sound science that we have … then eventually the trade component of this thing will wash over that continent and we’ll get it done,” said King.
US Grains Council CEO Tom Sleight believes the trade negotiations may provide an educational opportunity to bring the science on biotech crops forward. “I think it’s a great time for us to engage in a very positive discussion on the role of biotechnology not only in the European market but also in the United States and meeting the food and energy needs for the world,” he says.
During a recent hearing, National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson expressed some optimism about the possibilities of Europe being more open to biotech crops. “Once in a while you hear something optimistic about maybe the EU should take a different look at biotech. We’re still very hopeful that will happen,” she said.
In other words, TTIP could be the tipping point that finally brings Europe into the 21st century in acceptance of the important role biotechnology can play in feeding a growing global population.
Posted By Cindy June 28, 2013
As an Iowa farmer, National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson knows how important biotechnology is for American farmers and this week she was on the road trying to get the message out that it is vital to the world as a whole.
“The continued use of biotechnology in agriculture is a key component to food security,” Johnson said during the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture in New York on Tuesday. “However, we need to greatly improve the public’s acceptance of biotechnology. Agriculture needs to lead the conversation on this important topic and provide education on the advancements of the industry. Consumers should be able to make decisions based on science and facts, not fearmongering.”
Johnson followed up that appearance by provided policy recommendations for the U.S. Trade Representative during a House Committee on Small Business hearing in Washington on Wednesday.
“For NCGA members, the biggest challenge is the approval of corn and corn products that are derived through biotechnology,” she said. “Unjustified regulations are costing family farmers millions in lost sales to the EU and could result in even great losses of U.S. exports if they are adopted by other countries.” She pointed out that 88% of the corn grown in the United States is derived from biotechnology, as it is in Brazil and Argentina.
The main point Johnson said the corn growers want to get across to USTR in these trade negotiations is that any agreement must be comprehensive and address any sanitary-phytosanitary barriers to agricultural trade up front. That means, she says, “nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”
Listen to or download Pam’s testimony and answers to questions from lawmakers: NCGA president Pam Johnson Testimony
Posted By Cathryn June 13, 2013
Anti-GMO activists and the pseudoscientists they turn to for support are at it again. Claiming hogs fed corn and soy varieties developed with biotechnology show an increased incidence of severe stomach inflammation, this so-called science amounts to nothing more than hogwash.
Authored by two veteran anti-biotech activists, Australian researcher Judy Carman and Iowa farmer Howard Vlieger, the report was published in an obscure online journal, far from the scrutiny required for inclusion in respected peer-reviewed tomes. Here, reporting only their own observations, they assert claims which fly in the face of the preponderance of the scientific evidence gathered over hundreds of independent food and feed safety studies that found no difference in animals fed GMO or non-GMO diets.
Outside the probing scope of mainstream academia, they can get away with reporting that both groups of pigs actually showed stomach inflammation without explaining how this supports their theory. They can ignore the prevalence of stomach inflammation in hogs that have high feed intake or consume finely ground feed. They can decide to avoid any sort of critical analysis from parties already aware of this fact by leaving this important information out altogether.
When it comes down to it, almost anyone can get away with saying almost anything on the internet. Those who wish to blindly buy into their claims in order to reaffirm their personal beliefs will. Those who want to discern the truth must put forth the time and effort to look at what respected, peer-reviewed articles say on the subject.
If readers do not critically evaluate studies such as this one, they may be buying this hogwash with a side of poppycock to go with it.
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