Bridging the Gap

Posted in: Global Ag     

As a professional agrologist who also travels around the world meeting with groups and speaking about agriculture, I am in a unique position to observe what is going on inside farming as well as how society views the industry. 

One trend that has become very evident is the widening gap of understanding between the urban population and the farmers who grow their food. Fringe groups have harnessed the power of the media to push left-wing agendas that do not align with the primary long-term objective of agriculture — feeding the world. 

The mandate of many of these interest groups is to discredit modern agriculture in order to sway the public toward their own idealistic agendas. Such agendas, which portray a predominantly biased view of agriculture through the lens of such films as Food Inc. and commercial campaigns such as “Scarecrow” by the restaurant chain Chipolte, are increasingly being forced upon our children at schools.

I see no better example of the growing disconnect between actual farming practices and the common misperceptions about agriculture than in the distortion surrounding genetic engineering and GMO crops.

Farmers represent less than two percent of the population of North America. Of these farms, 98 percent are family-owned and of those, only a small percentage account for the majority of agricultural production in North America. The farms growing most of our food are commercial family farms. You don’t hear from these people because they are busy working to feed the other 98 percent — and, for the most part, farmers are not comfortable being in the media spotlight. They prefer growing food to defending themselves for doing it.

KNOW GMO the Movie will tell the story of how this new technology known as genetic engineering is being integrated on farms today. In my career, I have seen the amazing benefits of GMO at the farm level. I have witnessed the reduction in pesticide use on farms, an increase in yields and improvements in soil quality. Thanks to GMO technology, agriculture has dramatically reduced the overall pesticide load on the environment over the past three decades.  

And it’s not just happening in North America. I have seen how GMO technology has improved soil health in South America and talked to farmers in the United Kingdom who are desperate for new tools, such as GMO, to help them battle major in-field challenges.  I have traveled in Africa and witnessed the adoption of panic non-GMO policy that puts Africans at risk.

I have also been in research facilities where passionate scientists and agriculture experts are working with genetic engineering to create crops that are more nutritious, drought-resistant, salt tolerant and can withstand viruses.

These are not the stories you see when you “Google”, GMO. This is not the message being shared with the urbanites shopping at Whole Foods. Modern agriculture is being vilified, the technologies farmers are employing to feed the planet are under attack and there is a cost.

If we do not share the positive message about GMO technology with society at large, politicians will succumb to special interest rhetoric resulting in panic policies that will rip away one of the most important technologies in agriculture’s toolbox.

I believe that this ‘non-science’ movement currently attacking modern agriculture and GMOs is the greatest threat to agriculture’s ability to meet the planet’s food needs in the future.

KNOW GMO the MOVIE is a documentary designed to examine the attacks against GMO and provide a critical look at how this technology is actually employed. It will provide a forum for scientists and farmers to talk to the public about how GMOs are being used to grow safer, more reliable and abundant foods in an environmentally sustainable manner.

This project is designed to produce a full-feature documentary targeted to the urban population, as well as informative vignettes that can be provided to schools as resources to counter-balance the one-sided message being promoted today.

Finally, KNOW GMO the MOVIE will look at bridging the widening gap between conventional and organic agriculture. Both have their place, and this documentary will look at how genetic engineering can be used to move toward a much more sustainable agriculture that can both feed the planet and improve the environment.

Is it such a stretch to think that the future of agriculture may indeed be GMO — Genetically Modified Organic agriculture?

Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals to better provide food. This technological evolution continues today in the form of bio-engineering. I believe that GMO technologies are not only critical to meeting the food needs of the planet, they will also enhance and preserve our environment for future generations. This is why I have signed on as the movie’s executive producer.

I am asking for your help in making KNOW GMO the MOVIE a reality. Through the support of individuals who are passionate about agriculture, we have raised the necessary funding for the pre-production phase that will include a video as well as our trailers, websites, etc.

The next stage is to raise the necessary funds to shoot the full-feature film and take it through production. After that, the next step is distribution of the documentary and vignettes through film festivals, with the ultimate goal of making it available to urban markets, schools and other learning institutions.

All funds will be administered by The Food and Farm Care Foundation, which will provide tax-deductible receipts for contributors. To donate visit farmcarefoundation.ca/donate-now. 

We need your support in order to change the conversation from NO GMO to KNOW GMO. Thanks in advance!

 

If you would like a copy of My Agriculture Manifesto, text your name, email address and the number 105580 to 858.598.3980 and a copy will be sent to you.

About the Author
Robert Saik

Saik is the founder and CEO of Agri-Trend Inc., a Canadian agricultural coaching network that includes agronomic, grain marketing, business, technology, carbon offset and land management services. He holds a BSc in Agriculture from the University of Alberta, is a Professional Agrologist and Certified Agricultural Consultant.

He owned and operated a farm in northeastern Alberta, founded and subsequently sold two fertilizer companies, and is currently a partner in a Calgary marketing and design firm. Saik an active professional speaker, entertaining and educating audiences around the world on strategic business planning, technology integration and social media in agriculture.

He can be reached at rsaik@agritrend.com.


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