Why We Need to Stop Organic and Non-GMO Shaming
Ok, I know. This sounds weird. So much of our time as agriculture advocates is centered around the education of consumers, teaching them about how we grow food for a growing global population, stressing the point that we live in a time where there are numerous options for various preferences, which also means there are multiple methods agriculturalists can use to grow the food we need. Believe me, I understand the importance of this education and the need for clarification. However, somewhere in the midst of all of this discussion, we have drawn a line within our industry. This line, dividing segments of the food production industry and seemingly shaming each other along the way, can really hurt us in our goal of educating the public about agriculture.
While I was serving as an FFA state officer, I had the opportunity to visit an organic farm. Like other members of my team, I was at first very turned off to this idea, but then my advisor said something that has really stuck with me ever since. She said, “All farming is good farming.” Wow. This made me realize that I was being very judgmental of this farmer, who truly had the same goals as I did; to provide food that is safe and nutritious.
A lesson we need to learn ourselves before sharing it with others is that it is impossible to feed our world’s growing population without the inclusion of modern and traditional agriculture production practices. And as an industry, when did we decide that being an organic farmer is not as good as being a conventional farmer? Organic farmers know their market and cater to them, just like any other industry. And, as agriculturalists, we can all agree that each production method has its pros and cons, so it really comes down to one thing for the public: a safe, healthy, sustainable food supply.
We as advocates need to inform the consumers that the “organic” or “non-GMO” labels on their food does not mean those are the only options that are good for you; and explain to them that it is impossible to feed our population through only organic farming. Individuals who tend to be “anti-GMO” or strictly “organic”consumers are commonly thinking that they want to provide their bodies with wholesome nourishment, and are unfortunately falsely informed that the only ways to do that are reading into the fads and labeling. Part of our education should be encouraging them to love and take care of their bodies and to be aware of what they are eating, but we need to teach the truth about what is good and bad for our bodies and clarify that all US agriculturalists work hard to provide that safe, nutritious food supply regardless of their chosen production methods. GMO’s, organic, traditional or modern practices are all just different tools in the toolbox that agriculturalists can use on the way to providing the world with a sustainable food supply.
I used to be very guilty of saying “people need to go visit farms before they make judgments about their food.” While I do fully encourage people to visit farms and ranches and talk personally to agriculturists in their quests to be informed consumers, I am now more aware that it isn’t always that easy. There are parts of the country where there are little to no farms near major cities. These people don’t understand because they truly haven’t seen it. We all need to become more aware of the other perspectives and why they exist; and do a good job of spreading our message about what we do in agriculture production.
Here's your call to action: As agriculturalists and advocates for ag, we need to refocus and see what the real goal is. Is it to convince others to not eat organic or non-GMO foods? Or is it to educate them why we don’t only grow organic and what the effects would be if we did? Is there any harm in a family deciding to not eat GMOs? Or is the harm when they openly speak against them? Let people make their own decisions, but as an agriculture community let’s teach the world what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Let’s do this without making others feel like they are wrong or ignorant. Because if we focus on positive education, we will reach far more people and be able to share our agriculture stories with a far larger audience.