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It just doesn’t make sense

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By M.P. Cremer

This past week, I had a long day of traveling from Rosalie, Texas back to Big Timber, Mont. Between driving multiple hours to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, flying from Dallas to Minneapolis to Billings and driving an hour and a half home from the airport, I had a lot of time to think. And, I chose to think about the ag industry. 

All this pondering led to a few questions, which made me ask, “Does this even make sense?” 

So, without further ado, here is a shortlist of things in the ag industry which just don’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Why does the U.S. export food when we’re importing it as well?

When looking up this question online, it’s easy to be flooded with video clips, press releases and blog posts about international trade and financial figures. Sure, it costs less to bring food in to the U.S. from other countries and sure, we get paid a pretty penny for exporting produce and meat overseas and across borders. 

But why? Why is it this way? Are we making the trade world work by doing things this way? Wouldn’t it make more sense to feed the mouths of our own American citizens with American agriculture? 

This is  the concept behind the “buy local” movement. Sure, it costs less for me to purchase food from Walmart or Albertsons, but I can see with my own two eyes how purchasing produce or cuts of meat from a locally-owned grocery store gets put back into the community. I, like many other Americans, am willing to pay a slightly higher price for locally-grown or raised food. This train of thought made its next stop at my second question.

Do consumers really care about MCOOL?

When I first got started writing and consuming ag news daily, Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) was a hot topic. When I worked at the Western Ag Reporter, I’d edit Letters to the Editor supporting MCOOL every week. These letters were usually accompanied by a press release from whatever ag organization did or didn’t support it. It was a huge deal in agriculture, but was it to consumers?

There are published studies proving consumers care about MCOOL and other published studies arguing they don’t. But, if shopping local and food transparency is really what consumers want, wouldn’t it make sense to throw a label on food packaging sharing the country of origin with consumers? 

This leads me to my next question.

Do consumers dig into labeling laws?

I’m going to go ahead and say no, most of them don’t, but I could be wrong. I would bet a consumer’s idea of “organic” is vastly different from actual stipulations in place allowing foods to be labeled as certified organic.

I mean, think about the genetically modified organisms (GMO) free label. If there are only 11 crops in the U.S. considered GMO, why do we see this label on so many products?

Furthermore, do consumers even know only 11 crops in the U.S. can legally be genetically modified? This train of thought wound up parking for the night at its final destination and my last question.

Who decided GMOs were a bad thing? And why?

For me, any discussion involving GMOs boils down to the big picture of why people think they’re so bad for us. 

Personally, I support the use of genetic modifications in crop production because it allows producers to feed more mouths. In my opinion, feeding eight billion people plus all the world’s livestock is a lot more important than feeding half those people and animals based on the principle that we shouldn’t spray for pests or double our crop production if possible. It’s technology, plain and simple. 

And we, as a society, don’t seem to have an issue with technology when it comes to our phones, vehicles or bank accounts, so why should our food be any different?

I often wonder, who decided GMOs are killing us and on what grounds? Because to me, the only thing worse than finding a worm in my corn is finding out my corn could safely be grown worm free had society allowed it to be genetically modified.

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