Matt's primary interest is in the biotech industry and ag policy.
A Video Discussing Sustainability
Nov 01, 2010
By Matt Bogard
The term factory farm has gotten a lot of use lately, and I have always contended that the term has often been used by activists to appear to be pro family farm, while supporting an agenda that would undermine the technologies and practices that most family farms depend upon. Recently Feedstuffs Foodlink posted a story about a board studying the term (link) :
"In recent years, the reference has been used with increasing frequency in both conventional and online/social media to signify anything and everything that activists see as bad in livestock and poultry production, including animal suffering, excessive use of antibiotics and hormones and environmental and food safety problems, according to an analysis by the Cattlemen's Beef Board."
The concept of sustainabiity is another contentious term, with different meanings according to different people- This issue was discussed in a recent article in Farm World Online- Rosene Not One Definition Fits Sustainable Agriculure (link)
"GMO crops can increase sustainability by reducing pesticide use, they can potentially reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizers, improve water use efficiency, and minimize yield-limiting factors. Such capabilities are a positive step in ag but those who are emotionally tied to sustainable ag don’t want to hear that."
Another great discussion regarding family farms vs. factory farms can be found at the American Farm Bureau's blog post " A Tale of Two Farmers (link)
Unfortuanately, some of these discussions can degenerate into different producers filling different market niches attacking one another. It is true that popular media ( see Media May Be Overhyping Benetits or Organic Food from KState) and celebrity athors like Michael Pollan and movies like Food, Inc have given mixed signals about the sustainability of modern agriculture.
It seems as a result, that in many social settings if you don't hold to a certain core set of beliefs, you don't care about the environment. How many earth day celebrations in your home town or local college involve actual farmers? How many corporate or organizational 'sustainability committees' involve people with backgrounds in agriculture? How many emphasize only certain paths to sustainability, such as natural, local or organic food? How many would be willing to concede that both organic and biotech foods could complement one another?
I've tried to tie these themes together in the above animated video that depicts a conversation between two coworkers interested starting an office sustainability committee. (this was made possible by utilizing tools availabel at http://www.xtranormal.com/
It is important that we deal with these misperceptions in a way that is respectful to all types of producers.