Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
Controversy is the pulse of a democratic society, but it is not
a peaceful pulse. The assembly in ancient Athens may have
been democratic but it was not pleasant—debates were tense
and fiery. Likewise, modern democracies wage turbulent pub-
lic relations battles over agricultural controversies, exchange
petty insults on websites, and hire lobbyists as mercenaries
in the fight over farm bills and environmental regulations.
Words exchanged are sometimes ridiculous, like when Maria
Rodale wrote to President Obama saying we are “no better”
than Syria because we also use chemical weapons on our
own people in the form of pesticides. Or when the livestock
industry suggests that the well-being of farm animals can
be measured solely by its profitability—that a profitable pig
must therefore be a happy pig. Yet one can't have a real debate
without extreme comments being made, and such comments
should not dissuade others from contributing their more mod-
erate views.
Even though no side ever “wins” these battles, the debate
makes us constantly reevaluate how we produce food with
the objective of making it greener, safer, healthier, and more
abundant. Debates may at times be destructive and lead us
into erroneous beliefs, but societies without social controver-
sies are not utopias, but dystopias (think North Korea). In the
course of writing this topic we found ourselves asking new
questions, and learning a good deal, the more seriously we
took food documentaries. We discovered that we hadn't really
thought much about the long-term consequence of relying on
chemical fertilizers, and that we knew very little about how
pesticides and genetically modified organisms were regu-
lated. Moreover, we learned that we had far fewer “answers” to
the important questions than we initially believed. Engaging
these agricultural and food controversies taught us much,
and made us better researchers and teachers. So let the food
debates continue, regardless of where they lead. They are bet-
ter than no debate at all.
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