Farming: A Conspiracy of Knowledge

One perspective suggests that scientists and farmers have secretly joined with corporations in a conspiracy to knowingly poison society because somehow this leads to profits. That feels a bit James Bond-y when when you consider that the alternative explanation is quite simply that society itself is a slow moving blob of acceptance that moves along a line of never-ending knowledge. On some issues some of us are on the bleeding edge of where things are going, leaving others to trail behind, with still more people necessarily making up the tail end of believers. Yet on other issues it we who are trailing and others who are ahead. We’ve seen this with pollution, climate change, women’s equality, and we see it with food too.

Who wouldn’t want to know that their food was dangerous? And the information that it is dangerous is everywhere, although how to avoid the foods is less clear. Most of us solve that problem by simply buying organic produce and maybe less processed food. In addition to all of the scary articles we read, each of us is likely to have at least one friend who’s a very active and vocal ecowarrior and anticorporationista, and thanks to them we know all about the dangers of corporate, environmentally hazardous food.

The ranges of personal plausibilityOr do we? Would the fears we hear about line up with the realities defined by science? What if our well-intentioned friends are unknowingly passing on unfounded and even dangerous beliefs, particularly to the poor in the Third World? What if the basic facts are very clearly not in alignment with what we’re all hearing? Does it make sense to join them in their fears if all the experts are aligned, much like they are in any other industry? Do we second guess aviation experts like this? They have our lives in their hands in a much more dramatic way.

No one is arguing against organic food or for any other kind of food. We’re wondering, if all the vetted experts we spoke with agree that we’re doing things as wisely as possible, why do we insist we know better? Organic obviously has its place for those that can afford more labour and are okay with the increased ecological input. But we are wasting valuable human energy fighting against conventional food when most of us, including the people we love and the Third World, rely on those foods for literal survival.

Why would we assume that really intelligent, well-educated farmers and scientists wanted to lie to us when they and their children eat the same food and they work around the seeds and chemicals at levels far exceeding the exposure a consumer would get? It makes no sense in the field, you might say.

The fears against modern farming are understandable, but the are nevertheless uninformed. We know as much about our food production as we do about our airplanes. Most of the arguments we see on our social media are very old and easily debunked by simply talking to a real expert or asking people to offer a viable replacement system rather than point out micro-deficiencies in the current system. Most of the “solutions” would easily be exposed as naive by real experts. As a species, we’re far too quick to think we’re right and we’re equally quick at picking up unfounded fears and running with them.

The products that are selling aren’t selling because there’s a conspiracy, they’re selling because they make sense. No one thinks Tesla’s a conspiracy because they set a record for car sales, and yet their cars require minerals from countries with terrible human right’s records. But Tesla’s been flagged as a green company while every farmer and company in agriculture has been unfairly chained to Monsanto and its largely mythical history. That layer of emotional narrative over our food is our responsibility, not the farmer’s.

We are our only defense against this din of opposition for its own sake. So the next time a friend tells you what food to be afraid of, just ask them how a gene actually works and where a ruby red grapefruit comes from. Because if they can’t explain either, then maybe you’re better doing what we did, and rely on the science as conducted by trained experts. And they all agree that you should just enjoy your dinner.

Here’s Part One of Episode Two:

Click here for Part 2 of Episode 2