Understanding Consumer Misconceptions of Modern Agriculture
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Unless you have grown up immersed in agriculture, farming techniques may seem like a foreign language. As these techniques evolve to meet the needs of our growing population, they can sound especially strange. With only about 2% of Americans working in farming, the reasons behind these practices are often misconstrued. Communicating the truth behind the practices is important to the agriculture industry, as well as to the public.
When it comes to eating a healthy diet, dietitians recommend incorporating fruits and veggies into meals. A common belief is that organic foods are a more nutritious option, but studies have proven that to be incorrect. Research done by Stanford University broke down vitamin and nutrient content in both organic and non-organic produce, to learn that both forms of produce have the same nutritional value.
Pesticides are used on farms that practice organic and non-organic methods, providing protection from unwanted pests. The small amounts of chemicals are used to increase the likelihood that crops grow strong and healthy, so they can enter the food chain and help feed a hungry planet.
When it comes to the application of pesticides, most people don’t realize the quantity used. An acre of land (roughly the size of a football field) uses an average of 22 ounces of protective pesticide, which is about equal to the liquid that fits inside two average soda cans.
There is also the misconception that any pesticide left on produce is a risk to human health. In reality you could eat 181 servings of strawberries in one day, even if the strawberries had the highest residue ever recorded by the USDA, before reaching a limit the EPA deems at risk. That’s about 1,448 strawberries in one sitting!
Still not convinced? Check out this video showing how farmers with Common Ground reached communities to ease concerns about pesticide use.
- FOOD SECURITY
It’s no surprise that we need to find sustainable ways to produce more food as our population continues to grow. The question is, how?
New technology and innovations offer solutions that allow farmers to utilize resources and increase production and yield.
- Farmers can use drones as scouts to identify disease, weed, or pest problems in advance. Having these insights helps farmers apply crop protection only where needed in the field.
- Digital displays in equipment allow growers to monitor planting rates, water and pesticide applications, and more.
Many people are confused about the benefits of GMO crops. One of the most common examples is the misconception that GMOs are bad for the environment, when actually they help reduce the environmental impact of farming.
From saving topsoil, reducing pesticide use, to cutting food waste—GMOs have many environmental benefits. The Arctic Apple is the newest addition to the GMO lineup, modified to prevent browning once they have been sliced. About 40% of apples are wasted per year in the U.S. If you’ve ever seen bags of sliced apples, you’ve probably seen them get ignored after spending too long on supermarket shelves. GM apples were created to help solve this overwhelming issue of waste.
Knowing the above should help you revaluate any misconceptions you have of the environmental impact of GMOs. To learn more about some of the other myths surrounding GMOs make sure to visit GMO Answers.
- WATER SAFETY
Did you know that groundwater supplies about 51% of the US drinking water? While water goes through a thorough review process to ensure quality, it is still important to keep water sources as clean as possible.
As stewards of the land, farmers understand the importance of sustainable farming methods. Fertilizers and animal waste may be nutrient-rich for crops, but undesirable to have in groundwater. Thus, farmers utilize various techniques (see below) to help reduce agriculture-related water pollution.
- Planting certain grasses, grains or clovers as cover crops can help keep nutrients out of the water by recycling excess nitrogen and reducing soil erosion.
- Plants near the edge of bodies of water, called “buffers,” actively absorb and remove nutrients from the water.
- Nutrient Management is the practice of proper application rates and methods to ensure the crop gets what it needs, and does not impact the environment.
- Get information about additional efforts from the EPA.
We hope some of these facts have helped clear up some of the misconceptions you may have had about agriculture. If you found this valuable, please download these facts to share with friends and family.
Follow @Bayer4CropsUS for more facts and conversations about agriculture! Also, join the conversation on our AgVocate Facebook group to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the industry today.