CONCEPTIONS Beef cow-calf newsletter Jan-Feb 2021
CLAY HOWE Route service, sire selection, agronomy (519) 933- 8431
SUE PALEN Order coordinator, products program (989) 834- 2661
GREG PALEN AI technique training, field service (989) 277- 6031
Livestock Service, Inc “For the
Best in Bulls” “The best in forage
110 N Main St (PO Box 661) Ovid, MI 48866 ph (989) 834-2661 fax (989) 834-2914
email: email@example.com website: www.michiganlivestock.com
The proliferation of communication technology that began with printing 400 years ago and now includes cable, fiber optics, wireless TV and radio, cell phones, email and the world-wide web – much of which is near-instantaneous in its dissemination and proliferation – has the capability of overwhelming us with the false impression that “everyone thinks this is a good idea”.
Much of the editorial content of “free circulation” farm magazines is in fact propaganda, and is written by public relations people for corporations who wish to tap into the farmers’ cash flow. They will send the same article outline to a dozen magazines: if half of them choose to rewrite it in their editorial style, you will read the same article six times, and begin to believe it.
All communication begins with human thought. We ponder a subject and come to conclusions that are based in two things: (1) those who influenced us, (2) our prior experience. Scientists who publish papers face something called “peer review”: you state your hypothesis, proceed with research, draw your conclusions and write them up. Then it gets circulated to others who have credentials in your area of study, who read your paper. If they agree with it, you get to see it published – if they do not, the establishment scientific journals will not publish it. For the scientist seeking grant funding to actually prove their hypothesis, the “peer review” aids those with money (but without critical expertise in the subject) to agree to funding it.
What if your research data, and the conclusion you draw from it, contradict the prevailing peer view (the “orthodoxy”)? Human error, supported by “group think” and political pressures, will allow falsehoods to persist, and as a result the direction of an industry can be changed. Once momentum is built in a certain direction, it is like trying to steer the Titanic away from icebergs to get any alternatives equal consideration. In animal agriculture the tendency has been for technologists to enlist government support for products and practices consumers would reject. If the farming community sides with consumers our opportunities for profitability will improve.
We now stand at the threshold of “Gene Editing” – the biotechnology process that industry has primed to take over “breeding” the future food supply. Billions of dollars are involved.
The risks in dependence on GMO and Gene editing
The fundamental argument that produced GMO’s and leads to gene splicing (editing) is based in the flawed Malthusian concept that populations will grow faster than our ability to feed them, thus we must ramp up food technology to insure that millions of future people will not starve.
Those who do not farm (98% of the current population, including 100% of federal bureaucrats in the politicized FDA and USDA, and the journalists who feed them story lines) like all the links they can imagine between population growth, climate change, and starvation. They are ready to believe that farmers are incapable of feeding the world, because do we not see the newsreel reports of starving peoples in real time today? Do we not visit deserts that grew crops earlier?
Fertility begins and ends in the soil and its biology
Good old Malthus, even in the early 1800s, was not a farmer, because England already had an agricultural industry that produced a food surplus—he could eat without growing his own. He was a philosopher connected to royal authority (at that time tied to the church authority). His frame of reference was just prior to the farmer-driven development of gene selection from the observation of natural mating results (in plants and animals both) and which over the next two centuries of activity provided a steadily rising level of productivity that kept up with population.
Non-farmers do not know that 95% of all crop yield comes from sunlight and rainfall. In the case of animal agriculture, when it was pasture-based (with a forage “crop” growing 365 days of the year, either above ground or below ground as the seasons dictated), the urine, manure, crop stubble and bedding they left behind was nearly capable of maintaining the “mined” 5%. The mass of plant roots and companion soil biology could maintain fertility which is actually stimulated by plant growth and animal residues. No one needs to starve in the future.
The technologists of today, mimicking the lost civilizations who destroyed their agriculture by monocultural tillage farming (producing a single, seasonal crop, such as wheat) only produced food for 100 out of 365 days. This left the soil exposed on top and dormant underneath, and as the organic matter was depleted and soil biology died, the fertility of that land died with it.
The ag communications media is lining up to “sell” you on adopting yet another technology
In the end, all consumer-driven and environmental concerns over permitting of GMO animals (currently a turf war between FDA, which has held gene editing to strict standards, and USDA, which is gung-ho to “green light” every idea some corporation dreams up) will be overrun by “expert” opinion in favor of turning seed and germ plasm generation over to those who can pay the advertising rates of the farm magazines. Farmer-breeders are under siege, and the costs of developing the gene editing technology to compete with their breeding skills leave us out of the financial equation. After four hundred years, farmers will again become “serfs”, and their heirs, lacking the profits sucked off by technology fees on all the patents, will sell their land to industrialists or government, as no dirt farmer will be able to afford it.
Gene editing cannot deliver on many of the benefits being promised
Here is a prime example of the flawed thinking. Claims are being made that GMO animals can be made more healthy than animals from natural breeding selection. This assumes that disease is gene-driven. How does that match our current Covid-19 experiences? Replication of GMO genotypes comes after a pre-determination to make animals that fit an ideal environment—but the “real” environment is constantly changing. The genotype does not control performance, it merely sets up potential range of performance. It is the environment that determines actual performance, and the gene makeup of animals in the natural world is designed to preserve the ability to adapt to the climatic, nutritional, spatial, seasonal, and human variations. As soon as you insert genes in the location of natural genes, those are lost to future generations.