Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Response to the Report on OWFP

By Keith Sheller

As an Iowa commercial farmer, I would like to take issue with some of the charges against the premises of the World Food Prize.
  As much as I appreciate Frank Cordaro and his friends, I think some of the objections to WFP are misguided.  Also, I do not appreciate some of the things that Dupont and BASF do, but they are about as trustworthy as any corporation.  That is to say, keep an eye on them.  Corporations are not people; they never die, and have no soul.  The Farm Bureau is a problem as they tend to be a tool of the wealthy class of farmers and the insurance business that keeps them going so strong.  I do not belong, but do not consider them “evil”.

Iowa is not a sick state.  Before making such a statement, one should check it out.  My observation is that Iowa is average in that regard.  Glyphosate, (aka Roundup) may or may not be in our bloodstream at a marginal detectable level.  At any rate, it is a relatively safe pesticide to be using.  Its useful life is coming to an end due to over-use.  I give it another decade.  Keep in mind that just about any compound is poison at some level.  So, I choose to trust the FDA to test, then reject or accept suspicious things in the food and drugs.  We can now test for parts per billion and more.  The concept of poison is a relative thing, not a black or white concept.

The concept of GMO plants has been under intense scrutiny for years now.  No scientific evidence supports that they are deadly.  We have been engineering plants for centuries.  Getting into the internal genetics is newer, but not fundamentally different than what plant breeders have been doing for decades.  Before that, farmers saved the best seed for next year and did not feed it or eat it.  Again, if you do not trust the FDA, then you will have lots of trouble finding anything safe to eat.  Straining at GMO based food seems like obsessive-compulsive behavior to me.

A few years back, I donated a 70 acre field of corn to the Food Resource Bank.  The corn was picked and hauled in one one day by me and fellow members of the FRB.  A nice delegation from the World Food Prize came out to witness this event.  I was duly impressed by the open mindedness and willingness to learn by the delegation.  In other words, they seemed to be good people.  They appeared to be some of the best of many countries and colors.  So, my take of the World Food Prize is that it is a fairly straight run group, and not a sinister attempt to subvert the world to destructive farm practices.  Dupont, Monsanto, and so-forth are in it for good publicity and enlightened self interest.

Lots of the changes we see nowadays are due to discovery of better ways to farm.  Yes, some of them are a detriment but we are not going to turn back the clock to farming in the 40s and 50s.  I was around back then and it was a LOT more work.  Many things we did back then were good, but some were not.  The ideal farms had livestock that could consume the produce raised on the farm. This one was a good concept.  However, manure was not managed, but spread on the land to get rid of it.  Scientific “nutrient management” was not even heard of.  Pigs lived outside and some inside but in the cold and the hot.  Now they live in a comfortable building although much too crowded.  So you see, good and bad.

I go to Des Moines, and I too detest the suburban sprawl that is evident for all to see.  I see all those houses PLUS on prime land too boot.  I don’t see how anyone can support such a thing.  This problem seems to be beyond the concepts of what World Food Prize would be addressing.  So I believe that introducing modern farm methods to places in the world that are stuck in the past and chronically hungry is a good project.  I think the thrust of WFP is modernizing and distribution not just a way to sell more corporate product. 

Keith Sheller is a farmer in rural Grundy County, and volunteer accountant for Iowa Peace Network.

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