With the beginning of the industrial revolution in this country when sizeable portions of our population left the farm and move to cities to work in industry, people trusted farmers to grow their food. Over time, improvements in food safety and sanitary conditions, inspections and regulations, and government regulatory oversight have made our food supply among the safest in the world. Adoption of new agronomic and husbandry practices and technology have increased food production, even when the number of people farming and amount of land in use declined. Throughout, the trust in agriculture remained. That could be changing and have dire consequences for agriculture.
The anti-vaccine movement in the US is not new. There have always been a small group of people who avoided getting vaccinated or having their children immunized. Some had religious issues; others were anti-science and against the corporate pharmacological industry. Now their ranks have swelled by a significant segment of the population who are against vaccines on political grounds.
At the heart of the issue is the loss of trust. People have lost trust in the medical community, trust in the pharmacological industry, trust in the government agencies that regulate drugs, trust in the media, and trust in almost everything but their own opinions. Verifiable facts don’t matter in this environment. Neither do statistics, research, public health experts, or government leaders. Without trust in these, their evidence is meaningless.
What will happen when this level of distrust moves to food? The FDA has approved Covid vaccines, but many people still refuse to take the shot because they don’t trust the FDA. The agency also regulates food, so will this mistrust soon move to the food they regulate? There are already plenty of groups out sowing those seeds of distrust. Anti-chemical, technology, and animal groups are famous for bashing farmers and modern farming methods. They will be more than happy to feed consumer distrust of regulations on food to further their own agendas.
It is important that those in agriculture strongly support science, technology, and government regulations and standards — not only in food production but in all aspects and industries. If we lose these as the basis for food production, farming will be at the whim of public opinion.
Consider for a moment how your farming operation or agri-business would operate if you had no idea if your products or process would be allowed day to day, depending on the latest media investigation, Tik Tok video, or social media petition. Oh wait, that just happened. The EPA banned the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops last week as a result of a lawsuit by activist groups that led to an adverse court decision. Rather than fight the legal battle, the EPA gave in and banned the product. While the Biden administration pledged to use science as the basis for regulations, it was public pressure that ruled the day in this case. Glyphosate and atrazine are next on the activist hit list.
We must maintain public trust in agriculture and the science-based system that regulates it. It is our only hope.