17 Myths About Agriculture in 2017

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  1. GMOs are evil

    GMOs are a valuable technology used in science, medicine, and agriculture. Farmers use them to increase yields, reduce inputs, improve the soil, and provide resistance to drought, insects and weeds. There are GMOs being used all throughout society, and there is a very good chance you’ve consumed or used a GM product today. We do believe people should be free to avoid GMOs if they want to, but GMOs have been around for 2 decades (over a trillion meals consumed) without a single sickness or health issue resulting from consumption. We’ve written about why farmers use GMOs and their many misconceptions here: What the Peterson Farm Bros Think About GMOs

  2. Monsanto is evil

    One of the biggest misconceptions about agriculture (or on the internet really) is that Monsanto is an evil company bent on poisoning humanity. Anyone who is familiar with Monsanto or who knows a Monsanto employee knows this isn’t true. Most of what you hear online about Monsanto is either greatly exaggerated or simply not true. We don’t believe Monsanto is perfect and we know that many people are frustrated with how much money they make compared to farmers. However, if Monsanto was truly evil, farmers wouldn’t buy their products and their employees would not enjoy working for them. Plus, they are actually doing a lot of good things! We address 15 myths we’ve discovered about Monsanto here: 15 Myths About Monsanto

  3. Organic farming is the only sustainable way to farm

    We are advocates for diversity in farming. We are believers in organic farming and think all of agriculture can learn a lot from what organic farmers do, but we also believe that farming is not a “one size/type fits all” industry. Our world is a complex, diverse place that faces complex, diverse problems that require complex, diverse solutions! We need big farms, small farms, conventional farms, organic farms, GMO/non-GMO, etc. in order to find those solutions and meet the needs of 9 billion people by 2050! Please watch: Greg’s Ted Talk for more on this subject!

  4. Organic food is always safer, healthier, more environmentally friendly and is not grown using pesticides

    Again, we are believers in both organic farming AND organic food! We do believe that if people want to buy food that has been raised organically, farmers should be allowed to meet that need. However, we don’t believe that organic food is ALWAYS safer, healthier, and more environmentally friendly. Many people buy organic food to support small farms, get healthier and safer food, and protect the environment. We believe that you can do these things without necessarily purchasing organic food. Plus, one of the biggest myths out there is that organic farmers do not use pesticides. They do. There is just a great amount of misleading information being put out there about the difference between conventional and organic food. You can read our entire opinion of organic food here: Conventional AND Organic

  5. Misleading Labels

    • “Raised Without Antibiotics:” Antibiotics and vaccines are used throughout the livestock industry to prevent animals from getting sick and help the ones who do get sick recover. Not using antibiotics on an animal who gets sick increases the suffering of the animal and is inhumane. Animals are never “pumped full” of antibiotics. Antibiotics and vaccines are very expensive and farmers would be stupid to overuse either one. All milk and meat is antibiotic free. There are strict withdrawal times for both that prevent antibiotics from reaching the food supply. (Read our entire opinion of antibiotics here)
    • “Hormone Free:” All humans and animals have naturally occurring hormones in them, so meat and milk from animals will never be “hormone free,” but hormones can be added to an animal in production. All pork and poultry products are free of added hormones! Cattle that do receive hormones receive a tiny implant (size of a tic tac) that increases the efficiency of how they grow, it does not “fill the beef full of hormones” but adds a minuscule amount (Read our entire opinion of hormones here)
    • “Non-GMO:” A non-GMO label makes sense for products that have the capability of being GMO, but many non-GMO labels are on products that are never GMO. The only GMO crops being grown are corn, soybeans, cotton, potatoes, sugar beets, papayas, canola, squash, and alfalfa. A “non-GMO” label on foods other than these creates fear that the opposite (GMO) exists in that type of food. We do believe in freedom of choice for consumers and so we aren’t anti-labeling, however, we do believe any sort of non-GMO label can cause confusion in uninformed consumers, making them believe GMOs must be dangerous, an opinion that we’ve attempted to debunk in our GMO blog.
    • “Gluten Free:” Gluten free labels are great and are needed for people who legitimately suffer from gluten intolerance. However, if you do not legitimately suffer from gluten intolerance, there is no need for you to avoid gluten. Gluten has been consumed for thousands of years and is in many products that accompany healthy diets. The gluten-free fad has been beneficial in providing new products for people who are actually gluten intolerant, but is causing problems as well.
    • “Grass-Fed:” The grass fed label on beef can be very misleading. All cattle are fed grass throughout their lives. Even grain-finished cattle are raised on grass for the first half of their lives. From there they are transitioned onto a grass/forage/grain diet and eventually finished on mostly grain for the last portion of their lives. “Grass-Finished” is the appropriate label and refers to the ending period of cattle’s lives when they are being finished. We believe both grass finished and grain finished are sustainable ways to produce beef. Learn more here: Why do we have feedlots and grain-finished beef?
  6. Our food supply is poisoned by agricultural practices

    Farmers are not poisoning the food supply. It makes zero sense that we would produce dangerous products that we ourselves consume! A vast majority of farmers use technology like GMOs, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, etc. If you believe that these things are killing us, you must also believe that the thousands of farm families like us are willingly producing this poison! We would never do such a thing! If the farm families who used these types of technology knew they were dangerous or poisonous in any way, we would stop growing them and stop consuming them. We haven’t.

    Most of the unhealthy products you consume come from the middle steps between the farmer and your plate. Evidence shows that added sugar, added fat, and added preservatives are causing health concerns rather than GMOs, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. These are being added by profit-hungry companies, that are agreeably hard to trust. However, at the beginning of the equation are farmers, and farm families that are creating healthy products you CAN trust! Evidence is clear that limiting calories, avoiding added sugar, fat, and preservatives and exercising daily are what is best for your health. There is no evidence that technologies used in agriculture are bad for your health.

  7. Agriculture is destroying the planet

    There is no way that farmers and the agricultural industry can feed and clothe billions of people efficiently without making a huge impact on the environment. However, farmers are making a lot of progress in minimizing that impact! It takes less input to grow beef, pork, poultry, and crops than it ever has, thanks to the technology we talk about on this page. Conservational farming, waste regulation, reduced emissions on machinery, and better management practices are all ways farmers are reducing their impact. We still have a lot of ways to improve, but you can’t say we aren’t trying! You can read more about how farmers are reducing their impacts on our blogs: Reducing Impact

  8. Family farming is dead and corporations rule

    96 percent of the farms in America are family farms like ours, according to the USDA. The vast majority of the food being produced in America is being produced by family farms. Corporations do play a big part in the industry, but they do not “control” or “rule” the food supply. Farmers are still at the root of the food equation, and are growing healthy, nutritious crops better than they ever have! Technology, efficiency, and commodity prices have definitely increased the size of these family farms, and many of them farm thousands of acres and thousands of animals, but they are still the same value-driven family farms that were around 50-100 years ago! Read more in our blog: Family Farming

  9. Farmers are only in it for profit

    Profit is definitely one of the central motivators in how a farmer farms. A farm would not work and a farmer couldn’t support their family if the farm was not making money. Money factors into most decisions made on a farm. However, there is so much more to farming than how much money is being made. Farmers have a rough job, one that requires many hours of hard work in tough conditions. The bottom line is that the vast majority of farmers farm because they love what they do and care about taking care of what they have and raising healthy food for people to eat, not because farming makes them rich.

  10. Farmers don’t care about the land

    As mentioned above, there is no way agriculture can feed and clothe billions of people without making an impact on the environment. However, farmers do care greatly about their land, their water, and the environment! It only makes sense. Why would farmers abuse the land that produces the crops they make a living with? Why would farmers pollute the water that their family drinks and that they need to grow their crops? Why would farmers destroy the environment that they live, breathe, and work in every day? Farmers are the original stewards of the earth and to this day are working hard to improve the health of the soil, the water, and the air.

  11. Farmers don’t care about their animals

    Again, why would farmers mistreat the animals that they are raising for a living? Animals that are mistreated do not grow as fast or as healthy as animals who are treated right. It is every advantage to a farmer to give an animal the food, shelter, medicine and quality of life it needs to be happy. If not, the animal will get sick or not produce well and the farmer will lose money. Furthermore, farmers love their animals. If they didn’t they wouldn’t raise them. It takes a lot of work to raise animals and it requires many sacrifices. Livestock live better lives than many humans do! Please read our “Animal Welfare” blogs for more.

  12. Farmers drench their crops in pesticides

    When people think about farmers using pesticides in crop production, they typically think of a crop being drenched in toxic pesticides. In reality, up to 95% of a spray mixture a farmer uses is water, and very little of the spray is actually applied to a crop. It is common for only a soda can’s worth of pesticide to be sprayed on an entire acre (football field). Most pesticides are sprayed before and after a crop is planted, but even for pesticides applied during the growing season, residues from such mixes are always given time to wear off of a plant before harvest, especially in cereal crops. The amount of residue in your food is far, far below anything that would ever affect you. However, you should always wash fruits and vegetables before eating. You can read more about toxicity levels and pesticides on our blog: Chemical Application in Agriculture

  13. Farmers don’t rotate crops

    A common criticism of farmers is that they practice “monocropping,” aka they don’t rotate their crops. As of 2017, nearly all farmers rotate their crops in some way, organic farmers or not. Some may only rotate between 2-3 crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) or some, like ours, may rotate between 5 or 6. The other definition of “monocropping” is planting just one crop in a field. Planting multiple crops at once is an impractical goal for farmers as they cannot harvest the crops in an efficient way. However, many farmers today are implementing “cover crops” that allow for multiple crops to be grown in a field in one growing season. It is common knowledge that rotating different crops in your fields creates better soil health and higher yields. Soil health is becoming more and more a part of the farming discussion and a great amount of research is being done on how to build the health of soil. (Read more: How are farmers improving?)

  14. Farmers get rich off of subsidies

    Subsidies exist to help farmers supplement their income, manage their expenses, and maintain the supply of agricultural commodities. While the system isn’t perfect and it does tend to favor large farmers over smaller ones (we agree it should be opposite), subsidies are a valuable part of the farm economy. Many subsidies come in the form of crop insurance, where a farmer is reimbursed if their crop fails. Without this system in place, more farmers would go broke and there would be even fewer farms operated on an even larger scale. There would also be a higher risk of financial crisis in lending institutions. The vast majority of farmers do not get wealthy off of farm subsidies, they just provide a slight cushion of constant in a profession that is very vulnerable to volatility. (Read more: Crop Insurance in America)

  15. Large scale animal agriculture (factory farming) is evil

    One of the practices that gets the biggest knock in agriculture is intensive animal farming or “factory farms.” Factory farms are by definition farms that have thousands of animals. Our farm is a “factory farm.” Without intensive livestock farming, there would simply not be enough meat, dairy, eggs and animal products to go around. It is the most efficient way to raise animals, because the animals are all in one spot and the farmer can take care of them easier. Economy of scale, when done right, can often lead to better care of animals and less input required to raise one. The important thing to remember is that smaller is not always “better” and bigger is not always “right.” It all depends on the location, type, and climate of the farm and the commitment of the farmer to the animals. (Read more: What are factory farms? and The Welfare of Livestock Animals)

  16. Meat, eggs, and dairy are unhealthy for you and the environment

    People have been eating meat, eggs, and dairy products for thousands of years. Many of the people who live to be very old have eaten diets containing these for their entire lives. Meat, eggs, and dairy are excellent sources of protein and nutrients and build strong muscles and bones. Should you over-consume these products? No, just as with anything. The environmental impact of raising this type of food is also greatly overstated. While raising animal products does take it’s toll on the environment, they are the best, most efficient way of delivering protein to a hungry world. And farmers are working hard to minimize their impact each day. For more on our opinion of this subject, please read our blog: Why We Raise Animals For Food and Products

  17. Everyone should be vegan

    While we do respect the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, we feel very strongly that not everyone needs to avoid meat and animal products. These products are very valuable to our infrastructure, efficiency, economy, and accessibility to protein. A vegan lifestyle is simply not possible for everyone. Vegans also advocate that animals who are raised for food an products are abused, exploited, and made into slaves. We do not feel this to be true at all and explain why in our blog: Why We Raise Animals for Food and Products

12 thoughts on “17 Myths About Agriculture in 2017

  1. Awesome!

    I’m farmer in Finland, small country in northern europe. Farming in here is very different of yours!

    We have 250 hectares arableland, and 27 000 chikes wich produce eggs. We are on Finlands biggest farms list in place 255.

    Our farm would be small in there! 😀

    I don’t know how you are doing there, but here farming is in financial crisis. EU don’t let us sell our products to Russia, wich has been our biggest import customer. Now every place is full of milk, eggs, meat etc, and you know what that does to the prices of products…
    Still we look forward to the future, and believe brighter days are coming!

    Best regards: Lauri Kivimäki, Finnish farmer

  2. This is fantastic information and I thoroughly with everything said. It should be mandatory reading for everyone, world-wide!

  3. Until the farmer gets cancer from Monsanto. AND, he knows that the chemicals he used on his farm gave him the cancer. This was the conversation that sadly haunts me from my last trip to North Dakota in October 2016.

    • I know thousands of farmers and I’ve never heard of an instance like this. If chemicals are applied properly this would never be an issue. I know of farmers who have worked with chemicals every day their whole lives and are perfectly healthy…

  4. I’m not sure there is anyone making many (and definitely not all) of these arguments…?

    Your final point on veganism, seems a bit tacked on, as vegans are pro-agriculture (that’s where everyone’s food comes from ;)). I thought I’d try to help out with some valuable info:

    Veganism does connect with many of these points. The concern about antibiotics, for one; antibiotics are obviously necessary for farming, yet it has an impact on people (when resistance develops as a result of farm use, the drugs won’t work for people). While the FDA is helping change this (http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2014/10/24/farm-antibiotic-use-getting-worse-before-it-maybe-gets-better/) I worry about decreasing its use will poorly impact the health and well-being of the animals.

    In response to “Agriculture is destroying the planet,” the truth is that factory farmed meat (the kind found at many restaurants and in pre-packaged foods) is having an IMMENSE impact on the environment. In fact, from Time Magazine: “Livestock production may have a bigger impact on the planet than anything else.” http://science.time.com/2013/12/16/the-triple-whopper-environmental-impact-of-global-meat-production/ While there is a lot of ways we can improve the impact of farming, simply reducing the demand can have the biggest impact of all.

    To see an example of the impact, just look at Lake Erie and its toxic algae blooms: http://www.sierraclub.org/michigan/follow-manure-factory-farms-and-lake-erie-algal-crisis And despite their impact, these livestock farmers still get subsidies? http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2015/11/30/Farms-near-Lake-Erie-get-millions.html

    The argument against pesticides (and herbicides) is surely a concern for many people, as pesticides are one of many contributors to the loss of bees–native and non-native (https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/pollinator-health-concerns#factors). While pesticides are used on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains (which we all need to survive), they are also used on agriculture that serves to feed the animals we eat. Fewer farmed animals means less pesticide.

    And while 97% of farms are family-owned, that doesn’t mean they are all small, mom and pop places where all the cows have names and the chickens are roaming free. (Only 88% are actually considered “small.”) However, large-scale family farms and non-family farms account for the majority of farm production. Of course, these stats are about farmers in general, not livestock farming, so these numbers matter very little to this discussion. But if you’re interested: https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/eib66/8338_eib66_reportsummary_1_.pdf

    But a number that does matter to the argument is this one: “99 per cent of farm animals in the US are reared in factory farms, according to the ASPCA.” That’s not good at all, because what you get is this: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/animal-abuse-factory-farms-undercover-investigators-pigs-chickens-cows-turkeys-mercy-for-animals-a7501816.html

    And yet, your rebuttal to “Large scale animal agriculture (factory farming) is evil” offers little actual argument or comfort: “Without intensive livestock farming, there would simply not be enough meat, dairy, eggs and animal products to go around.”

    This is exactly why veganism IS such a great idea; you don’t have to support that demand with compromised farming to meet the demand of billions of people. (And if you want to hear a crazy number, 9.2 BILLION farmed animals are killed every year by humans. That’s nuts, right?? Just nuts. Check out how this number grew over the past 75 years: http://www.humanesociety.org/news/resources/research/stats_slaughter_totals.html)

    What’s interesting is that all of these links I found are not fringe sites or “go vegan!” sites. They come from Time Magazine, National Geographic, The Independent, The Humane Society, The Sierra Club (which may be fringe to you but…seriously, it isn’t) and funded government research. This isn’t crazy talk to examine where our food comes from and what happened to our food industry after we started demanding cheap meat, every meal, to feed 7 billion people.

    Finally–the weirdest claim of all. You said, “A vegan lifestyle is typically only possible for those who have expendable time and income and live in populated areas.”

    What’s great is that you only need what’s already in your grocery store, even in your small town. You simply…replace ingredients with other ingredients (that are also farmed). Here’s a last article about that, from a great blogger and chef: http://www.prepgreen.com/vegan-cooking-time-consuming/

    By replacing chickens and eggs and cows and pigs with soy and flaxseed and wheat and broccoli (and and and), you get more jobs for farmers, an improved environment, healthier people, and happier animals. None of this seems very difficult or aggressive or “anti-farmer” in the least. I hope this was helpful!

  5. “A vast majority of farmers use technology like GMOs, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, etc. If you believe that these things are killing us, you must also believe that the thousands of farm families like us are willingly producing this poison! We would never do such a thing! If the farm families who used these types of technology knew they were dangerous or poisonous in any way, we would stop growing them and stop consuming them.” – While I can accept that farmers are not deliberately choosing to engage in harmful practices, I do believe that some of the practices thought to be harmless could turn out to be deadly or extremely damaging. There are historical reasons for believing this, such as the widespread use of lead arsenate and DDT as pesticides. Sometimes it takes decades for science to catch up with what a “fringe” or “radical” group of the general population has suspected all along. I’m reminded of the time my mother suspected that my chronic ear infections could somehow be related to our swimming pool, but the doctor told her that wasn’t possible. 25 years later, my Certified Dive Master brother told me that yes, they were related, because our swimming pool was unusually deep which meant that it was deep enough to cause diving injuries to my inner ears. The doctor, the expert, was wrong. Mom was right, but it took 25 years for us to have the science to back her up. The folks telling you that widespread use of GMO’s, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics is dangerous may be right, but it could be decades before they have the science to prove it.

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