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Celebrating Agriculture’s Abundance

March 19, 2009

 Every year, the Agriculture Council of America hosts the annual “National Ag Week” campaign.  But we shouldn’t need a special day to appreciate all that agriculture provides us – we see it every day in the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the energy we consume. 

This year, National Ag Day is Friday, March 20.  This is the day that producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize agriculture’s role in maintaining a strong national economy and in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

More and more, agricultural biotechnology contributes to our abundance of agriculture.  Through biotechnology, farmers are able to grow healthier and heartier crops and food animals to better meet our world’s needs.  Biotech crops help increase farmer revenues because there is less need for the application of additional inputs such as herbicide or insecticide applications.  And because biotech crops require less tillage, farmers conserve fuel and reduce air emissions.  This also helps increase soil quality and water retention.

But biotechnology is not just helping farmers here at home.  Newsweek’s March 23rd issue includes a feature on agricultural biotechnology’s role in providing solutions for farmers in developing countries: 
“For years, farmers in Africa and other developing countries have struggled against a wide array of problems, from pests to changing weather patterns, without being able to avail themselves of all the high-tech tools that wealthier nations have. A big obstacle has been a taboo on genetic modification of food crops, inspired largely by attitudes in Europe, and a global agricultural industry that has been deaf to the problems of poor nations.

“But a recent series of crises is changing those attitudes. Spiking food prices triggered riots across the tropics last year, killing 24 in Cameroon and toppling the Haitian government. As supplies vanished, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo went so far as to threaten rice hoarders with life imprisonment. Worldwide, grain stocks hit a quarter-century low. The financial crisis worsened matters by gutting incomes and farm credit without making much of a dent in food prices. In a world where almost a billion people went hungry last year – 119 million more than in 2007 – and with food demand set to double by midcentury, the taboo against GM foods is crumbling.”

Let's hope so.  As we celebrate the abundance of agriculture, we should also celebrate the wonders of science and technology.  Modern farm tools, such as biotechnology, are helping farmers and ranchers provide an abundance of food, fuel and fiber in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.