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Toban Dyck: Some light reading over breakfast

Consumers groups and farmers are working with separate sets of facts

I read something that fired me up. Actually, Jamie, my wife, did.

Jamie knew how I’d react. She read the post out loud to verify that. It was all in good fun. And it led to a great conversation. I sat where I’m sitting now, at the kitchen island. And Jamie sat close by, also at the island. It was a calm, routine morning until this point.

“The evidence is overwhelming how harmful glyphosates are,” a group called Primal Pastures wrote in a caption above a meme that read, “Glyphosate was approved by [the] FDA in 1977 and never re-examined again.”

This is what she read to me.

The poor grammar raised my eyebrows, but the statements themselves raised my blood pressure (and maybe my voice). After the crescendo of my rant to Jamie unpacking all that I thought was wrong with those claims, I started to de-escalate and think slightly more objectively about where attitudes like theirs come from.

It may be wilful ignorance. It may be that those behind it have a good idea that what they’re saying is either entirely wrong or at the very least not the whole picture. In that case, memes and statements such as these are not said in the interest of sharing honest information. They are meant to spread distrust of conventional farming practices and further empower an anti-genetically-modified-foods lobby that hardly needs more fuel.

The ag industry can’t insulate itself against those who fail to see reason. And it shouldn’t be bothered to try.

Primal Pastures may not know any better. They may believe that glyphosate is a very harmful chemical. They may believe that its chemistry and Roundup as a product haven’t been examined on a regular basis. They wouldn’t be alone. Lots of people don’t know much about the chemical.

I know they’re wrong because I’m exposed to people and groups that work with this product.

I know what I know about the ag industry because I farm, but also because I work in the industry. I cannot assume that others know what I know. There isn’t enough time, enough space, nor enough resources to expose everyone to the inner workings of agriculture.

Every sector, every industry, every government, every country has its own set of inner workings to which we may not have access.

The ag sector wants lawmakers and the public and really just about everyone to know what it knows. Then and only then will consumers understand that the industry’s flaws and the challenges farmers face are not what they thought they were.

The sheer scope of this desire is a problem. It’s a problem not only in the ag sector, but in nearly every industry. And it raises a larger question — one that doesn’t really have an answer: how do we make claims about anything when we rarely have the whole picture?

Finding the truth

When I read about the auto sector, I’m taking a leap of faith in believing that what I’ve read is an honest glimpse into its workings. I vet my sources. I don’t trust memes. Statements need to be supported. Claims need to have backing.

We have a responsibly to dig deeper. We have a responsibility to think critically about where we get our information and we have a responsibility to not take isolated, declarative sentences as truth until we ourselves investigate them.

We know the world is complex. We know that rarely are the important and the meaningful things in life so cut and dry. There’s always more. And if you’re an insider, you can’t assume others know what you know.

If you care about issues and if your pursuit of truth is as strong as your judgment of those you believe to be false, then, really, you need to be somewhat sympathetic to Primal Pastures. They may not know any better. There was once a time when you didn’t know what you know now.

In 2015, before I started at Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers and in 2012, before I started farming, I knew a lot less about the agriculture industry. I knew virtually nothing. I know more now, but still not nearly enough.

I was at first quite angry, but that changed. I don’t know why they wrote what they wrote. I can’t begin to guess. But anyone who’s immersed in an industry or sector should be able to appreciate the fact that very few people know what you know. And somehow that’s okay. Life goes on. We learn. We change. Others do, too.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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