As a new Wisconsin Ag Agent (I've got all of 2 months under my belt), I've
been thinking a lot about the role of Extension in diseminating information
and new technologies, especially controversial issues such as genetically
modified crop varieties. Officially, I think Extension is supposed to be
more or less neutral on such issues. In reality, of course, we all have
our own personal opinions and these do end up being reflected in our
programming to some degree. That may or may not have entered into your
agent's GMO comments. There's another, more important, aspect of the ag
agent's role that comes into play here.
I don't know what your ag agent's personal views are concerning GMOs, but I
do know that ag agents walk a fine line in providing support and
information to the farmers in his or her county. If your agent's county is
anything like mine, he is expected to serve a broad spectrum of growers and
producers. Extension is one of many sources of information available to
farmers. They are under no obligation to come to us for information--it is
our job to seek them out and provide appropriate information for those who
are inclined to listen.
Whatever our personal views on agricultural issues, the last thing we wish
to do is alienate our clientele. An alienated farmer is one who is
unlikely to return to the Extension service for information of any
sort--we've lost them to other sources of information, most likely their
seed and chemical suppliers.
If we wish to influence farmers toward more sustainable practices, we are
unlikely to do so unless we gain and maintain their trust. There are
always those who are on the 'cutting edge' of sustainable practices, but
the vast majority are not and in order to reach them, we must make
Extension a source of reliable, basic information to assist them in making
their own decisions about how they farm. People are far more open to new
information and change when it comes from a trusted source. That's the
view from where I sit, anyway.
At 10:25 PM 5/7/1999 -0500, you wrote:
>> I'm kind of mystified by your reaction. Mainly they were urging farmers
>> be careful and avoid contamination. What exactly did you disagree with in
>> that posting?
>Gosh, you are the 2nd mystified person I've heard from today on this post,
>so perhaps some elaboration is in order.
>Yes, the ag agent is suggesting separation of GE corn from non-GE corn.
>First, this is the LEAST of additional costs for the farmer in this
>scenario, and should be considered in choosing seed for the season. Maybe
>possible for some farmers - separate storage facilities, but for smaller
>farms, probably unlikely. The 660 ft. "buffer" is something I'd sure be
>hard-pressed to see in my area of Wisconsin. Corn, etc. is planted right
>into the ditches here...often creating an actual road hazard! Every inch of
>taxed property is used for production. And he even suggests that 250-300 ft.
>is really sufficient based on wind direction "and other factors" - give me a
>break, pretty vague, subjective stuff there. My neighbors plant corn with in
>60 feet of my land & they aren't going to quit (lowering their bottom line)
>because they're worried about contaminating MY crop! Sorry, but that's the
>way it is. That's why our farm is listed as a plaintiff in the Greenpeace
>The insinuation made by this agent (saying that Europe, etc. have NOT YET
>approved GMOs) is misleading...as if its just a matter of time, rather than
>a matter of public outrage & pressure against it, which is really the case.
>In fact Nestle & Unilever (a couple of the biggest food producers in the
>world) have just announced they will NOT be using GE components in their
>foodstuffs - and Cadbury has followed (Hooray!!) see:
>Saying its acceptable, if you're feeding it out, is further reason for
>concern IMO. Typical big biz, big ag jive...if you're giving it to a cow it
>doesn't matter. Regarding milk & meat, as if the body of a cow somehow
>negates the effect or "cleanses" the contamination of GE feed she
>ingests..that it will not be long before milk (and meat tissue) from a
>GE-fed cow will also be detectable through testing.
>And the most irritating part to me is the advice to keep abreast of
>developments at your local elevator...lets say the local elevator is ok with
>GE now, but in the fall, the policy has changed? What new bans will be in
>place at harvest time? Why risk it? And ultimately, who is risking what
>here? It's not the ag agent...he just says, "oops, sorry", its not the
>elevator, they'll refuse the grain...its the farmer, as always, left holding
>the bag (of grain) Are grain elevators going to create separate handling as
>well, strict cleaning of bins, etc? Sounds like organic standards to me.
>Nope, they will simply not accept it...too costly.
>Who pays the bill when bins of grain are contaminated by the non-GE farmer
>who's corn was crossed & he assures the elevator its "clean", but
>contaminates tons of export-bound corn...yup, that farmer will be paying
>too. Just as a dairy farmer who contaminates a truckload of milk with
>antibiotics pays for the entire load (and carries milk-contamination
>coverage under his farm insurance policy) some farmers are going to get hit
>hard before this is over...and it will probably be the ones who aren't even
>using the GE seed! I suggest to you that insurance companies will be looking
>long & hard at this issue before long.
>So this is why I'm disturbed. It does not matter one little bit if you are
>"on top of the situation", informed. Once that corn is in the ground...its
>done. If you don't have animals to feed it to, you're stuck. If you're a
>grain farmer, you have taken a far bigger risk than is necessary. The
>writing is on the wall, and the ag agents should be presenting both sides of
>the issue, rather than doing everything they can to keep this technology
>alive & well in this country, the last stronghold of biotech.
>So my biggest complaint is the lack of a rounded picture for the farmer, so
>that he can make an intelligent decision. Its a subversive advertisement for
>Monsanto, their seed, their chemicals and the destruction of the environment
>that they peddle. The ag agent has a responsibility to suggest the best
>farming practices known to him/her. To digress to suggesting ways in which
>to possibly minimize financial (and environmental) disaster is unacceptable.
>Hope this helps you understand my concern...
>To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
>"unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command
>To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
>All messages to sanet-mg are archived at:
Crops and Soils Agent
Columbia County Agriculture Center
120 West Conant Street
PO Box 567
Portage, WI 53901-0567
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
"unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at: