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Focus on Agriculture

For the week of February 4, 2013

A Conspiracy to Feed the World

By Stewart Truelsen

The success of American agriculture is so mind-boggling that critics and conspiracy theorists alike can’t resist finding something evil, secretive or just plain awful about it.

One blogger writes that seed vaults exist so the wealthy ultimately can survive as “their sinister practices of corporate food production and destruction of the environment unfold to lessen the population.” In other words, the upper-classes would push the world toward doomsday, saving only themselves to start civilization over with seeds from these vaults.

If this storyline sounds like something out of a Clive Cussler novel, you are right. It is quite similar to one of his adventure thrillers.

A conspiracy theory is built around a real-world occurrence, and indeed there are seed banks or vaults. One of the best known is the global seed vault located in the permafrost in the far northern mountains of Norway. The vault preserves the biodiversity of the world’s food crops for future generations.

Bloggers are easily dismissed. Anyone with a little knowledge of WordPress can start one or hop on one of the forums already out there in cyberspace. What’s more troubling is when a food writer for the New York Times blames the food industry for half of all deaths in the United States, those caused by heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

“We must figure out of a way to un-invent this food system,” wrote Mark Bittman in an opinion piece. He blames food and agriculture for obesity, poisoning the environment and torturing animals. Bittman wants to see a food movement on the scale of the civil rights movement, but laments “there isn’t even a general acknowledgement of a problem in need of fixing.”

The fact is, America’s food supply is the best in the world. Our food production marries the best of conventional farming with the best of historical and organic practices to give us an infinite variety of safe, high-quality food.

At the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th Annual Meeting in Nashville, Ambassador Dr. Kenneth Quinn was a recipient of the Distinguished Service to Agriculture award. Quinn was U.S. ambassador to Cambodia and is now president of the World Food Prize pioneered by Dr. Norman Borlaug. Quinn believes that the last 50 or 60 years have been “the single greatest period of food production and hunger reduction in all human history.”

This is not a food system in need of major fixing. It is a food system that should be honored and celebrated. But, yes, there is a conspiracy; make no mistake about that. Farmers, ranchers, agribusiness, land grant universities, departments of agriculture, Farm Bureau and commodity organizations have all conspired to produce this marvel.


Stewart Truelsen is a regular contributor to the Focus on Agriculture series and is the author of a book marking the American Farm Bureau Federationís 90th anniversary, Forward Farm Bureau.