Trade Summit — Americas PREVIEW

Jay Lehr 2011By Dr. Jay Lehr, Science Director, The Heartland Institute

I know it causes all of us to wonder, from time to time, how so many powerful and vocal people can demonize agriculture technologies without sufficient evidence. Single-issue zealots threaten the progression of farm production with emotional and false claims that contradict science-based studies and regulatory decisions.

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Agribusinesses should be proud of their accomplishments, and they should be held in higher regard in the public eye. We have succeeded based on farm economics; our products have helped farmers increase yields, reduce costs and thereby increase the profits that enable them to continue our collective efforts to feed the world. But instead, we have failed or simply ignored the need to educate the consumer about the wonders and benefits that agriculture businesses offer society, and the public has swayed out of our favor.

As Heartland Institute’s Science Director, I’m regularly asked to discuss the benefits of modern agriculture in newspaper articles, radio programs and television news shows. I have extensive experience in groundwater hydrology, climate change, energy and environmental issues, and many times the scientific conclusions I express are not the most popular. You might even say that in many cases, I provide a counterpoint to public opinion that is formed out of fear, misinformation and bad science that disparages advances in technology and business innovation.

How do I do it? I’ll explain how and why at the FCI Trade Summit – Americas in Las Vegas on August 4. My keynote speech will provide the kind of information and ideas available to you for public relations campaigns, community outreach and media engagement. Information you might already possess, but message strategy and persistence must be employed by agribusinesses around the world. Every company in our industry must budget time, energy and money toward re-educating the public – the final customers – regarding the great benefits derived from the development and proliferation of crop production technologies.

I will talk more of your products as plant medicines, explaining the breadth of value of Bacillus thuringiensis, the importance of stacked traits, the latest science behind honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the costs of chemical research, new biocontrol strategies and the important recognition that modern agriculture is sustainable agriculture.fciamericas2_vid

We work hard to make our food healthier, safer and less expensive. In 40 years there will likely be 9 billion of us residing on our planet before the world’s population begins to stabilize at the end of this century. We cannot succeed in our work with yesterday’s technology. We must continue as we are to produce and utilize new and better products and modalities.

GMO technology is the perfect example of the challenge we face. GMOs, or better described as plant incorporated protectants, have grown from 1.7 million hectares planted in 1996 to 170 million hectares planted in 2012. And despite their widespread cultivation and consumption, not a single human being, to our knowledge, has ever been harmed, sickened or negatively impacted in any way. Yet the public opinion is cloaked in fear and negative sentiments about this technology, the most important advancement in agriculture since Nobel Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug started the Green Revolution.

Regulatory systems are not much better than a reactionary public at times. The EU, Brazil and other hazard-based regulatory systems around the world view new technologies with unwarranted suspicion and as a result, we have lost or been denied the use of valuable tools, especially new seed technologies and chemicals used to reduce the harm to our crops from insects and weeds. We must embrace our responsibility to advocate for the next generation of crop production technologies, and ultimately our businesses.

Dr. Lehr will deliver his keynote talk Aug. 4 at the FCI Trade Summit — Americas, Aug. 4-6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. Now in its seventh year, the FCI Trade Summit welcomes agriculture product producers and distributors from 40+ countries for exhibition, networking and thought leadership.