64 / SEEDWORLD.COM JUNE 2018 AS AGRICULTURE AND farming have relied more heavily on scientific breakthroughs to make improvements to animal care, land and water management and the environment, society has become increasingly illiterate in this area. The consequences of which are fatal. We all know that agriculture has been misun- derstood for some time now, be it due to plain ignorance or the intentional spread of misinforma- tion from agenda-driven organizations. Having been a part of the less than 2 percent of the population that’s directly involved in farming, this is a frustrating challenge, to say the least. I grew up on a progressive hog and row crop farm in Indiana. In the 80s and 90s, I witnessed, and was a part of, the change going from feeding the breeding hogs outside on cement slabs with 5-gallon buckets to moving all the animals inside. Several buildings were erected, and the rooms where the animals were kept are climate controlled, set at a temperature most suitable for their age. If the temperature changes from a set zone, alarms go off. All the pigs have unlimited access to clean water at all hours and are given a specially-formu- lated diet that is augured into their feeder morning and evening, by flipping a few switches. I spent a ton of time in those barns processing piglets, vaccinating pigs, feeding, checking and moving pigs and keeping records. So, as I listen to the conversations around animal welfare and well- being, it’s counter-intuitive for me to move them back outside — even though there’s a tremendous market for pasture-raised pork. The science shows inside production is not only easier and more man- ageable for farmers, but also better for the animals. Similarly, there’s a contradiction between production methods on the plant side of things. For decades, researchers and plant breeders have used traditional plant breeding, physically crossing two parent plants and then waiting to analyze the characteristics of their offspring. This method takes time to conduct the grow-outs and then do a phenotypic analysis. Farmers planted seeds at increased population rates, knowing that some seed might not germinate, and fertilizers and crop protectants were applied evenly across fields. Today, the landscape of plant breeding and farming looks very different. Through science, plant breeders now have access to genomic data, which allow new breeding techniques to be used. Combined with other scientific advances, these new breeding techniques will enable researchers to bring more new products to market with increased variability in the value they deliver to farmers and consumers. Most of these new techniques allow researchers to change the genetic makeup just as nature would through evolution, only much faster and with much greater accuracy. Yet some groups want to see products derived from these new breeding techniques regulated in the same way as GMOs. Science tells us, this just doesn’t make sense. Thousands of studies have proven that GMOs are safe. One of the most recent studies even reported that products produced from GMOs are safer than their counterparts, because they require fewer chemicals be applied to the actual plant. Farmers now take soil samples and practice variable-rate applications of fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides. Seeding rates have decreased as every seed planted is expected to germinate. Whether they know it or not, farmers are scien- tists. They are collecting thousands of data points, analyzing them and making decisions — each new crop is a new experiment with new variables. So, Where’s the Disconnect? According to new studies, it’s not just agriculture UNLESS CORRECTED, THE EROSION OF SCIENCE WILL MEAN MORE EMPTY PLATES JULIE DEERING serves as the editor for Seed World. Born on an Indiana farm, she is an agricultural enthusiast who enjoys sharing her passion with others. jdeering@issuesink.com