The theory of unintended consequences is interesting to say the least. Sometimes we do things for all the right reasons, thinking we’ve covered all the bases and yet something we didn’t anticipate and didn’t want to see happen happens. Almost everyone can come up with a situation where something like this happened to them.
The email from Friends of the Earth addressed personally to me that arrived the other day got me to think more about this idea. It was a ploy to get me to sign a petition to get USDA to start testing for Roundup in food. Actually, it was so poorly worded and so full of almost-unbelievable stretches of the imagination that I wondered if it was one of those emails sent out by hackers that actually contain viruses. Normally I delete those. Unfortunately, I believe this one was on the level.
Why do some people in this world ignore science and believe only bad things? Why do they think all big companies and industries like agriculture are up to no good? Where do they get these ideas?
There are probably lots of answers to that question. However, thinking back to some Farm Progress Shows a few years ago when I both covered displays for big companies during the year and then at the show, it dawned on me that perhaps it’s possible we as an industry bring some of this on ourselves- unintended consequences.
In the early days of the Farm Progress Show at Decatur, ill., Monsanto grew plots of GMO-traits that were early in the developmental stage. They were so early that they were still in a crop destruct phase in the regulatory process. The company wanted people to see what the traits looked like growing, but they said they had to follow special regulations and procedures to be able to do so.
One of those was posting a guard on their plot site from planting until the plots were destroyed. That was 24-hour per day protection for the plots. Personally, it sounded like a boring job to me. It happened, because I actually talked to one of the security guards standing watch while preparing articles for the show. Was it really required, or was it done to emphasize how late-breaking these traits were?
I’ve heard both opinions. That same year another company grew non-approved traits for demonstration without any such fanfare. I also talked to the researcher with those plots early in the season.
Here’s the point. If those who already think big companies and agriculture have something to hide hear about 24-hour guards and the like around plants, what do they think? Do they think that these plants are so important, and the company is so dedicated to following the rules of testing, that they are posting guards? Or do they think the guards are there because it is something sinister? If the traits in those plants got outside the plots, would they cause harm?
Maybe I would have still received that ridiculous email recently whether things like I describe weren’t done. There’s no way to know. But one thing is certain. When you see an ad or read a story and take it one way, someone with views 180 degrees removed from you may see the same thing and take it another way. Unintended consequences are something we all need to be aware of moving forward.