Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published April 02, 2012, 08:44 AM

Do you believe the science?

PIERRE, S.D. — It wasn’t that long ago that I read an article about a young man who was circulating a petition to outlaw the chemical DHMO, or dihydrogen monoxide.

By: Walt Bones, Agweek

PIERRE, S.D. — It wasn’t that long ago that I read an article about a young man who was circulating a petition to outlaw the chemical DHMO, or dihydrogen monoxide. He cited a number of reasons why: DHMO is a major component of acid rain, may cause severe burns, is fatal if inhaled, contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape, may cause electrical failures and decreases the effectiveness of automobile brakes.

This sounds like pretty nasty stuff. You can bet that someone picked up the media campaign on the Internet and continued the movement to ban this substance — which is water. If I remember my chemistry correctly, dihydrogen (two hydrogen molecules) monoxide (one oxygen) is H2O, or water.

Sound science

It seems that every day we can hear someone’s claims about the evils all around us. Some of them cite “science.” The science-based decisions I acknowledge have three components:

• The process must be repeatable. Was this claim a one time (anecdotal) occurrence, or if you repeated this claim 20 times, would you get the same result?

• The process must be peer reviewed. How was the experiment, process or procedure carried out, and did it meet the standards set by academia?

• The results must be published in scientific journals for all to see, examine and challenge.

If the claim has gone through this process, then I will believe the science.

Will Rogers said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that is a problem — it is what you know that just ain’t so, that is the problem.”

A problem (and opportunity) for us in agriculture is that a majority of our population is at least three generations removed from the farm and they don’t know how their food is being produced.

That lack of knowledge makes attacking our abundant and diversified food supply in the U.S. an easy target.

I understand that this can be a personal issue and one that some folks are passionate about. But every time I go shopping, I marvel at the selection, quality and the quantity of food in our supermarkets.

We also are blessed that our farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors and retailers can deliver all this food to us for the smallest percentage of our disposable income when compared with anywhere else in the world, leaving each of us with more money to spend on discretionary items.

The next time you hear someone attacking our food supply, keep in mind that the world loses thousands of people each day to starvation. An available, affordable and safe food supply is a must. We can debate production systems (organic versus conventional, grass fed versus corn fed) but at the table of opportunity, there is room for everyone. How you market and how you buy is a personal choice.

Our consumers need us more today than at any time in our history. We have a great story to tell and need to keep sharing the story and the science of what we do every day.

Editor’s Note: Bones is secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

Tags: