This week from the editor, Ben Briggs.
When scientific fact jars with popular opinion, it is often farming which is left to pick up the pieces. Two stories in this week’s Farmers Guardian highlight areas where that clash has regularly occurred in recent years.
Firstly, there is the astonishing compensation payment made to an American worker by Monsanto for the fact that glyphosate allegedly contributed to his cancer diagnosis (page 9). The NFU was quick to point out the jury did not have the scientific were-with-all to make such a judgement call, but the dye has been cast nonetheless.
The second area concerns antibiotic use in animals and suggestions that overuse in agriculture leads to growing rates of antimicrobial resistance in humans. While there has been an acknowledgement, both in words and practice, that farming can play its part in tackling the potentially ticking time bomb of resistance, less coverage is given to the other side of the debate.
As our special series shows, overuse of antibiotics in human medicine is now seen as one of the emerging threats, but all too often agriculture is still seen as an easy target by those with vested interests.
Both topics prompt strong debate, but that debate is becoming increasingly polarised in a society split along binary lines. Whether it is agri-chemical use, antibiotics, meat eaters versus vegans, or those embroiled on both sides of badger cull, many of these topics are played out in the toxic environment of social media where it is those who shout loudest, as opposed to the most well informed, who often sway the debate.
This leaves long-term ramifications for farmers who see their options reduced on the back of knee-jerk responses by legislators. If the latest glyphosate decision is symptomatic of a cultural shift against chemical use in agriculture, what would be the ramifications for food security if it was ever banned, and does the public even give thought to that? Scientific fact must be the basis for important decisions, not the reactionary debate surrounding them.
And finally, the NFYFC decision to cancel the annual convention continues to provoke strong opinions, with vocal reader correspondence already rolling in for next week’s FG.