Choices, diversity, tolerance – these are all things many in the agricultural advocacy movement tell us we must embrace, celebrate even, in order for our industry to "feed the world" and to curb misunderstanding of production practices by the general public.
However, it seems to me that this perspective sets a double standard for customers when it comes to food.
They say farmers and ranchers should celebrate food choices and be happy to provide these choices to customers. Yet, when the customer demands a particular choice, like organic or local products because they personally desire and believe these are the best choice for them and others, they many times are bombarded with a plethora of information from producers as to why products produced with opposing methods are just as good as or better than the choice they wanted to start with.
I agree there are times for defensive action and correction of misinformation. However, I think it's important to look every situation with a realistic world view. The notion that "we are all in this together" is one of fantasy, some might say idealism.
Whatever you want to call it, it comes down to this: We live in a society of free-thinking -- at least I hope we are all thinking -- individuals who have our own opinions, personal convictions, morals, and ideals. Food is just as personal as any of those aforementioned things. Because of this, the idea that all farmers and ranchers will or should agree to celebrate every production practice or food choice is a lost cause, in my opinion.
Personal bashing and spreading of misinformation aside, crusades to educate consumers and cultivate some kind of widespread tolerance of every agricultural production practice currently in use seem futile.
Every organic farmer is not going to approve of the use of GMOs by his neighbors. In addition there will come along those in our industry that ask hard questions, point out the things the rest of us have long taken for granted. If we're willing, they may show us a better way or show us that the current way is, dare I say, wrong.
I think many people couldn't care less about the number of choices available to them. Instead, most are concerned only about the choice or choices pertinent to them.
That's right, we are selfish creatures and so we should be. The reality that comes along with this selfish perspective is that we really weren't ever in this all together to start with but for ourselves all along. Helping each other out along the way is a bonus.
In the end I don't think anyone should compromise his own opinions, personal convictions, morals, or ideals for an agenda or ideal he doesn't agree with. To do so is an insult to one's sovereign right to reason and rule your own mind.
So whether you do or do not like GMOs, whether you think grain-fed is better than grass-fed or vice versa, or whatever your "beef" may be, I offer you this quote from Ayn Rand:
“The freedom of speech of private individuals includes the right to not agree, not to listen and not to finance one's own antagonists.”
I, for one, stand by this right. I hope you will consider doing the same and understand that our diversity of opinion is just as valuable and important as the multitude of food choices seen in every grocery aisle.