What bothers me most about Karl Zinsmeister’s article on farming (“Technology, Ecology, and the American Farmer,” Dec.) is not just his apparent dislike of traditional (“hidebound,” “atavistic”) farmers and farm methods, but that he has apparently bought the entire high- tech-is-better package. It’s clear that he is suffering from “technophilia,” the unreasoning love of all things technological.
Farm tech is not the boon he makes it out to be. All the advances in production to date (production of lean pork, increased feed conversion ratios in chickens, improved milking averages) are the result of a simpleact of selection on the farmer’s part-breeding from his fastest-gaining, highest-producing animals. This is not high tech; it’s a technique known since pre-Roman days.
The rest of the tech “improvements” on the horizon-embryo transplants, BST, lots and lots of artificial insemination-are just so much biological dabbling. Really folks, the world is drowning in milk. It ends up in federal giveaways at home and abroad; the Danes ship their excess to us every Christmas in those omnipresent butter cookies. There simply isn’t any need for more via BST. You want lean beef? You don’t need gene transfer, etc., to get it-you only need a Texas Longhorn herd sire!
High tech is just one more of those lovely ways to take agriculture out of the hands of farmers and put it under bureaucrats. For instance, who decides which dairies get BST? Is it by lottery? Or will anyone be able to purchase it down at the feed store in half-gallon jugs? In a farm economy that is scarcely market-driven, the forces that should bring about change (i.e., consumer demand) are simply not given enough sway. The best thing in the world for all of us farming families-and consumers-is not more technology, it’s fewer federal ag supports. Federal meddling of the past, and the threat of laboratory meddling of the future, is not the way to go.
Peace Valley, MO
Karl Zinsmeister reveals the great disparity between the two basic views of the future of our natural resources. Prevalent among environmentalists and natural-resource bureaucrats today is the view of natural resources as inherently static, fragile, and if touched by man, destined to degradation and decline.
From this vantage, damage control and limiting human activity to slow the march toward ecological catastrophe seem the only answers. The very ideas of progress, technological development, and economic growth are disturbing.
The strict preservationist mentality is the driving force in status quo environmentalism and has had powerful and quite often negative ramifications in every field, from wildlife management to federal agricultural policy. Its adherents do not recognize that their policies are often part of the problem and see adjustment, expansion, and creation of new regulations as a logical path to follow.
If, however, one accepts natural resources as dynamic, resilient, and renewable, then progress and technological development hold some of the keys to an enhanced and healthy environment. Innovations like scientifically bred poultry and genetically engineered alfalfa make the future of agriculture bright,
both for harvests and the environment. The American farmer has been led down a path of misguide government policy. Current policies cannot be scrapped overnight, but it is time to halt the misdirected march and allow our farmers and ranchers to benefit from innovation and respond to markets.
Robert E. Gordon, Jr.
The National Wilderness Institute