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Research and science helps us better understand our food and how it is produced. However, myths and misconceptions can also be created by media and marketing messages. Some of these myths and misconceptions deal with images of farming. Others deal with food and environmental issues like biotechnology and pesticide use.
In 2012, Farm & Food Care Ontario asked 1200 Canadians about their impressions of food and farming in a national attitudes study. They found that the public’s greatest concerns about farming are also some of the greatest misconceptions.
These misconceptions have become popular myths. Consider these five examples and the facts that refute them.
Myth 1: Corporate/factory farms are taking over agriculture.
About 98 percent of Canadian farms are still family owned, operated and handed down from generation to generation. In Alberta, all dairy and egg farms are family owned.
Many consumers hear the word “corporation” and think “factory farm,” a term coined by anti-farming activists. Additionally, a farm can be structured like a corporation for business purposes but still be owned, managed and operated by family members.
Myth 2: Hormones, genetically modified crops and antibiotics are bad.
Hormones: In Canada, all eggs, dairy, chickens and turkeys are produced with NO added hormones or steroids. Feed contains grains, proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Genetically Modified Organisms: Biotech foods have a remarkable food safety record, have been grown for more than a decade and consumed, without incident, by billions of people worldwide. Many Canadian farmers rely on biotechnology for three main reasons: to provide safe, nutritious and affordable food – both for humans and their livestock; to control threats to productivity such as weeds, insects, disease, drought or other unfavourable weather conditions; and to reduce or eliminate tillage to control weeds which enriches soil and reduces erosion.
Antibiotics: Only when appropriate and needed, farmers will use antibiotics to treat animal diseases or infections. Sometimes, they will be used to prevent typical and recurring diseases, especially during a stressful time in an animal’s life. Otherwise, a serious health problem can wipe out an entire farm’s animals or even an entire industry. Animal care and comfort is an important priority for farmers.
Myth 3: Farmers overuse dangerous chemicals/pesticides.
Since 1983, farmers reduced the use of pesticides by 52 percent, and that number continues to decrease every year.
Pesticides help protect crops from insect infestations. It is estimated that 68 percent of Canada’s fruit crops and 65 percent of vegetable crops would be lost without pesticides – which helps to keep food costs lower.
In Canada, a pesticide goes through years of testing and more than 200 separate scientific studies to ensure it meets a range of health and environmental conditions before it is allowed to be used.
Myth 4: Farming is not environmentally friendly.
Farmers live where they work, so they and their families breathe the same air and drink the water from their own wells. It is in their best interest to preserve and protect their land and enhance it for future generations, just like those who farmed before them did.
Myth 5: Food prices are too high.
Canadians have some of the lowest food prices in the world. In 1900, a Canadian farmer produced enough food for only 10 people and Canadians spent 50 cents of every dollar earned on food.
By comparison, today’s farmer can feed well over 120 people and our food costs have plummeted to 10.6 cents of every dollar we earn.