Kieran Shannon (16) of Glenburnie, Ont., and winner of the 2016 GROWMARK Essay Contest for 4-H members.

The word “sustainability” is used everywhere these days. Our society has reached a point where sustainability isn’t just a theory, it’s the way we must live in order to progress as a society without having severe consequences for our actions.

Agriculture is huge. It affects every single person in the world, as it is what provides us with one of our most basic needs to survive — food. Without it, our society would starve and our existence would be threatened. We are living in an ever-growing world. There are more people taking up more space. Cities are expanding on our precious farmland making what we have left even more valuable.

By 2050, it’s estimated there will be 9 billion people on this earth. Farmers will have to double production to meet demand and with our shrinking acreage worldwide, it makes the challenge that much greater. It is more important than ever that agriculture remains and becomes even more sustainable through the use of good technology backed by solid science.

We live in an urban society, and right now there are huge misconceptions about how farmers produce food. Many believe that farmers are in it for the money and exploit every field they farm by spraying deadly chemicals on mutated seeds, meanwhile putting wasteful amounts of fertilizer on the land to squeeze every bushel out of each acre. This is simply not true.

Farmers are in it for the long run, so why would they damage their land just to turn a quick profit and leave the land “dead.” The truth is farmers live and raise their families on this same land. A farmer’s greatest achievement would be able to hand down the farm to their children in better shape than when he or she began to farm. Yet, the majority of people don’t understand this.

To answer the question “What can young people do to ensure the sustainability of agriculture” is to find every chance they can to have a conversation with the average person and explain the facts of modern farming. When somebody overhears or reads a conversation (on Facebook) about GMOs or pesticides, people tend to avoid that conversation, as it is hard to explain the benefits of this technology in a practical and balanced way when emotions and misconceptions cloud the facts.

How is not talking about it going to help end the stigma of this valuable technology? My solution is if you hear one of these conversations, politely enter and explain the facts. Tell people what really happens on the farm and explain the technology behind it.

Explain to people that farmers themselves, must become educated to use these modern tools that solid research has developed to increase productivity, reduce pesticide use, cut labour costs and conserve nutrients in our sophisticated, sustainable farming systems. The Environmental Farm Plan is the cornerstone program that began in 1993 in Ontario, and over 23 years farmers across Ontario have completed these management plans for their farms.

The people that are anti-GMO and anti-esticide are mostly from urban areas, because they are the farthest from the farm and removed from the business of growing food. They are also the ones who make most of the laws. If the lawmakers are the ones who are against biotechnology, they will make laws minimizing the use of this technology that we need more than ever to feed the world. If they banned GMOs and pesticides, we would have to cut down all of the forests in the world to come close to the same production level, and that is clearly not sustainable.

A Call to Step Up

People need to realize these facts, and I believe that it is our job as today’s farming youth to step up and lead the way by having an honest and balanced conversation. We have the ability to change the way our generation views modern farming, and we can show people how sustainability in agriculture means protecting the land for future productivity.

The benefits of technological advancements on the farm, far outweigh the perceived risks, whether it be through advances in modern plant breeding, crop management or animal husbandry. We need to change the way people view agriculture in the 21st century, because if we don’t they will change it for us, and that is not sustainable.

 

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