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By Staff | Sep 23, 2011

On a near-perfect harvest day in yellowing central Illinois a gentle breeze rattles the drying maple leaves near my back door. The whine a distant combine adds a background vocal and white clouds in a crayon blue sky hang over all.

Despite this picture of peaceful contentment, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something.

For example, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, the $30-million-plus effort by Big Ag to rebrand itself Small Foodie, opened its campaign yesterday with what its image makers are calling The Food Dialogues, a five-and-a-half-hour long “interactive event taking place across the U.S. and online.”

This “town hall-style discussion to address Americans’ questions about how their food is produced will be uplinked from a television studio in New York City, a tourist-centered Indiana dairy farm and the Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California-Davis. Huh?

Are farmers and ranchers really going to “interact” in an almost all-day, closed-to-the-public, webcast town hall meeting to talk about food, farming and ranching from that venue just as the fall harvest season reaches full throttle?

A better idea would be to convene dozens of open-to-all town hall meetings where local consumers can meet local farmers and ranchers instead of staring at scurrying electrons of paid TV talkers whose only connections to food are forks, spoons and an occasional spatula.

I know I must be missing something when reading the latest GMO news.

On Aug. 29, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop.”

The second time, however, wasn’t far behind.

“Severe root damage observed in Bt corn in northwestern Illinois … should alert growers to carefully consider 2012 seed selection,” Farm World, an Indiana-based regional ag newspaper, noted in its Sept. 7 edition.

“This discovery,” breathlessly explained the Journal, “raises concerns that using biotech crops could spawn superbugs.”

That’s not exactly news. Big Seed and Big Government foresaw the problem and devised a potential solution before taking the technology global: One in five corn acres was required to be planted in “conventional,” or non-GMO, corn so rootworms would munch on it and not develop a taste for Bt corn.

Well, at least it sounded like a good idea.

Given signs of failure, however, is it a good idea for the Environmental Protection Agency to approve a new GMO corn variety that pre-blends a smaller, 10 percent conventional-seed refuge-and one with but a five percent, pre-blended conventional refuge-in each bag of corn seed?

Maybe not, but EPA recently approved both new seed varieties in defiance of what a wise scientist friend likes to say is one of the world’s most inviolate rules: “Nature works 24/7/365 to overcome anything mankind can contrive in a 40-hour week.”

Still, I confess, as this so-far lovely September ripens into fall, I could be missing something.

The Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 70 newspapers in North America. Contact Alan Guebert at www.farmandfoodfile.com.

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