Farmers not the guilty party

With reference to ‘Who’s educating consumers’ (28 September, pg 6) and ‘The claims on retail products’ (12 October, pg 8), I would like to take issue with both articles.

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As a fairly representative consumer as well as a farmer, I find it disturbing that Lindi van Rooyen calls me an ill-informed consumer with irrational fears and a threat to farmers’ survival. Likewise I take exception to Koos Coetzee calling me a guilty party. The whole debate of organic, animal rights, GMOs, hormones and stimulants, feeding a nation, sustainability and the current economic situation of farmers has become far too emotive and illogical.

Premises, based on appeals to inappropriate authorities, are used in such a way as to constitute fallacies of the worst kind. The parties distort the facts and real issues, and this only serves to promote the various vested interests of the parties involved. For Dr Pieter Mulder to say that no one has died from GMOs in 17 years hardly proves that they are safe during the lifespan of a human (apply this argument to the safety of smoking!).

He is certainly no expert on food safety and nutrition, and should stick to agricultural policies. For the agriculture department to claim that no GMO has been released that is substantially different in terms of safety is equally mind-boggling. Dr Koos Coetzee’s accusation that labelling my products as antibiotic-free, grass-fed or BST-free makes me a guilty party is an insult to me, many consumers and any other producer in this category.

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As a stud breeder of Angus cattle, producer of SA Mutton Merino and Boet goat meat, as well as fresh milk, I am extremely proud of my products and production methods. All my animals are grass-fed, free-range and not treated with any antibiotics or hormones and stimulants (except when veterinary intervention is required for the well-being and health of the animal).

If he is so proud of his product and means of production, let him promote his ‘quality product’ as regularly treated with antibiotics, enhanced with hormones and stimulants, grain fed and BST positive. How you squeeze the last drop of milk out of your dairy herd and every possible cent into the piggy bank befits an economist more than a true farmer at heart.

To drive his own agenda, Dr Coetzee implies that even Woolworths has changed direction. This is equally false and misleading. Its affordability drive was nothing more than a marketing strategy to respond to the current economic climate to get consumers back into its stores and certainly not because it suddenly slammed the health benefits of hormone- and stimulant-free, organic and free-range products.

I do agree that it is not economically viable to produce superior quality produce as a means to feed a nation, but that is a totally different argument. All these issues should be debated at length, each on its own platform, to educate the ‘ill-informed consumers’ and ‘guilty parties’ and to set the record straight – but please keep to logical reasoning and truthful facts.

Above all, leave financial vested interests out of the argument; they are only used to distort the true facts and discredit the producer of superior products, even if it is only for a niche market that seems to be a threat to a more commercial means of production.