OPINION: Most Americans don’t understand food production

Fresh vegetables are a common sight at any farmer's market. (Archive photo by Brook Morris | Collegian Media Group)

Consumers in America have always wanted food products that are more nutritious, taste better and are overall higher quality. However, the food industry sometimes provides products that are a little confusing to people not involved in agriculture.

Strange acronyms, fad diets and a general lack of knowledge about production practices have harmed consumers’ education regarding the food they eat.

For the most part, bad marketing is to blame for a lot of misinformation. Foods that have never been genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are now labeled as non-GMO, and foods that have never included gluten are labeled as gluten-free.

While these labels aren’t inaccurate, they help perpetuate the idea that GMOs and gluten are bad for you. Gluten is only bad for people with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, and current evidence suggests GMOs do not have an overall negative effect on the population.

Another problem is that many consumers do not grow up in or around agriculture. For many of my classmates in the College of Agriculture, the idea of a brown dairy cow producing chocolate milk is laughable. However, a small portion of Americans still believe that chocolate milk is the result of a different hide color.

Many people have preconceived notions regarding agriculture that can influence their ability to make well-informed decisions. Some examples of misinformed consumers are those who are afraid of antibiotics and hormones in their food.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of hormones in production animals since the 1950s, and FDA approval only happens after making sure that consumers will not be harmed.

As for antibiotics, every medicine used in production animals has a required withdrawal period to ensure that no residues are found in the final product.

In order to progress as a society that produces high-quality food, consumers need to have a base level of knowledge about how their food is made and the implications it has for them. When consumers and producers work together, the food supply can match the needs of the population with much greater precision.

Regulations are constantly being put in place to help producers provide the best products, but it’s up to the consumer to understand what comes off the farms and into their pantry.

Jason DeFisher is a senior in animal sciences and industry. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.