One definition of hijack is to seize control forcibly in order to go to an unscheduled destination. This terminology may go a long way in explaining the course of farms and rural communities over the years.
From seed to stomach, decisions are made in a multitude of venues, which are not always in the best interest of farmer, rancher or eater. The many tentacles of money interest and greed have gained a stranglehold on food and fiber policy, along with many of the government institutions that are supposed to serve the needs of society and enhance the economy.
Let us concentrate on seed. For centuries, the human race has understood the significance of seeds. Farmers recognize that without production of seed, most crops cannot come into existence. Over the last century, science has enhanced our ability to produce more food, through hybrid breeding and other techniques. Much of the science was a result of tax dollars committed to our Land Grant University system, for the public good. In the last twenty years, much has changed. Public funding of research has evaporated and private companies have been eager to fill the void and utilize taxpayer facilities, university staff and student enthusiasm, nearly free of charge. Technology has exploded. Huge sums of money are at stake. The patenting of genes and life is legal, and now that horse is out of the barn and way down the road. Lost in all the frenzy is the fact that both farmers and corporations need seeds, but for very different reasons. Farmers recognize seeds as the origin of a crop. If one does not sow, one will not reap. In contrast, biotech companies view seed as the mechanism which transmits patented technology to the field [pre-paid by tech fees assessed to the farmer], and retrieves extravagant profits in return. Seed is strictly a vehicle or tool of the biotech industry, not a future plant. They are nothing short of modern day bootleggers. Since only a few companies control seed production, less emphasis is on development of the seed for the harvest; and more on the traits engineered, patented, inserted and sold. Lost in the entire economic freeway is a responsibility and commitment to maintain the sanctity of food and the act of eating.
There are many reasons to be concerned with the turn of events. We have allowed the private sector to own genes, and subsequently, seeds. Is it in the public interest to have the decision on what seeds are available for planting made behind closed doors? Ultimately, a handful of corporations may soon determine the supply, quality, and safety of grain produced. In the corporate world, officers and board members are charged with fiduciary responsibility and maximum profit first and foremost. Does this business model enhance and encourage a monopoly of the industry? Do we believe privatized science has advanced to the point where we can guarantee short-term discoveries will trump the millions of choices made through evolution and natural selection over the eons? Will farmers forfeit their instincts and purchase their profitability? Ethics anyone?
Farmers and ranchers must continue their unending struggle to remain on the front lines to protect the wealth, in and of Agriculture, worldwide. We understand the veritable difference between wealth and money. Money gives you choices. Wealth demands responsibility. The bounty of the earth starts with many small seeds. I believe these seeds must be held in trust. They are not possessions, but in reality, our wealth and our future. It is our charge to carefully sow and harvest every seed with care and thought. From our roots, arises our destiny.