Misconceptions of Agriculture

Today, many of us have unfortunately lost our connection with agriculture because we are three and four generations removed from the farm.
As the technology used in producing, processing and distributing our food has become more complex, the gap in understanding those technologies has widened.
We have many misconceptions about the food system, human health, global food issues and the environment.
Let’s address some of these misconceptions.

Steroid and Growth Hormones

Many steroid and growth hormones are essential to human health and wellness. But there are many misconceptions about these hormones when it comes to food supply and the agriculture industry.

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone found in many grocery store products.
This steroid hormone is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, and added to others. Vitamin D plays an important role in the maintenance of organ systems. It helps in regulating the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood by promoting their absorption from food in the intestines and re-absorption of calcium in the kidneys. The vitamin also promotes bone formation and mineralization, which is essential in the development of an intact and strong skeleton.

There are also several misconceptions relating to rbST in cow’s milk.

The rbST product is a recombinant bovine growth hormone (bovine somatotropin). Cows naturally produce bovine somatotropin in their pituitary glands so we have been naturally exposed to trace levels of bST in beef, milk and other dairy products. Because it is a protein hormone, bovine somatotropin is broken down during digestion, which renders it biologically inactive and incapable of having an effect in humans. Intact proteins are not absorbed into the body. Even if injected into humans, bST has no effect.
The FDA approved rbST in November 1993 after a comprehensive review of the product's safety and efficacy, including human food safety.

The milk from cows treated with rbST is not any different than the milk from non-treated cows. It has the same nutritional benefits as any other milk and is safe for the consumer.

Organic food production

There are many misconceptions about organic food production, including pesticide and fertilizer use, its environmental impact and whether organic farming is a more sustainable form of food production.

Did you know...

“Natural” pesticides, including mineral salts and pesticides from plant materials are used in organic farming. Although some natural pesticides can be less toxic than synthetic pesticides, several “natural pesticides” are highly toxic, even carcinogenic.

For example: Copper sulfate is highly toxic and has been shown to cause liver disease. Rotenone may cause Parkinson’s disease. Pyrethrin, an insecticide that is derived from plants, is a likely carcinogen.

Does Sustainable=Organic?

Studies show organic food production yields can be 30- 40 percent lower than conventional agriculture because of increased competition from weeds, insects and disease. This means we would have to increase the amount of land used for crop and livestock production.

Source: AFBF’s Addressing Misconceptions About Agriculture

Nitrogen is a nutrient that is necessary for plant growth. In order to replace the nitrogen produced synthetically with organically produced nitrogen, we would either need to convert one-third of all crop acreage into green manure production (crops like clover, alfalfa or trefoil that is grown to be plowed back into the soil) or increase the number of cattle on the planet by 700 percent.

This means that in the United States alone, we would have to raise 1 billion additional cattle to replace the synthetically produced nitrogen. If every square foot of private and public land (including all parks, forests, wildlife refuges, golf courses, roadsides and lawns) was used to graze cattle there would still not be enough land to graze 1 billion head of cattle in the United States.

America’s Farms

We often hear that large, corporate farms are taking over American agriculture. When, in fact, family farms still make up 88% of the farms in Texas and 98% of farms in the United States. Non-family corporations produce only 15% of our food and fiber.

Did you know...

There are 247,437 family owned farms in Texas.

All Natural = All Safe?

We have been led to believe that if it is “natural”, it must be safe. Herbal remedies cannot hurt you. Organic pesticides are safe, but this is not always true.

Nature is not always kind and gentle. There are many naturally occurring toxins and carcinogens.

Nicotine, opium, heroine, morphine and cocaine all come from natural plant sources, yet can be harmful to us. Arsenic, radon, lead and strychnine are also all natural, but can be deadly. Even rattlesnakes are natural!

Toxicity Chart

Chemicals are a part of our lives everyday. Many great improvements to the way we live today resulted from the use of chemicals.

Yet, these chemicals can become toxic if used improperly. Even household items like table salt and aspirin can become toxic chemicals.

The chart below lists several common chemicals in our lives. To indicate a substance’s toxicity, the median lethal dose (LD50) is used. This is the dose required to kill half the members of the tested population. The smaller the number, the more toxic the substance is.



LD50 (mg/kg)

Botulinum toxin (Botox)

Treatment of facial wrinkles






Tobacco products such as cigarettes



Stimulant in coffee, cola and tea



Found in many products including detergent, cosmetics and insecticide






Medical drug to relieve minor aches and pains


Boric Acid*

Often used as an antiseptic, insecticide and flame retardant


NaCl (Salt)

Table salt


Ethyl Alcohol*

Alcoholic beverages and fuel


*Approved Organic Pesticides

Chemicals are sometimes used in agriculture. However, agricultural producers are trained and licensed in how to properly apply these chemicals. They know pesticide laws and regulations. They have been trained in the areas of safety, handling, groundwater contamination, misuse, public concerns and disposal.

Global Hunger

Hunger is caused by economic, political and social reasons more than all other causes. The world produces enough food to feed everyone; even Africa produces enough food to feed that continent.

Hunger is caused by poverty, in both this country and elsewhere, and it may be used for political or social reasons. Poverty results in the inability to: purchase food; safely store food; and transport food in areas where drought occurs.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Research and advancements in biotechnology are now in the marketplace with tastier fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are not damaged by insects.

GMOs are plants that have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to disease or improved nutritional content. The enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been undertaken through breeding, but conventional plant breeding methods can be very time consuming and are often not very successful.

Living or once living things all contain genes, whether they are genetically modified or not.

Advantages of GMOs include pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition and pharmaceuticals. These traits allow producers to be more efficient, making food more affordable.

A person’s genes cannot be changed by eating a genetically modified fruit or vegetable. Your body breaks down protein from the food we eat into amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in our body and are essential to our metabolism. Your body cannot tell where a protein originates. It treats all proteins alike. A problem only occurs when a person has a food allergy such as to peanuts or shellfish.