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John Block: Sound Science

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

Last week on Saturday, it was Earth Day.  I always thought of Earth Day as a celebration of the earth with its natural beauty and, of course, the food and crops it provides to feed everything living – especially mankind.  But this year, it became a “March for Science.”  Thousands marched and rallied from coast to coast.

I am all for science.  We need to spend more resources on scientific research of all kinds.  We live longer today – thanks to science, a better diet, and better health care. 

Different marches were prioritizing some science above other science.  Many felt sound science made the case for global warming (climate change).  A friend of mine at the OFW Law saw a marcher with a sign that read:

            “I am pro science

              I am pro farmer

              I am pro GMOs”

I like that because GE crops have the backing of science.  They are as safe and healthful as any other food.  And they are much better for the environment, using less chemicals and much less labor and energy.  They are less expensive.

I hope all of those marchers are as committed behind GE crops as some of the other success stories of science.  It is encouraging to note that Bill Nye (the “Science Guy”) – the famous TV entertainer who used to say GMO’s were bad – has now changed his mind.  Mr. Nye had this to say: “What changed my mind is being able to (sequence genes) 10 million times faster than they used to be able to do it.” 

Farmers for thousands of years have been working the earth to produce more food for a growing world population.  Today, our scientists can select the genes they need to alter a plant so that plant can reject the bugs and worms that attack it.  They can inject genes that make a plant more drought-resistant.  They can put vitamins in plants to save children from vitamin deficiency.  That’s sound science.

In closing, I want to say how proud and excited that – at long last – Sonny Perdue is now confirmed as our Secretary of Agriculture.  I was at USDA the morning after confirmation when he spoke to 200 of his employees and other ag leaders.  He complimented the Ag Team.  He said we are in this together, took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves – time to get to work.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

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