Are we now being supplied with more information than we humanly know how to handle? Is the cost of the Information Age that we have little ability to sort fact from fiction?

Think about when former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was captured in a rat hole halfway around the world. I believe we knew about it within 15 minutes of it happening, and we not only knew about it, but we saw photos of the actual event in nearly real time.

Compare that to the largest land transaction that has ever occurred in our nation, which happened in 1803 and was referred to as the Louisiana Purchase. The contract, or treaty, was dated April 30, 1803, but it did not reach Washington, D.C., to become official until July 14, 1803. Think about that lapse in time simply because of the speed of information transfer and how much can happen to affirm or deny your emotions in that time span compared to today's instantaneous wire transfer of information.

I have often said that misinformation is a greater threat to the nation's food system than ignorance. If people ever read something online or in an e-mail, they automatically assume it to be the truth. I suppose that is simply the way the human mind works, and it is especially the case if you really want that something to be the truth. If you see it "in black and white," then it must be true.

An example of internet folklore that continues to cripple modern food production is the myth about the dangers of living within two miles of a concentrated animal feeding operation. I have read things that make me scared silly about the health risks associated with living so close to farms and being exposed to livestock waste, yet if you dig hard enough in your research on the internet, you will find out that contact with animals and animal feces actually prevents human disease by building resistance to diseases, even cancer.

Facts like those are far too hard to uncover with a quick click of the mouse, though. Come to think of it, possibly the greatest risks associated with the farm and animals in general are the rodents that carry diseases. For instance, the hanta virus is spread by mice and rats, which incidentally are not just found on farms but also in urban areas. Could it be that the mouse on your computer and the mouse poking around in quiet, dark spaces are both equally dangerous?

The bottom line is that American consumers don't know what they don't know. It is our responsibility to inform them of the real dangers that can occur because of improper interactions with any type of mouse.

Always together for American agriculture,

Trent Loos