Where are the voices of reason, those who would speak out for modern agriculture? Recent news would lead you to believe that the activists are gaining ground and that we must cast aside our use of modern technology for the more compassionate, politically correct farming methods that were common in the days before electricity reached into rural America.

News item: In early January an arson fire heavily damaged 14 cattle trucks at Harris Farms in Fresno County, Calif. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an underground group that the FBI identifies as a domestic terrorist organization, claimed credit for the fire in a statement sent to the Fresno Bee newspaper. The fire caused over $2 million in damages, but fortunately no one was hurt. No arrests have been made.

News item: In Ohio this week, a woman who is a self-proclaimed animal rights activist, was arrested and charged with soliciting a hit man to kill a random person wearing fur, either by shooting the individual or slitting the individual’s throat. You read that right, she allegedly didn’t care who the target was as long as they were wearing fur!

Fortunately, the plan was easily uncovered by the FBI since the woman allegedly used Facebook to search for a hit man. The agency subpoenaed Facebook to uncover details about the woman’s profile, and an FBI agent contacted her posing as a would-be hit man. Federal marshals arrested her and she is awaiting a hearing.

News item: A British hog farmer targeted by animal rights activists apparently committed suicide a few days after an undercover video was released showing animal cruelty on his farm. The British press called the video “shocking,” and the farmer was quoted as saying he was “absolutely gutted.” There was no suggestion in the reports that the farmer was directly involved in the cruelty – his employees were apparently the culprits – but the man was allegedly harassed and the publicity may have been more than he could bear.

Increasingly, it seems, news items such as those are becoming common occurrences. The decades-old animal rights movements in Europe and America have undoubtedly had an impact on the population as a whole, and become an all-consuming focus of a select few.

Setting arson fires and plotting a random murder-for-hire are illogical means by which to further a cause. But, we can’t apply logic to illogical or deranged thinking. No, what we must do is seek voices of reason and spokesmen and women for agriculture whose voices are capable of being heard over the steady drumbeat of those who seek to take agriculture back to the hunter-gatherer days.

One of those voices belongs to Bill Gates. Yes, the Microsoft founder is an advocate for agriculture, championing the use of technology and modern agriculture to alleviate hunger throughout the world. At a speech to the UN rural poverty agency (IFAD) in Rome, this week, Gates called for a “digital revolution” to combat hunger by increasing agricultural productivity through satellites and genetically-engineered seed varieties.

“We have to think hard about how to start taking advantage of the digital revolution that is driving innovation including in farming,” Gates said. “If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. We believe that it’s possible for small farmers to double and in some cases even triple their yields in the next 20 years while preserving the land.”

Gates’ foundation has committed $2 billion for farmers over the years, and in Rome he announced $200 million in new grants to finance research on a new type of drought-resistant maize, a vaccine to help livestock farmers and a project for training farmers.

“Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty,” he said.

Gates defended the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the developing world and large-scale farm land investments by foreign states in the developing world – both seen as highly controversial by many.

“You should go out and talk to people growing rice and (ask) do they mind that it was created in a laboratory when their child has enough to eat?” Gates said. “The change in the way mankind lives over the last several hundred years is based on adoption of innovative practices and we simply haven’t done enough for those in the greatest need to bring these things (into use).”

Now that’s a voice worth championing to all those who would denounce modern agriculture.