Water comes, water goes….

Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink….

Any student of literature worth his or her salt would easily recognize the author of those lines and the title of the poem. As a junior in high school, my class assignment was to memorize Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s work, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” as part of the grade.

Whenever rainfall is excessive, whether it comes from a single cloudburst, or, as in this case, a series of thunderstorms, the lines of that poem comes to mind.

Using the analogy of the poem, of what use is water to a “dryland” farmer if there is too much of it? Other than rice, crops such as wheat, corn, milo and soybeans will literally die if the roots are submerged in water for more than a few days. Garden vegetables are no more tolerant of excessive water, either.

Sea water, as described in the poem, exists in abundance, yet, if ingested in large quantities, is lethal to humans.

Salt is another vital ingredient that humans and other living creatures need. But too much of it is fatal.

Too much of a good thing is as bad as not enough. Both create a crisis moment in the life of a living organism that require a specific amount of a given nutrient in order to survive.

Which brings me to this point: How do we determine whether a nutrient is good or bad for us? Should we determine its safety by the simplicity of its name?

Michael Pollan, the self-proclaimed food and agricultural critic, has said, “If you can’t say it, don’t eat it.” If one were to abide by that rule of thumb, we would all be dying, if not already dead.

Water, more commonly referred to as H2O, is also known by its scientific designation as dihydrogen monoxide, in reference to water’s makeup of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen.

So apparently, Michael Pollan prefers other liquids over dihydrogen monoxide, if he were to actually practice what he is advocating. Then again, I doubt he would find anything simpler to ingest that is safer than pure water.

Another self-proclaimed food expert, a.k.a. The Food Babe, has said, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever….”

I doubt Vani Hari (Food Babe’s real name) is unaware that she is ingesting vitamins along with her food, not to mention a plethora of micronutrients that are vital to sustain her body’s health, as they are, in basic terms, made from chemicals.

Her view, however, is that all “man-made” chemicals are bad. Which suggests that not all basic chemicals have their origins in nature. Which also suggests a level of scientific knowledge that is unexplainable to an intelligent mind.

A conference in Washing­ton, D.C., in 2013 revealed the apparent disconnect between anti-traditional agricultural activists and proponents of peer reviewed, scientific research. In a Q&A session, one activist acknowledged and recognized the benefits of lifesaving cancer research while denying the validity of research and safety of genetically modified crops.

Based on the activist’s statements, corporate-driven research in cancer and other diseases seemed legitimate, while other corporate-driven research in food production was deemed suspect and driven by a profit motive, even though it was proven to be safe and would save lives.

In one arena, chemistry is good, even if people make money from it. Move that same chemistry over to another arena, it becomes evil. In my opinion, the difference in this disconnect is motivated from a selfish perspective. First, cancer research may save “my” life, and that’s a good thing. Second, I can afford to buy all the food I need, so why support research that increases food production? So why should I care about spending resources on something that is of little benefit to me? I have no need for all of that food.

In essence, this comes back to the issue of balance and what is needed to sustain humanity in the future.

By 2050, agriculture will need to produce more food than it has ever produced since the history of humanity until now, just to feed the world’s population that will be living at the time.

If we take the approach that dihydrogen monoxide is a bad chemical that should be banned, we may fulfill all of the dire predictions that naysayers have made about the future of the world.

If we take the approach that is willing to engage research, look past the complex sounding names and the chemistry, we can work towards finding solutions to increasing food production in a safe and workable manner that can improve and save lives.

You can interact with Paul Penner at smokeyjay@ embarqmail.com