24 August 2014 - GMO’s Help Feed the World

I know I have spent a lot of time talking about people who are opposed to agricultural biotechnology, or you might call it GMO’s, Genetically Modified Organisms. Again, this November, several states will have the GMO labeling issue on the ballot. The pro-labeling groups say it’s simply an issue of their right to know, but I say it’s to build fear in the minds of consumers that there is something wrong and dangerous with agricultural biotechnology; that evil monster corporations like Monsanto and Pioneer are putting terrible things into our food to fatten their bottom lines.

Never mind that more than 150 studies world-wide over the past twenty years have shown no difference, or danger, in foods containing GMO’s. And the anti-GMO groups ignore the fact that we are able to produce more food on fewer acres to feed a growing world population. That was reinforced last week when the annual Midwest Pro Farmer Crop Tour released its estimates on corn and soybean production for this year.

The number that caught my eye the first day of the tour was their per-acre corn yield in Indiana. They estimated the corn yield-per-acre would be 185 bushels, compared to last year’s 167 bushels and the three-year tour average of 141 bushels per acre. That is an increase over the three-year average of 44 bushels per acre. As the crop observes moved across the Midwest, they reported similar numbers, with the Illinois per-acre corn yield estimated at an astounding 196 bushels per acre. Multiply that by the millions of acres that have been planted and we have increased substantially the available food and feed supply for people, livestock and energy.

Now, there is no question that weather is an important factor; we have had ideal growing conditions this year. But I believe another very important factor is the role of GMO’s. Genetically Modified Organisms have enabled us to develop seeds to substantially increase yields in good weather as well as bad weather, which we experienced in the 2012 drought year. And recalling my childhood on our Wisconsin farm, if we got 60 bushels of corn per acre, it was a very good year!

If you think we really need GMO labeling, then let’s do it with federal legislation, not state-by-state; and since we have been planting GMO crops for decades, it probably means 90% of our foods will have to be labeled. I still like the suggestion of an Iowa farmer last year who suggested if you want non-GMO food, forget about the cost of labeling and buy all your food at the organic food store. And let him use the technology to feed a hungry world and save the soil. Good idea!

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