If you’re looking for anti-GMO spin, you won’t find it here. No worries. You can find enough emotionally charged, fact-vacant, anti-GMO vitriol online (or among Whole Foods shoppers) to more than counterbalance what you’re about to read.
I’m a fan of GMOs. Why? Because Genetically Modified Organisms — those demonized, misunderstood, boogiemen disguised as farm crops you’ve heard so much misinformation about — are wonderful technological advancements. Put simply, GMOs hold the promise of saving Earth, along with lots of human lives.
Because I understand farming
I grew up on an Indiana dairy farm. I’ve walked soybean fields with a machete on hot summer days to get rid of stubborn weeds. Have you? Probably not, because only 1% of Americans are involved in farming. Yet, activists — most of whom have never produced a single food calorie in their life — want to dictate food production.
I know the daily challenge of keeping animals alive and crops productive while battling weather, insects, weeds, sickness and the clock, which allows you so many hours each day and growing season. As such, I welcome technological advancements in Agriculture. Because….
GMOs make life and work easier
Technological advancement makes us more productive. Think Google, Apple, and the smart phone in your hand. You use technology for business, don’t you? Imagine a bunch of people signing petitions, inspired by Dr. Oz, clamoring for laws that would require you to stop using your technology. No more Google, no more smart phone — from now on it’s the Yellow Pages and a calling card at the pay phone (if you can find a pay phone).
That’s the degree of set back you’re asking Agriculture to endure.
GMOs are “Green” and “Sustainable”
Life on Earth depends on topsoil. GMOs help us conserve that precious soil.
Let’s use soybeans as our example. In the old days we drove over the soil a lot. Mostly cultivating and tilling. Trips across the field in tractors require a lot of human time, burn a lot of fossil fuels, and compact the soil. Compacted soil can’t absorb water, which leads to run off, sedimentation of waterways, and erosion. Cultivation also exposes soil to wind erosion — remember the Dust Bowl?
Enter GMO soybeans. We plant, spray, then harvest. “Oooh,” you shriek, “you spray those soybeans with herbicide and insecticide because GMOs are an evil plot by Monsanto!” Don’t kid yourself, dear consumer. We were spraying soybeans (and just about every other crop) long before genetically engineered seed. GMOs will actually allow us to use less chemicals, with traits such as insect resistance bred into the plant.
Less soil erosion, less fossil fuel burned, and less chemicals sprayed. Sounds like a win for the environment, doesn’t it? So why do alleged environmentalists oppose this technology?
I believe in Science
There are 200 million fewer hungry people on Earth than there were just 2 decades ago. And during that time, world population grew by 2 billion! Credit science and technology.
In spite of our achievement, approximately 800 million people are still undernourished according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. Science holds the promise of feeding those people, and GMOs are just the latest iteration of scientific advancement in food.
Imagine seed that can tolerate drought, fix its own nutrients without need of synthetic fertilizer, or produce triple the yield. No more deforestation, no more marginal lands being tilled, less need to transport food long distances, and no more hungry people.
Most people would call this advancement. Like hybridization, pasteurization, or selective breeding, GMO technology is the next accomplishment in food. Yet they’re a lightning rod, despite the science proving their safety and track record. To the scientific minded observer, this debate looks a lot like the “debate” over vaccines.
Food production is business
Somehow this fact is lost on the anti-GMO crowd. The nostalgic vision of farmers markets and men in bib overalls is, frankly, insulting. Farmers grow genetically engineered crops because it makes sense for their business. GMOs save time, offer the latest traits in seed development, and can provide a positive input cost-to-yield ratio. With millions of dollars of capital at risk, farmers, like all businesses, must look at the bottom line.
Why I’m Pro GMO
It’s trendy to be against GMOs. Sadly, science can’t compete with fear-based propaganda. Face it, words like “Frankenfood” appeal to emotion, not logic. But this isn’t about an idealized vision of Agriculture. It’s about human advancement, it’s about conserving Earth’s resources. It’s about feeding those in countries too poor and hungry to have the luxury of being anti-GMO.
Humans advanced from hunter-gatherers to subsistence farming to modern agriculture by applying ingenuity to food production. Because of those advancements, we are free to build skyscrapers, design electric cars, and, most importantly, eat well.
You can protest GMOs. But I won’t join you because I understand the business of farming and I believe in human progress. This is just the next step.
Damian Mason is a farm boy, farm owner, Agricultural Speaker, and supporter of GMO’s. Find him at http://www.damianmason.com