How biotechnology is making farming more sustainable

GMO crops, as the ones pictured here, can reduce water usage and soil damage.

[Editor’s note: Randy Krotz is the CEO of US Farmers and Ranchers.]

There are some things that GMOs allow us to do on a corn, soybean or sugar beet farm that we can’t do without GMOs, and that impacts our ability to maintain the environment, water and soil. With GMOs, we’re able to till the soil less or not at all, which helps prevent the loss of soil. If we were using another program, we’d have to use cultivation to control the weeds and we don’t have to do that with GMOs. In a GMO program, you apply herbicide over the weeds; the crop is protected but the weeds die. So, you have a way to control your weeds without any disruption.

GMOs with herbicide protection are just one kind of GMO. Another type has an insect correction in the plant, such as BT, which actually protects the plant from insects. Our Kansas farm is a great example of how this works: We used to have to apply multiple applications of insecticides in a year to control various insects, but now we don’t actually have to apply any insecticides at all because the protection is embedded in the plant. There is also work being done to develop a similar model for herbicides so the protection can be internalized in the crop rather than applied topically.

GMOs can help reduce tillage, water consumption and the use of insecticides. And you’re adding costs to farmers asking them to control their pests in other ways — we use GMOs because they are a cost-effective way to reduce inputs. If you stop using GMOs, you’re now vulnerable to three or four different insects, for example. The pressure of those insects in a given year will also vary — you may have to treat, you may not. To ensure operating costs are still manageable if GMOs are not used, a farmer looks at this and says, ok, can you pay me a premium over the market, which helps cover additional costs, such as identity preservation and more inputs.

And that’s what our whole straight talk program is about, trying to help food companies have a very candid conversation with farmers. We want to hear from them and we want them to be successful without having tools taken away from farmers.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: USFRA: Why Nature May Need Technology to Help Feed Our Growing World