Let’s Talk About GMOs
According to a Pew survey, 88% of scientists approve the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), while only 35% of adult Americans accept GMOs as safe. As University of Illinois Extension specialist, Mike Roagee says, “That’s a huge range in differences of opinions between the scientific community and the general populous.”
This survey, Roagee notes, is further proof the American people are skeptical of science. On the other hand, many farmers are less skeptical of genetically engineered (GE) crops. The lack of scientific skepticism, Roagee assumes is due to farmers being more scientifically astute, but explains farmers primarily look at the economics of their crops.
Given the steady uptick in the overall use of GE crops since 1996, his assumption might not be far-fetched. According to USDA-ERS, the adoption of GE varieties by U.S. farmers is widespread with 170 million acres planted in 2013.
Given, this is based on commodity crops, such as soybeans, corn and cotton, but it shows farmers’ increased acceptance of genetically modified varieties over a more than 15 year span, while consumer acceptance declines.
If farmers trust GMOs and agree with the majority scientific community regarding the safety of GM plants, why do they still plant conventional crops when given the choice? It’s all about economics, Roagee says. If they can plant non-GMOs without worrying about additional pest control—and get a premium for their crop—it’s really a win-win.
Katie Hancock, agriculture commodity marketing consultant for Brock Associates and farmer, addresses this subject in her “Family Farming—Katie Style” blog on AgWeb. Hancock notes, while she proudly raises, eats and supports GMO products, she can’t help but consider growing non-GMO to help her farm business maximize profits. She adds, while the premium is tempting, it is not always guaranteed.
Additionally, other considerations must be made when deciding to switch, such as additional chemical expenses, yield, residue risks and seed supply. Whether you plant GMO or non-GMO, estimating the bottom line net is a must, she says.
In short, GMOs are about maintaining options on both sides, for consumers and farmers.
Listen to Part 1 of Pam Fretwell’s interview with Mike Roagee, “Let’s Talk About GMOs”:
Listen to Part 2 of “Let’s Talk About GMOs”:
Want more? Click here to listen to Consumer Ag Connection with Pam Fretwell.