The Great GMO Debate: Are Farmers More Scientifically Astute?

The Great GMO Debate: Are Farmers More Scientifically Astute?

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.


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Spell Check

Edinburgh, UM
4/24/2015 06:54 AM

  Actually seed farmers through selection, then through breeding, and (now) scientists have been working on improving crop quality for centuries. That has always been the primary goal and will continue to be so. Better quality oils, (fatty acids),, proteins (amino acids), complementary protein sources and higher recovery of the main product and by-products in processing are constantly undertaken by scientists in universities and industry. Unfortunately an inordinate amount of publicity focusing on input traits (for insect resistance and herbicide tolerance) has given the industry and farmers a bad name. Why doesn't the public realise that there is a huge difference between farming on an industrial scale and required for 100% of the population to be fed by less than 2% who make the effort to grow it! There are already genetically engineered varieties to produce more starch, more alcohol (with reduced cost), higher protein, more vitamins, etc etc none of which get the publicity whatsoever. There is plenty of information available out there. In fact there is an excess of food supply led by sugars,which is leading to health problems. This needs to be addressed more than anything else.

Asdf, MN
4/24/2015 07:04 AM

  At one time 99% said the world was flat. In the end it's about where consumers place their money not what modern day science says.

Earnest Crist
El Reno, OK
4/24/2015 05:16 AM

  I find it interesting that anyone would think we Ag producers are more scientifically astute than the general public because we support GMO's. Since the majority of Ag producers support GMO's (I do too) but then turn around and reject climate change (I believe in climate change by the way) it would seem to me that most of us in Ag are picking and choosing what science we want to believe. We are astute if we like what we hear.


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