Biotech News


GMO Cultivation Bans in Local Hands is Wrong, but That’s How It’s Done

Jun 28, 2017

Genetic engineering has the ability to produce so many positive attributes for society, so why would anyone ban their use, particularly in small areas like indi­vidual counties and cities? The single word answer is politics.

Across the United States most coun­ties are governed by three commissioners; therefore a majority vote is only two. This makes it much easier for an activist group to convince two commissioners rather than a majority of the state legislature that a ban is a good idea.

Farmers and the people who work with them are usually a small percentage of the population, so a small percentage of the voters. Elected commissioners understand­ably take that into consideration when voting on local policy, and unfortunately, without a good knowledge of modern farming practices and what is good regula­tory policy for agriculture, end up voting against planting seeds that are geneti­cally modified. The resulting unintended consequences, like reduced land value and reduced county tax base, end up costing all constituents, not just farmers.

Instead of putting agriculture into the hands of county commissioners, regulation should be done by the State Department of Agriculture – each individual state has one, and all are funded and staffed with people who have professional training and experience in agriculture.

The best thing we can do as supporters and users of biotechnology is to edu­cate our local representatives about the benefits of biotechnology, particularly in agriculture. Only by voicing our knowledge can we really help America’s farmers grow plants that are higher quality with less waste – plants of their own choosing.

Ironically, the people opposed to GMOs – the ones fighting to prevent farmers from planning genetically enhanced seeds – are the very same people opposed to the overuse of herbicides and insecticides to the field. This creates quite the quandary. Many GMO plants are herbicide-tolerant; some produce their own insect resistance. Non-GMO seeds are vulnerable to insects and thus require spraying insecticides. Non-GMO plants are not resistant to herbi­cide and require mechanical cultivation to remove weeds.

Non-GMO seed, often mandated by local commissioners, means more mechanical cultivation, and thus more trips with ma­chinery to manage weeds. Mechanical tillage  uses more fuel, disturbs the soil – releasing more carbon dioxide – and may increase the amount of soil erosion from both water and wind. Increased tillage also reduces the amount of organic matter in the soil and the amount of sequestered carbon dioxide.

Data for 2016 shows a 19-percent reduc­tion in herbicide and insecticide use and a reduction of carbon dioxide equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the roads from the planting of genetically engineered plants. Use of genetically engineered plants has continued to increase ev­ery year so future benefits will be even greater.

What to Tell Your County Commissioner

1. Today’s engineered seed is more efficient in the use of fertilizer and water while at the same time producing both higher yields and higher quality. Reduced fertilizer use decreases runoff into water ways and results in cleaner rivers and lakes with healthier populations of fish and water fowl.

   2. Genetic engineering has now produced plants that are less subject to bruising, store longer, and yield higher percent­ages of useable produce – result­ing in higher quality food and less food waste.

   3. Genetically engineered plants have been developed to produce higher amounts of needed vitamins and nutrients. Corn and rice can now produce higher amounts of vitamin A and soybeans higher amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, both neces­sary for good human health.

By Douglas R. Jones,
Executive Director,
Growers for Biotechnology