Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Farmer, GMO Grower and Environmentalist

I consider myself an environmentalist. I know the image of an environmentalist is not good, especially in farm and ranch country. Ideas of tree hugging, shaggy haired, sandal wearing hippy types are probably the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe it’s the suit and tie urbanites who joined the cause because it was the trendy thing to do. Maybe, just maybe the first thing that should come to mind when the word environmentalist is mentioned should be those of us farming and ranching.
The idea that I am an environmentalist comes to me several times each year. Last week I proudly thought of myself as an environmentalist as we planted corn. Yes, it was Round-up Ready, triple stacked, genetically engineered corn that some other would-be environmentalists might consider harmful to our environment. However, in my mind they are wrong.
The Round-up Ready, triple stack corn seed I planted last week very much helps me protect the precious environment around me. Genetically engineered corn allows me to not till my soil. Over the past six years that Dad and I have been planting no-till our soil has began to build itself back to the same texture and properties that it before it was first plowed. I have seen an increase in the amount of earth worms and organic matter on the surface of my fields.
I have seen the erosion of top soil in my fields decrease dramatically to nearly nothing. Water is slowed by the residue of past years crops and does not run off at nearly the rate it used too. This also allows me to catch more of the rainfall for my crops. It also means less runoff going into our creeks, rivers and reservoirs. I am sure all of you know about the problems our reservoirs have with runoff and silt. This also lessens the nutrient loads being delivered to our lakes and makes them healthier. While I am at it, I want to commend those who have but buffer strips in, that is taking environmentalism to the next level.
No-till also allows me to make far fewer passes over our fields. This decreases the amount of fuel we use. Last time I checked decreasing the amount of fossil fuels used was one of the things environmentalists lobbied for. Because of our genetically engineered crops we are not just talking about using less fossil fuel, we are doing it. If you are one of my fellow producers using cover crops to lessen their need for fertilizers and improve soil. This is just another example of farmers going to the next level of environmentalism.
Oh yeah, part of that triple stack is resistance to insects. Corn borer and many other pests used to require farmers to spray insecticides. This protection afforded to us through the genetic engineering has drastically reduced the amount of insecticides sprayed on corn fields and in many cases has eliminated them all together. I am certainly not opposed to using insecticides but I am also more than happy not to use them.
Yes, I am sure that planting my genetically engineered corn and soybeans makes me an environmentalist. I am also sure that some of the card-carrying, dues-paying environmentalists would disagree with me. Fine we can have a discussion about genetically engineered crops. I will match your unproven theories with my observations and results. I know my soil, the plants and animals around my fields and I know the environment is better today because of the technology I am using on my farm.
I also have the satisfaction of knowing that the genetically engineered crops I am growing allow me to produce more food with less of an impact on the environment. We must continue to increase food production while coming under more and more scrutiny when it comes to the natural resources entrusted to us. I am not sure how we do that without GMO crops.
So yes, I do proudly consider myself an environmentalist. Don’t worry I won’t be hugging any trees; I am far too allergic to poison ivy for that. But I will continue to plant genetically modified or genetically engineered crops (whatever you prefer to call them) because I care about the soil, water and air around me and that makes me an environmentalist.

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