Yesterday I listened to an interview of a farmer in Indiana who currently grows non-GMO soybeans on his farm because consumers are willing to pay more for this premium product. Next year he doesn’t plan to grow them anymore.
Why? What’s wrong with regular ol’ beans and why would a farmer choose GMOs, even if the others pay better?
Well, I can answer that will a little more from my tour of Monsanto. If you missed it, be sure to catch the first two posts, What is A GMO? and Can You Eat Like Your Ancestors! If you’re up to date, please continue. 🙂
This particular farmer (as do all farmers) was having trouble with weeds in his fields. Weeds are a problem because they use resources, like nutrients from the soil, water, and sunlight you wanted for your crop. The competition can cause crops to produce less food.
Famers of the past, and those that grow non-GMO products, used a combination of products to kill the weeds, often applying them two or three times to kill those weeds. That costs in time, money, and harm to the environment.
GMOs were created so farmers could spray a product one time and kill weeds more efficiently. Scientists had the idea to make a spray that interferes with a protein in photosynthesis. Then they created a seed that was protected from the spray. Dead weeds, less chemical. All around win.
Another problem solved by GMOs is the damage from pests.
This works a little like a vaccination. Scientists take DNA that protects from certain insects and put it into the seed, “turning it on” like we discussed in Monday’s post in the roots or leaves, and keeping safe from bugs. In the above photo three healthy soybean plants were infected with disgusting caterpillar things (scientific term) on June 11th. (And moved into that case on the 16th, if you’re wondering about the bottom date.) I took this picture on June 18th. You can see the damage done in just seven days.
I wish I’d gotten clearer pictures of the labels under each plant so I could show you better, but I’m sure you can guess the nice looking plant on the bottom right is the GMO designed to taste nasty to the pests. Our guide said the caterpillars figure it out and after a quick bite, never go near the GMO plant again.
It works with corn as well:
Hopefully you can read those signs a little better.
In addition to killing pests and weeds so the plants can grow and produce well, GMOs also keep those two little problems out of the combine and away from the food that is trucked into town. Since a combine can’t tell the difference between Johnson grass and corn, anything growing in the field gets pulled into the equipment– even nasty caterpillars.
So the farmer I heard interviewed was going back to GMOs. It means less spraying for weeds, less damage to plants, less loss of income, and better for the everyone.