The word ‘sustainability’ is everywhere over recent months regarding energy and agriculture issues. If you haven’t seen it used, then you probably haven’t been reading much. While some simply throw the term about just to use it, others definitely talk about it correctly. Today’s Earth Day Newsletter from Growers for Biotechnology (“Biotech should get recognition on Earth Day”) is right on the mark as is a piece by Ronald Bailey at Reason Online and a guest blog by Fred Yoder at What Can Biotech Do For You?…
The other outstanding piece is at ReasonOnline (www.reason.com) or can also be found in TATT’s ‘Latest News’ section – Yielding to Ideology Over Science: Why don’t environmentalists celebrate modern farming on Earth Day?
Fred Yoder, a 4th generation farmer from Ohio, wrote a guest blog that can be read at What Can Biotech Do For You?
(The URL for each that can be copied and pasted into your web browser are at the bottom of this post)
Growers for Biotechnology
Biotech should get recognition on Earth Day
April 22, 2009
It’s Earth Day, and Americans will be getting all sorts of messages about sustainability and “green-ness.” Some of the messages will be accurate and helpful, and some won’t.
Few if any companies, in seeking to portray themselves as environmentally conscious, will give an accurate representation of sustainable agriculture. No one will advertise the fact that they use crops produced through biotechnology, but we who plant biotech crops know that we have been able to reduce our environmental footprint significantly.
Herbicide tolerant crops have enabled us to convert our soybean acreage to conservation tillage or no-till. As a result, we don’t need the heavy fuel-guzzling equipment we used to use to plow our fields. We keep the crop residue on our fields, providing a shield against soil erosion and runoff into streams. The residue also provides winter shelter and a food source for wildlife. We also make fewer herbicide applications, not only reducing herbicide usage but also conserving fuel and reducing emissions.
Insect-protected crops enable us to control pests with proteins that affect only the targeted pests. As a result, we have been able to reduce or eliminate soil-applied or aerially applied insecticides that don’t differentiate between a corn borer, a lady bug or a song bird.
As we purchase these products, we also are supporting research on new generations of biotech crops, such as corn that makes better use of nitrogen. This will allow growers to maintain yields with less nitrogen, or it will produce higher yields by ensuring that all the nitrogen applied to soil is taken up by the crop instead of washing off fields and contaminating streams and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.
We also await the development of cold-tolerant corn, which will enable more corn growers to convert to no-till. Instead of tilling the soil in early spring to warm it up for corn germination, growers will be able to plant into cool soils with the assurance that the crop will respond and begin producing yield.
Growers in dry regions eagerly await the arrival of drought tolerant corn, which will help them cut back on the use of precious irrigation water, which is in competition with urban demands for water.
All of these technologies help ensure greater yield, which is the true measure of sustainability. If an agricultural practice does not allow farmers to produce enough food to feed a growing global population, it is not sustainable. There is nothing sustainable about food shortages and starvation. Experts estimate that growers will need to double their current production by 2050 to meet global food demand. New skills and technologies are the only way we can make this happen.
So, happy Earth Day to all the growers who plant biotechnology and to the food processors and livestock producers who support and defend the use of biotech crops.