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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

MFAI Director’s Blog – December 2011

In recent months, I have come across articles that imply the whole world is growing genetically modified (GM) crops. In a recent Ag College newsletter from my alma mater, an article stated that, if given a choice, the consumer would choose a GM product at the grocery store. However, I took time to look at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications’ recent report (ISAAA-2011), and figures do not show this to be the case.

The area of land cultivated with GM crops does continue to show an increase in GM plantings in 2009 and 2010. However, nearly 80% of these plantings are in three countries (US, Brazil, and Argentina). In reality, when considering the four major crops grown worldwide (corn, soybeans, cotton, and wheat), the amounted planted to GM crops is tiny. The GM industry, some scientists, government advisors, and regrettably, some universities have made heroic (although, more accurately-unsupportable) claims about what GM crops can deliver. They have promised nitrogen fixing wheat, drought tolerance, enhanced nutritional values, and increased yield. What has been delivered is increased herbicide use. Of course, to make a crop tolerant to herbicides implies more herbicide use. The result, farmers are finding out, is getting on an ever-increasing treadmill of more and costly inputs to cope with a build-up of herbicide resistant weeds.

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute continues to increase its efforts to convince conventional farmers there are other ways to control weeds without the costly inputs and questionable health effects of applying large amounts of chemical herbicides. To take it a step further, long term research (ten to twenty years in length) is needed to compare conventional, organic, and biodynamic agricultural production methods to assess the economic viability of all three production systems. Stay tuned as Michael Fields Agricultural Institute explores how such field trials could be set up. The results should be dispersed to all farmers, not only in the US, but to other parts of the world where farmers also demand this kind of research.