Genetically Modified Organisms: An Agricultural Students Perspective (part 2 of 4)

The use of genetically modified crops has increased dramatically since the adoption of the genetically modified seed.  The reasons for this seem clear to Pamela Ronald.  In a paper titled “The Truth about GMO’s” Ronald states, “Yet one need only observe the overwhelming farmer adoption of GE crops in the United States and elsewhere to conclude that the GE crop varieties on the market are useful to farmers.  It is unlikely that experienced and skilled farmers would buy GE seeds if their farm operations did not benefit economically.”  (refer to image 1)  Three major genetically modified crops in the United States are soybeans, cotton and corn.  Specifically they are herbicide tolerant (Ht) Soybeans, (Ht) Cotton, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cotton, Bt Corn and Ht Corn. (Rezbova, 2012)  From a large farm perspective, the benefits of GMO crops, appears to be clear. (Ronald, 2013) 

Agriculturalists have made it their goal to feed the world.  Transgenic GMO’s are in demand because the world is unable to increase the amount of acreage under cultivation.  Environmental concerns, energy concerns, and population growth are the cause of this.  Due to this goal, humans must increase the yield of crops in order to meet the nutritional demands of the species worldwide.  Genetically modified crops supply feed for animals (typically in feed yards) as well as fiber and alternative fuels. (Rezbova, 2012)  Additionally, nearly every processed food in the United States contains transgenic GMO’s.

Misconceptions among non-agriculturalists concerning arable land and pastureland lead to differences of opinion on the ability to increase crop yields.  Some individuals believe that agriculturalists should decrease animal production in favor of fruit and vegetable crop production.  Fruits and vegetables are only capable of growing in certain environments.  Pastureland will not support typical fruit and vegetable crop production.  The grasses of pastureland are inedible to humans.  Therefore, agriculturalists produce livestock on pasture.  Agriculturalists use the pastureland to start livestock and then agriculturalists typically finish the livestock in feed yards.  This allows the agriculturalist to convert the inedible pasture crops into high quality meat and milk for human consumption.  Changing cropping systems would endanger the soil.  In addition, maintaining the pasture decreases erosion that would exist in the event of a change in cropping practices. (Technolgy)  The remnants of the food produced for human consumption are recycled as a part of the feed for the livestock.  The deployment of transgenic GMO’s as food, fiber, and fuel have increased with little mainstream scientific dispute to individual health or damage to the environment. (Technolgy)

The intention of Bt enhanced crops that produce their own pesticide is to allow the farmer to decrease pesticide use.  The farmer must however plant a second field as a “refuge strategy” in order to decrease the incidence of insect resistance to the crop. (Ronald, 2013)  Traditional research shows the use of Ht crops allows the farmer to treat for weeds with greater success and less harm to the farmer’s crop.  Both of these are great benefits in terms of time-spent.  The saved time allows the farmer to focus on other aspects of the business.  This allows the farmer to increase the yield and decrease the cost of the product.

However, controversy about transgenic GMO’s is abundant in spite of mainstream successes.  There are strong reservations about the ethics of patenting seed, developing terminator technology, and the interrelationship of governmental agencies and agricultural companies.  In addition, some believe the safety of transgenic GMO’s is unproven.  Fears persist that transgenic GMO’s are the cause of harm to unwitting consumers.  It is difficult to determine the presence of transgenic GMO’s in the food supply because there is no legal requirement to label them in the United States.

End of 2 of 4: References posted at end of 1 of 4

UPDATE: Since the writing of this paper I have discovered that Pamela Ronald (cited in the above paper) retracted two of her pro-GMO studies that have been cited by more than 120 other paper.  The article where I discovered this is here.  

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