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Biotech ag and organics: It’s not an either/or deal

Biotech ag and organics: It’s not an either/or deal

Can a person be both a backer of biotechnology in agriculture and a supporter of organic farming? I think so. In fact, I see myself as one.

As Spokesman readers know from my columns over the years, I’m a pretty big backer of biotech agriculture. I’ve seen first-hand how by choosing to use genetically modified (GMO) crops, farmers in Iowa and around the world have been able to produce bigger and better harvests, with less adverse impact on the environment. And I think there’s immense promise in biotechnology for agriculture, especially in places of the world where food shortages and malnutrition are chronic.

On top of all that, study after study shows that foods made with biotech crops are safe for consumers and aren’t different from those developed with traditional plant breeding. The latest was from the National Academy of Sciences, which looked over reams of data and concluded that biotech crops are safe and provide many benefits for farmers and the environment.

That’s why it’s so baffling why some people are trying so hard to force foods made with biotech crops to carry labels that provide no pertinent information and seem to be designed to frighten consumers.

Supporting choices

Still, my strong support for biotech or GMOs doesn’t keep me from supporting organic farming.

I know many Iowa farmers who choose to raise organic crops or forage. We’ve featured a lot of these growers in our publications and they often have inspiring stories to tell. It’s clear that some consumers prefer organic products and are willing to pay farmers more for them. The organic market is also important for many farmers, young and old, who need the added income from the premium prices offered by organics to keep going in agriculture.

The problem sprouts up when advocates of organic or conventional farming, trying to bolster their side, start to denigrate the other. There is no place for "farmer shaming," as one of my readers aptly points out. It is unfair, unproductive and only splinters a U.S. agriculture community badly in need of more cohesion.

The bottom line: Iowa is a great farming state with plenty of room for all types of agriculture, whether that’s conventional, organic or one of the wide range of variables in between.



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