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GMO versus organic? Why not both?

GMO versus organic? Why not both?

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

I’m a pretty big backer of biotech agriculture. I’ve seen first-hand how by choosing to use genetically-modified 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 are not 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.

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

I know many Iowa farmers who choose to raise crops organic crops or forage on some, or all, of their land. 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 are starting out without a lot of land and need the added income from the premium prices offered by organics.

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 correspondents aptly pointed out to me recently. It is unfair, unproductive and causes unfortunate divisions.

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.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is News Services Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.