Friday, June 18, 2010

Environmental Benefits of GMO Crops

I have probably written too much about my frustration due to misinformation about GMO crops. Rather than continue to argue about the false misconceptions of the harm I think it is time that maybe we shift gears and discuss the hard and fast benefits of GMO crops, specifically as their benefits pertain to the environment-which seems to be the main argument for trying to ban them.

1. Decreased use of insecticides - Before GMO crops used to spray a lot of nasty insecticides to deal with insects in our crop. I have been farming 7 years, basically since the time when stacked corn traits took off. In those 7 years I have never sprayed a single ounce of insecticide. We still have to use a granular insecticide on 20% of our corn that is required by regulation to not use BT corn-to control corn rootworms-this is called “refuge” corn. Should they allow refuge to be replaced with corn using another mode of action we would not even need to do that.

2. Making no-till feasible – No till has allowed me to GREATLY reduce soil erosion on our farm. Along with the reduced erosion we have reduced runoff of nitrogen and other fertilizer. We also use significantly less fuel and require less equipment and horsepower because we are often making only 4 trips across the field (spray, plant, spray, harvest) a year instead of 7 (2 spring tillage, spray, plant, spray, harvest, fall tillage) or more. Before GMO crops the chemicals really weren’t there to be able to maintain yields, and those that were much more potent and much much less environmentally friendly that glyphosate that we use now.

3. Increased yield – Taking away GMO technology would dramatically reduce yields. If you doubt this compare yields on the refuge corn to conventional. Every year we lose more and more farmground in this country to urban sprawl. Yet overall yields keep getting larger and larger, in my short career we have set national yield records in 4 of the last 7 years. Should we fail to do that prices will rise, and rise dramatically as we saw in 2008. When that happens more of the marginal land becomes profitable to farm and comes out of wildlife areas and returns to production.

4. Less fertilizer – Like oil, fertilizer is a non-renewable resource. We have a responsibility to use it as wisely as possible. We are growing about 30% more grain per pound of fertilizer than we were 15 years ago-the majority of this increase is directly attributable to GMO improvements.

I could list the other benefits of GMO crops but will save those for another slow week post. This next week will be busy with grain bin construction and a return to second round of spraying. Will get some more pics of soon, also past due to post some crop progress pictures.


  1. Perception vs reality!
    Although that perception of GMO=The Great Satan has helped me sell feed and may open an opportunity to grow Soybeans in Oregon. (If they ever get taller than 2 1/2 inches)
    Anti-GMO has become a huge fund raiser for certain groups.
    My favorite GMO is Alfalfa. The stand lasts longer, you don't have to use Gramoxone (sp?) So no stress on the plants from weed control. Of course it is now banned...
    But, on the other hand. If I were exporting hay to anti-GMO countries I would be more understanding of the ban. We have to be really careful with GMO corn around sweet corn.
    And Monsanto is not the best company in the world.
    Also GMO corn and beans work so well that it has almost eliminated the myriad of hybrids and seed companies that gave us needed competition to keep prices down and have genetic diversity.
    You know, that was just going to be a short comment...

  2. I agree with you completely, Paul. Nice post!

  3. I suspect that a lot of folks are like me, not 100% against the IDEA of GMO crops, but 100% against the way they will be abused and misused, due to human greed.

    Incidentally, are you any relation to the Farm Bureau guy named Butler? I'm trying to think if his name wasn't Paul also.

  4. George-sorry no relation go Farm Bureau guy. I know there are 3 Paul Butler's farming in Illinois...two of us use the same equipment dealer-which can get funny at times.

  5. Watch out young fellars, that may not be gold in them thar hills!