Farming's Future
 

 




The culture and economy of Iowa is deeply rooted in farming. Tools and technologies allow today's farmers to be much more efficient and productive than their grandparents or even their parents. Think about the tractor. It revolutionized the amount of work one farmer could do. Hybrid seeds increased crop yields to numbers never thought possible. Petrochemicals reduced the devastating effects of insects and weeds on crops. So what is the next big revolution in farming? Many experts say it is genetic engineering (GE).

GE crops provide farmers with interesting alternatives. The crops can be genetically engineered for a wide variety of traits including resistance to pests (Bt corn), resistance to herbicides (Roundup-ReadyTM soybeans), and increased nutrition (golden rice). Crops are not the only focus of GE on the farm. Livestock can be genetically engineered to produce leaner meats or more milk. They can also be pharmed, which means genetically engineering plants or animals to produce medicines or be a source of organs for humans who need transplants (see xenotransplantation). Imagine eating a banana instead of getting a shot! How about receiving a pig's heart!

All of these possibilities sound exciting, but they also raise some serious questions. Many people are concerned about possible effects of GE crops and livestock. GE crops could "contaminate" other species, or wipe out other varieties of plants. Other concerns focus on the effects of GE on the ecosystem of the soil and the organisms within it. What about the effects GE foods could have on humans who eat them? Do we have the right to change the genetic makeup of animals just to serve human needs?

As we look to the future of farming in Iowa, all of the possibilities and all of the concerns must be weighed before deciding to adopt the technology.

 


Explore More: Genetic Engineering
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.


 

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