Iowa Public Television

 

GMO use on the increase

posted on February 18, 2000


SATELLITE IMAGING, GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEMS AND GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS ALL ARE INDICATIVE OF TECHNOLOGY'S INCREASING PRESENCE ON THE AMERICAN FARM. WHILE THERE'S LITTLE DOUBT THAT DATA GLEANED FROM SATELLITES AND COMPUTERS CAN BE HELPFUL, NOT EVERYONE IS CONVINCED HI-TECH FARMING IS THE SALVATION FOR AGRICULTURE.

WHILE MANY FARMERS HAVE BEEN QUICK TO EMBRACE GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS, THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW G-M-Os IS SLOWING. IN 1997, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT RECEIVED 14 APPLICATIONS FOR NEW G-M-O PRODUCTS, THE NUMBER DECLINED TO SIX LAST YEAR, AND SO FAR, ONLY ONE NEW VARIETY HAS BEEN SUBMITTED THIS YEAR.

NEVERTHELESS, THE COMPANIES THAT DEVELOP AND SELL G-M-O'S REMAIN BULLISH ON THEIR PROSPECTS.

IN 1996, LESS THAN ONE PERCENT OF THE GRAIN CROP WAS GENETICALLY MODIFIED. LAST SEASON, ONE THIRD OF THE CORN AND MORE THAN HALF THE SOYBEANS AND COTTON WERE OF SOME GENETICALLY ENGINEERED VARIETY.

AS THE PERCENTAGE OF G-M-O CROPS HAS RISEN, SO HAS THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING THEM. ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS, LIKE GREENPEACE, HAVE TRIED TO DRIVE A WEDGE BETWEEN THE NEW PRODUCTS AND THEIR INTENDED MARKET.

AMERICAN CITIZENS HAVE READILY ACCEPTED THE ENGINEERED COMMODITIES WHILE EUROPEAN PUBLIC OPINION HAS SWEPT THE NEW MERCHANDISE FROM OVERSEAS STORE SHELVES.

LAST YEAR, ARCHER-DANIELS-MIDLAND AND A.E. STALEY BEGAN REQUIRING GMO AND NON-GMO GRAINS TO BE SEPARATED. GERBER, HEINZ, AND FRITO-LAY ARE NOW REFUSING TO USE ANY GENETICALLY MODIFIED GOODS IN THEIR FOOD LINES.

EVEN SO, OPINION POLLS, PROTESTS, AND PROCESSOR BANS HAVE NOT DISCOURAGED THOSE WHO SELL, GROW OR STORE G-M-O GRAINS.

MONSANTO HAS JOINED FORCES WITH GRAIN GIANT CARGILL TO BOTH PROMOTE G-M-O PRODUCTS AND REASSURE FARMERS THEIR HARVEST WILL BE ACCEPTED AT THE LOCAL ELEVATOR.

AND JERRY HARRINGTON, PIONEER HI-BRED'S SALES PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER SUMS UP HOW HIS COMPANY IS VIEWING THIS YEAR'S PROJECTED SALES.

Harrington: "Despite all these headlines, and again, all the sound and fury, farmers are seeing a great deal of value in genetically enhanced seeds."

Tags: agriculture crops genetic engineering news