It seems many people are wildly opposed to GMO crops but few understand the balance between risk and benefit. The largest identified risk is coming from the herbicides used with some GMO crops and not the crops themselves. While some of the genetics might later prove to be dangerous, it is the herbicide that seems linked to conditions such as kidney failure.
Before Round Up and similiar products, most farms tilled, tilled, and tilled again to turn the weeds under. This takes many more hours, burns more diesel, puts more hours on equipment, and generally costs a great deal more to produce the same amount of crop as could be produced with Round Up.
With Round Up and Round Up ready crops (GMO), the tilling, labor, and machine hours are dramatically decreased. The short and simple explanation is that until recently Round Up killed just about everything other than crops specifically engineered to resist Round Up. So you could plant Round Up Ready corn (GMO) and control weeds with Round Up with no concern your herbicide would harm your crop.
Ah, but now we are seeing more than just health side effects of the product. We are facing the Super Weeds. Weeds which now resist Round Up. Now farmers are being forced to return to using more labor, more diesel, and more machine hours.
While some folk who detest GMO food products might think this is a good thing, we need to remember that Round Up has been with us for many decades. It was introduced in 1974. Since then, it has kept the cost of production down and thus the cost of the finished product down. We are not only speaking about food. As much as 10% of today’s gasoline comes from corn. Add to this the increased consumption of diesel and the rules of supply and demand, this means we will likely start seeing not only higher food prices but higher fuel prices as farmers abandon Round Up and Round Up Ready crops.
As an organic farmer, this doesn’t much bother me. Before planting, I clear my fields with goats. Show me a super weed that can survive that and I will show you a lazy goat. Once crops are planted, it is either a hank with the hand or a swing with my garden axe. Then mulch, mulch, mulch….
But as an American, I worry. I understand we are already at a point where food stamps are at their highest. More and more Americans are depending on this and other forms of assistance. Are we really ready for a dramatic increase in food and fuel prices?
What will you do when the cheapest loaf of bread costs $5.00? Maybe I am right. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe it is time we all start thinking seriously about producing our own food.