Friday, August 21, 2009
Anti GM mural from Mexico taken by one of my BYU profs.
The bigger fear should be the loss of diversity, not because of genetically modified grain, but from hybrids and improved varieties.
The complicating factor is that hybrids can outyield old landraces by so much that as a farmer I would want the elite hybrid, even though the old landrace has more genetic diversity, because farming is a business. And more yields = more money. Genetically modified corn is also much less work to grow. Roundup is easy to spray. It breaks down quickly in the soil and sun and has a low toxicity. Weeding mechanically takes a lot more time and labor. BT and other disease resistance genes make it easier to get reliable yields without having to spray for borers and other caterpillars that eat corn. You still have to spray for other bugs. That equates to more time not taking care of corn.
I worry about the loss of genetic diversity. I worry about the loss of small farmers.
Yet still I am a corn breeder. I don't think we should go back to landraces that yield less than 100 bushels per acre on the very best ground. The question to me is how do we continue to increase past 200 bushel an acre corn yields and not decrease genetic diversity. How to do that and support local and small farmers. How to do that and make farming profitable and sustainable as a lifestyle and a part of our environment.