By State Sen. Tim Kapucian
The recent announcement of the 2013 World Food Prize laureates (three scientists who furthered biotechnology developments) has piqued a renewed biotech debate.
Genetic selection of crops has existed since man first began to put crops under cultivation. Our early crop producers selected the best of their product to be held back for seed, and crossed those selections to enhance them further. Biotechnology allows us to speed up that process.
Iowa’s Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize winner, dedicated his career to feeding the hungry. He vigorously defended biotechnology as a way to develop new crop varieties even more rapidly in order to boost food production. He saw no evidence that genetically modified organisms were harmful to humans. He believed technological and research-based science is key to a safe food delivery system.
I believe Borlaug would be proud of the Food Prize laureates. As a fellow Iowan and crop producer, I know I am.
It never ceases to amaze me how past plant breeders were able to enhance farmers’ abilities to produce food for a hungry world. This progress moved incrementally forward and required years of tedious work and dedication. With strides continuing in biotechnology, producers now realize dramatic increases in yields.
As a producer, I have several goals and ambitions: make an honest and decent living off the land, while leaving the land in better shape for the next generation. There also is an innate sense of satisfaction knowing I am part of a system feeding a hungry world. It is shortsighted and ignorant to believe we can meet the needs without utilizing new techniques and advances in biotechnology.
One concern in this biotech debate is requiring mandatory labeling for all genetic events. Organic products are more labor intensive and command a higher price in the marketplace. It is to the producers’ advantage to label these products and offer the choice consumers demand. However, requiring all products to be labeled simply tells the consumer what he or she already knows. If the label does not say organic or non-GMO, then one should not assume that it is. Labeling everything else will require segregation of products (probably for each genetic event) and that likely will raise the price of all food products. To assume all consumers around the world can afford higher food costs is simply arrogant.
The bottom line: While we fritter away time debating this issue with our bellies full, there are people who do not know where their next meal is coming from. I support GMO products to help feed the world.
State Sen. Tim Kapucian and his wife operate a farm near Keystone. He is a past president of the Iowa Pork Producers, and served three years on the Agriculture Advisory Board to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Comments: email@example.com