Biotech is the biggest change Minnesota farmer Mike Yost expects to see in his farming lifetime. That's a gigantic statement, especially when he's stacking biotech bonuses up against landmark events like rural electrification and hybrid seed.
"Biotechnology is here to stay," says Yost, chairman of the American Soybean Association's (ASA) board of directors.
But the road ahead is bumpy, not only in European Union countries and Japan, but opposition now is gaining ground here on U.S. shores.
Two major national organic food chains - Whole Foods Market Inc. of Austin, TX, and Wild Oats Markets of Boulder, CO - have promised customers they'll avoid biotech plants in the ingredients of their house brands. They admit they haven't identified any specific health hazards. And they acknowledge that it's nearly impossible to guarantee any food to be entirely free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Still, their efforts to set up a GMO-free sector in their chains of about 200 stores are noteworthy.
As the controversy over biotechnology unfolds, we, along with ASA and the National Corn Growers, support biotech's science-based technology.
Yost probably best sums up the issue saying:
1) It's not about fact; it's about fear.
2) It's not about feeding people; it's about feeding agendas both social and political.
3) It's not about safety; it's about hypothetical risks.
4) It's not about environmentally friendly pesticides; it's about politically correct pesticides.
However, Yost's logical assessment doesn't prevent action - like the recent class-action lawsuit filed against Monsanto on behalf of six farmers over allegations it sold genetically modified crops without first ensuring they were safe.
The suit aims to stop the company from adding genes to give soybeans, corn and other plants resistance to pests without more rigorous testing. The initiator of the lawsuit is Jeremy Rifkin, environmental activist and longtime critic of biotech crops.
Monsanto denounced the suit, arguing that its biotech products are safe and have been approved by U.S. regulators.
Correction: In our December issue, "No-Sweat Seeding Handling," page 47, the bulk handling system featured is manufactured by Convey-All Industries, Manitoba, Canada.