6.3.16 / ADMIN
GMOs: Helping Us Produce More With Less
By Lindsey Hendricks
Lindsey’s husband is a fourth-generation farmer. Her family raises corn, soybeans and wheat in Kentucky.
So much of my job as a mom of two is figuring out how to do more with less. Use coupons to buy more groceries with less money. Eat breakfast together to spend more quality time together with seemingly fewer hours in the day.
Farmers see the same challenges: always trying to do more with less. Thankfully, we have tools like GMOs to help us do just that.
A GMO is an organism that has been developed by introducing a new, desired trait or characteristic into its DNA through genetic engineering.
There are many reasons why my family continues choosing to plant GMO crops year after year, but what really stands out are the environmental benefits.
GMOs help us be more sustainable by reducing:
- Pesticide (a substance used to eliminate pests) use
- Greenhouse-gas emissions (gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere)
- Land area needed to grow crops
Keep reading to learn how GMOs allow us to make these reductions.
More Means Less: Pesticide
Genetic engineering allows some plants to resist certain types of insects.
Because our GMO soybeans and corn are unaffected by some damaging pests, we don’t need to spray as much pesticide on our crops to battle the bugs.
When my husband takes our pesticide sprayer across an acre of land, which is about the size of a football field, the amount of pesticide mixed into the tank is equal to a small latte, or about a cup of chemical mixed with gallons of water.
U.S. farmers reduced their pesticide applications by 1.2 billion pounds from 1996 to 2013 due, in part, to the use of GMO seeds. Pesticide use is expected to continue to decrease as more desirable traits become available in the seeds we plant.
More Means Less: Greenhouse-Gas Emissions
Decreasing the number of times we need to drive our sprayer across the fields to protect our plants from pests like weeds and insects decreases the amount of fuel we use and the emissions from our equipment. That means less carbon in the atmosphere.
And because GMO soybeans and corn are created to withstand some types of herbicide applications used to control weeds, we can be more efficient and precise with our weed management. That has helped us reduce our tillage.
Tillage is the process of turning soil in a field, and one of the reasons we used to till was to bury weeds. Tilling a field not only takes fuel, but the process itself releases greenhouse gasses from the soil.
In 2012, by reducing tillage on farms, our greenhouse-gas emissions were so much lower, it was like we removed 11.9 million cars from the road. That was largely because of GMOs.
More Means Less: Land Area Usage
Overall, GMOs allow us to reduce the amount of energy and inputs (resources used in farm production, including fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides) we use. And by saving our crops from pests and weeds, we’re able to increase the amount of food we produce per acre.
That’s critical for our ever-growing population.
We have a limited amount of land on this planet. GMOs allow us to be efficient with it, which empowers us to be sustainable and continue feeding future generations around the world.
What GMOs Mean to You, Me and Planet Earth
GMOs help farmers like my husband produce your food safely and sustainably by using fewer resources. That in itself is environmental protection: Growing more food with less pesticide, emissions and land.
It’s our responsibility as farmers to be good stewards of the land so we can continue feeding the population, and GMOs are a part of that.
Do you have more questions about how GMOs help farmers be sustainable? Ask away! The women of CommonGround are here to help you understand how your food is produced so you can be confident every time you put food on your family’s table.