The Great Debate On GMO Crops

Iowa Farm Scene

Believing in safety of genetically modified crops depends on trust and science.

Published on: November 4, 2013

The other farmer on the panel, Bill Horan, said yields and grain quality on his farm have improved thanks to biotech crops. And so has family life. A past president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Horan says he spent a large part of his summers as a kid with a hoe in hand, walking bean fields, hoeing weeds out by hand. "My kids got to play Little League baseball, swim team, dance lessons and, because of biotechnology, I got to go watch them. That was a luxury my parents never even dreamed about. Biotechnology offers me the opportunity to be a better husband and father, something that is hard to quantify."

Has there ever been a technology that has been more thoroughly vetted than biotech crops?

Horan says if there were health hazards from GMO crops, they'd have been found by now by the activist groups looking for them. "I don't think there's ever been a technology ever invented that has been vetted more than biotechnology."

Biotech turns out to be safe, something not true of other technologies we take for granted, said Horan. "Over 50,000 people are killed each year by automobiles," he noted.

When a member of the audience asked the panel about reports of water buffalo in Bangladesh dying allegedly due to biotech crops, Rosmann said he sees less wildlife on his farm today, which he thinks is due to wildlife eating genetically modified corn and soybeans nearby.

ISU's MacDonald was skeptical, pointing out that with all of the livestock that have been fed GMO crops, farmers and animal scientists would have reported a problem by now if there was one.

Some groups make their living by scaring people about food

Horan predicted that in 10 to 15 years, most of the crops and livestock in the world will be genetically modified and that today's fears will seem antiquated. Horan added, "There are a lot of groups and individuals who make their living scaring people about food."