On our farm, we grow conventional and GMO crops. There are many factors that determine what crops and seed varieties we plant, such as weed problems within a specific field, availability of seed, disease pressure, but ultimately, profitability. I am a big supporter of GMO crops, and I get frustrated when I read emotional appeals taking priority over scientific evidence.
One argument against GMO crops that does resonate with me is the concentration in research and within companies. Like many industries, agriculture is becoming more concentrated. There are fewer companies controlling more of the business. Opponents of GMO crops believe we are putting too many research dollars into this one basket, relying to GMO crops to solve too many problems.
I agree there is never enough research money. I would love to see larger budgets for public universities. Most of the wheat varieties we plant are from public institutions (University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University). I don't believe GMO crops will solve all our problems, but I know they could help take care of a few issues we have such as leaf disease in wheat, root rot in sugarbeets, or white mold in navy beans. (Researchers, that's my short list. I have many more problems I'd like solved.)
During the winter, farmers attend meeting, upon meeting, upon meeting, listening to public researchers summarize their findings about seed spacing and depth, soil sampling, weed control, water control, field tillage, cover crops, the list is endless. But just imagine what we could discover with even more research dollars.
Food production evolves, and improves, every year, and the best practices of conventional and organic farming can be shared between farmers. We do not have a perfect food system, but we are moving closer each year. We need farmers who are trying different ideas, different methods, and sharing those different results.
This article by the Wall Street Journal, "The New Gentleman Farmer", helped me appreciate organic farmers even more. I read this article almost a year ago, and it has stuck in my head ever since. Farming needs organic farmers, and we need profitable organic farms. In order to do that, we need consumers who are willing to pay more for their food.
So organic farmers, and organic consumers, thank you. Someday, either directly or indirectly, your successes will lead my farm to more success. And I hope what I am learning in my fields, will help you as well. We need diversity in agriculture, so stop fighting over which method is better, and start supporting all food production.