“It’s a little known fact that we are growing five times as much corn as our grandfathers did in the 1930s on 20 percent less land,” said CFC during with reporters.
Facts like these are vital as the issue of indirect land use gains traction in ethanol policy decisions on the state and federal levels, according to Ross Korves, economic-policy analyst and expert on farm and trade policy for the research firm ProExporter Network. “As corn farmers get more productive, so does corn’s environmental impact abate,” said Korves. “More productivity per acre means we produce more corn on the same acres. There is no land use effect because we are simply not using more land.”
Click here to read the article and listen to the CFC teleconference.
The New York Times Green Inc covers the three-day Princeton University conference — “Feeding a Hot and Hungry Planet: The Challenge of Making More Food and Fewer Greenhouse Gases.“ The use of corn, cotton and soybean crops that are genetically modified to be resistant to certain pests or herbicides is already widespread in many parts of the world, so all the big issues were on the table — including whether genetically modified crops are “sustainable.” Dr. Wayne Parrott, who spoke at the BIO International Conference this year, is at Princeton for the conference and is quoted in the Green Inc piece.
Excerpt from the story:
Meanwhile, Carl Pray, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Rutgers University, presented findings that show the use of cotton engineered to contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis — known as Bt cotton — has resulted in significantly reduced pesticide use in China, and dramatically increased yields in India. (The modified cotton is pest-resistant.)
But others at the conference said that, in the bigger picture, genetically modified crops have failed to live up to their early promise. “The benefits have not yet been that great from the environmental standpoint, or even from a production standpoint,” according to Tim Searchinger, a research scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. “At least from published studies, Bt cotton is it.”
Others experts, including Wayne Parrott, a plant genomics researcher at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, called for patience. “We’re in the era of the first black and white television,” Mr. Parrott said. “We haven’t gotten to color televisions, and we’re nowhere near a flat-screen yet.”
A new report titled “Technology’s Role in the 21st Century: Food Economics and Consumer Choice” released by Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health, calls for the need for new and existing technologies in food production. Reports Catherine Merlo, Western editor for Dairy Today, who covered the report, “Meeting the food economic challenge will require collaboration, choice and technology.”
“The consequences of failing to use science-based agricultural technologies and innovations will be disastrous,” Simmons notes. “Food producers in industrialized and developing nations alike require technology to ensure a sustainable supply of safe, nutritious, affordable grains and animal protein to satisfy the rapidly growing demand. That is why we all share the responsibility to make sure new agricultural technologies — as well as those proven safe and effective for decades — continue to be available.”
• The U.N. projects world population will reach over one billion by mid-century and has called for a 100 percent increase in world food production by 2050.
• The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) further states that 70 percent of this additional food supply must come from the use of efficiency-enhancing technologies.
• Driven by food production efficiency, agriculture can achieve the “ultimate win” for consumers worldwide — affordability, supply, food safety, sustainability and ample supplies of grain for biofuels. Three key concepts — collaboration, choice and technology — emerge as the pathway to this success.
“America’s politicians and government officials have been slow to grasp the importance of societal resilience — the ability to recover from or adapt to adversity. Sufficient resilience can minimize the risks of major, debilitating disruptions — whether they be economic ones, such as the current recession, or unavoidable natural disasters.”
He uses coping with drought as an example of how science, technology and planning can ease environmental effects if policymakers and regulations permit it:
“Gene-splicing, sometimes called genetic modification, offers plant breeders the tools to make old crop plants do spectacular new things. In the United States and two dozen other countries, farmers are using gene-spliced crop varieties to produce higher yields, with lower inputs and reduced environmental impact.”
Miller argues that cumbersome government regulation raises costs and limits yield production:
“Unscientific and overly burdensome regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this country — and by national regulators and the United Nations elsewhere — has raised the cost of producing new plant varieties and kept potentially important crops off the market. This deeply entrenched, discriminatory and excessive regulation — which flies in the face of scientific consensus that gene-splicing is basically an extension of earlier crop improvement methods — adds tens of millions of dollars to the development costs of new gene-spliced crop varieties. Higher costs and the endless controversy translate to fewer products in the pipeline and fewer companies competing to make them. Less competition means higher prices.”
“If individually and collectively we are to meet economic, environmental and public health challenges, we need plenty of options and opportunities for innovation — and the wealth to pursue them. In society, as in evolutionary biology, survival demands resilience. But in large and small ways, unimaginative, shortsighted politicians and venal activists have conspired to limit our options, constrain economic growth and make real solutions elusive.”