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Will Farmers be Forced to Turn Their Backs on Technology?
By Blake Hurst
Monsanto has promised a doubling of national corn yields in the next 20 years. New drought resistant, fertilizer efficient, and insect and disease resistant varieties are on the horizon.
We are on the cusp of the fourth quantum leap in agricultural technology in the past century, following the productivity gains brought about by hybrid seed, nitrogen fertilizer, and herbicides and insecticides. The promises of biotechnology and gene mapping are finally starting to pay off in rapidly increasing yields.
That promise of increased yields, however, will be lost if we turn our back on technology. The real question about our food supply is not whether we can afford both ethanol and food, but whether we can afford food fads and fuel.
To turn our back on modern technology is something that our fathers and grandfathers would not have considered, but is presented as a realistic alternative by critics of our present way of producing food.
Ethanol is damned for increasing the price of food, but to farm as author Michael Pollan recommends in his recent New York Times magazine article will increase prices much more than ethanol has. Pollan thinks we can replace fertilizers with mandatory composting.
Pollan is a fool, but he arguably has more influence on how intellectuals think about food than any of the traditional farm groups, or any farmer.
Since we’re about ready to elect an intellectual in chief, we should expect that the industrial model of agriculture will soon face even more serious challenges from public pressure, regulatory agencies, and the media.
(Blake Hurst, of Westboro, Mo., is the vice-president of the Board of Directors of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)