This past Thanksgiving, Michael Maniates wrote a dismal piece in the Washington Post stating that “We need to be looking at fundamental change in our energy, transportation and agricultural systems rather than technological tweaking on the margins.” He was referring to ecological disaster that may ensue if we fail to take drastic actions today.
In the last 50 years, agricultural productivity has doubled. The average corn yield in 1960 was near 55 bushels per acre, today it is nearly 160 bushels per acre. We get about 185lbs more from every harvested cow than we did forty years ago. Technology is not only making us more productive, but also more ‘green,' addressing many of the concerns Mr. Maniates may have about ecological disaster.
1.04 million fewer pounds of insecticide are applied each year as a result of biotech Bt cotton alone. With Bt cotton, 4 million gallons of fuel and 93.7 million gallons of water are saved on the farm each year from fewer insecticide applications. Roundup Ready technology has allowed for glyphosate herbicide to substitute for 7.2 million pounds of other chemicals that are more toxic and persistent in the environment.
We’ve come a long way since the first Thanksgiving harvest. Perhaps major change will come in other areas, but in agriculture it will be the marginal tweaking of biotechnology that paves the way toward a sustainable future and provides us with tools for dealing with climate change.
1)Michael Maniates “Going Green? Easy Doesn't Do It”
www.washingtonpost.com , Thursday, November 22, 2007; A37
5)Dr. Roger Leonard, LSU Agricultural Center and Dr. Ronald Smith, Auburn University. Research in Bt Cotton
6)Farm Industry News Feb 1, 2007
7)Gregory Conko “The Benefits of Biotech” Regulation. Spring 2003.