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Ignorance or arrogance?

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July 29, 2013
By State Senator Tim Kapucian - R-Keystone , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

The recent announcement of the 2013 World Food Prize laureates has piqued a renewed biotech debate in the world of agriculture. Genetic selection of crops has existed since man first began to put crops under cultivation. Our early crop producers selected the best of their product to be held back for seed, and crossed those selections to enhance them further. Biotechnology simply allows us to speed up that process. Dr. Norman Borlaug dedicated his career to feeding the hungry.

Through his tireless commitment and vast research in accelerated plant breeding, Dr. Borlaug earned such distinctions as agriculture's greatest spokesperson and a Nobel Peace Prize. He vigorously defended biotechnology as a way to develop new crop varieties even more rapidly in order to boost food production and combat hunger. He thought there was no evidence that genetically modified organisms were harmful to humans. He also believed technological and research-based science was the key to a safe food delivery system. I believe Norman Borlaug would be proud of the selection of 2013 World Food Prize laureates. As a fellow Iowan and crop producer, I know I am.

It never ceases to amaze me how past plant breeders were able to enhance farmers' abilities to produce food for a hungry world. This progress moved incrementally forward and required years of tedious work and dedication. With strides continuing to be made in the field of biotechnology, producers now realize dramatic increases in yields. When I began farming in 1981, 140 bushels per acre was an admirable goal on my farm. Today, 200 plus bushels per acre is our goal with higher yields to come through expanded technology.

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State Senator Tim Kapucian

As a producer, I have several goals and ambitions: to make an honest and decent living off the land, while leaving the land in better shape for the next generation. There is also an innate sense of satisfaction knowing I am part of a system feeding a hungry world. I believe as producers it is our responsibility to use all the tools available to strive to maximize that potential. It is short-sighted and ignorant to honestly believe we can meet the needs of a growing, hungry world without utilizing new techniques and advances in biotechnology.

One of the areas of concern in this biotech debate is requiring mandatory labeling for all genetic events. Organic and non-GMO products are currently available to consumers. Organic products are more labor intensive and command a higher price in the marketplace.

It is to the producers' advantage to label these products and offer the choice consumers demand.

However, requiring all products to be labeled simply tells the consumer what he or she already knows. If the label does not say organic or non-GMO then one should not assume that it is. Labeling everything else will require segregation of products (probably for each genetic event) and that will likely raise the price of all food products.

With that said, to assume all consumers around the world are willing or able to afford a higher cost for food is simply an arrogant way of thinking.

Here's the bottom line, while we fritter away the time with our bellies full debating this issue, there are people in the world who do not know where their next meal is coming from. Do you choose ignorance or arrogance? I would choose as I believe Dr. Borlaug would to support GMO products to help feed the world.

State Senator Tim Kapucian and his wife operate a farm near Keystone. He represented Tama County in the Iowa Senate until reapportionment changed district boundaries in 2012.

Senator Kapucian has spent much of his life involved in agriculture. He is a past president of the Iowa Pork Producers, and served three years on the Agriculture Advisory Board to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.



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