For the last 20 years we have utilized technology that has allowed us to become more sustainable, use less natural resources and preserve our land for future generations. This advancement in agriculture has safely been used on our farm since 1997, and we have seen multiple benefits in the roles that it plays. Recently, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report that was conducted by more than 50 scientists and reviewed over 900 studies confirming what farmers have known for two decades – the use of genetically engineered (GE) crops are safe for people, animals and the environment.
By capitalizing on this technology we are able to make better decisions by selecting varieties with drought resistance, we experience less weed pressure in our fields and know that we are growing and raising a higher quality grain than before.
Biotechnology Helps Us Grow More Sustainable Crops
When discussing seed variety selections each season, my brother-in-law, who oversees the grain and crop side of our farm, says it’s not even a question of if we use GE variety seeds, but which GE varieties we are going to select. Quite simply the role they play on our farm is immense and to be able to preserve our farm into the next generation, we feel it’s instrumental in accomplishing that goal. For the last 20 years on our farm, we’ve reduced the amount of natural resources we use on the fields because of a cleaner weed-free growing environment.
The use of GE crops has:
- Improved soil quality by decreasing the number of passes we make through the field
- Enhanced our soil compaction and soil biology
- Reduced our use of herbicides or pesticides to combat insect and week pressure
And just like cars, our tractors’ fuel efficiency has improved greatly in recent years, so we’re are able to use less fuel to grow and raise our crops.
GE crops Feed Our Pigs too
Between the two primary functions of our farm, both animal and grain, there are many synergies shared that GE varieties of crops continually support. Nearly all of the corn we grow and raise on our farm is consumed by our pigs. The use of GE crops ensure that we produce enough grain throughout the year to provide ample nutrition to our pigs. In years like 2012, when the Midwest was stricken by drought, our production levels stayed intact, and we were able to store enough corn to feed our pigs. Without the added technology, our situation may have been gravely different and a turning point for our farm. The GE corn-based diets that the pigs eat also assists in the production of manure that is reapplied on our land to help supply valuable nutrients back to the soil increasing organic matter and reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers for the next growing season.
Sometimes new technology can be viewed as controversial, yet our farm was an early adopter of this advancement and in the 20 years of growing and raising GE crops, we have no concerns about using it. On the land that we raise GE crops, we live, breath, drink the water from wells and eat the fruits of our labor feeling confident in the added safety that this seed advancement brings to our farm. Since adoption on our pig farm, whom consume the GE corn, we have seen no adverse reactions to the health and growth of our animals. In reality, we have realized a notable increase in the growth and production of our animals. The quality of grain that we are producing for our animals is higher as our fields are pressured less by weeds and insects and reduced dependence on additional herbicides and pesticides.
Before a genetically engineered crop reaching the marketplace, it undergoes rigorous testing to ensure that it poses no risk or potential harm to humans or the environment. After 13 years of testing prior to release, and 20 years of use by farmers like us, we feel absolutely confident in the safety that the National Academy of Sciences has reaffirmed. We know that we are doing the right thing not only for our farm, but most importantly the next generation by providing them the ability to be the next caretakers of our land and our livelihood.
Thomas Titus, a member of the second class of Faces of Farming & Ranching, is a pig farmer from Illinois.
Over the last 52 years, Thomas’s 240-acre farmstead has grown to support four families, three full-time employee families and two part-time employees. Thomas primarily manages the operation of Tri Pork, where they market 12,000 pigs annually. With roots in 4-H, FFA and youth development, they have 50 sows for show pig production, sale and exhibition. This allows their children to learn the joys of showing livestock and helps them develop character-building values.