Local farmer speaks on sustainability
By Michael Zimmerman
There has been a big debate here in the United States and across the pond in Europe concerning the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. On the one hand, those in the agriculture industry argue that the use of genetically modified crops reduce the need of pesticides, and allows for larger yields without the use of extra chemicals. On the other side, some argue that genetic engineering is unethical, transferring genes from one organism to another.
Preble County farmer Keith Kemp, also a director of the United Soybean Council, recently addressed the advances in biotechnology and sustainability at the CropWorld Global 2012 conference in London, England. “It’s a social thing there,” Kemp said. “They don’t allow GMO products in the EU, and farmers aren’t able to keep up with us.”
According to Kemp, England alone will need to import 40 percent of its food supply, and the use of GMO technology could help reduce that number.
“Their farmers can’t compete with us,” Kemp said. “I visited some farms over there, and they aren’t allowed to use some of our sprays and GMO products. It’s really hurting their output.”
Kemp said GMO techniques have been used in the United States for a long time, and there is a stigma against the foods.
“They think it’s frankenstein food,” he said. “We’ve had GMO in this country for 15 years, but over in Europe, it’s become a social issue. We have to keep education going, do some more education with them.”
Those in favor of the use of GMO argue that genetic modification isn’t new, and has been done for thousands of years. The argument is that genetic engineering is just a new form of biotechnology.
For Kemp, the use of GMO creates a more sustainable agricultural system, something needed in Europe.
“The new buzzword in the EU is sustainability,” Kemp said. “We’re using GMO, and we’re more sustainable than anywhere in the world.”
That was the message Kemp took to London, where he delivered the keynote speech on the improving sustainability in US agriculture. Though there is a fight against genetic modification, Kemp is for increasing the food output for increasing populations.
Michael Zimmerman is a staff writer at The Register-Herald in Eaton.