GMOs and the environment

Written by TF Staff on .

Using a model to assess the economic and environmental value of GMO crops, agricultural economists at Purdue found that replacing GMO corn, soybeans and cotton with conventionally bred varieties worldwide would cause a 0.27 to 2.2 percent increase in food costs, depending on the region—with poorer countries hit hardest. The study was published in the Oct. 27, 2016 edition of the Journal of Environmental Protection. It reported that a ban on GMOs would also trigger negative environmental consequences: The conversion of pastures and forests to cropland (to compensate for conventional crops’ lower productivity) would release substantial amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Conversely, if countries that already plant GMOs expanded their use of genetically modified crops to match the rate of GMO planting in the United States, global greenhouse gas emissions would fall by the equivalent of 0.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide and would allow 0.8 million hectares of cropland (about 2 million acres) to return to forests and pastures.

“Some of the same groups that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also want to ban GMOs. But you can’t have it both ways,” said Wally Tyner, the James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue. “Planting GMO crops is an effective way for agriculture to lower its carbon footprint.”

Tyner and fellow researchers used the Purdue-developed Global Trade Analysis Project model to investigate two hypothetical scenarios: “What economic and environmental effects would a global ban on GMO corn, soybeans and cotton have?” and “What would be the additional impact if global GMO adoption caught up to the U.S. and then a ban were implemented?”

The model is set to 2011 crop prices, yields and growing conditions and encompasses the ripple effects of how a change in one sector impacts other sectors.

GTAP-BIO predicted a modest and region-specific rise in overall food costs under a global GMO ban, a result of the lower productivity of non-GMO crops. Tyner said people in poorer regions would be most burdened by the price increase, as they spend about 70 percent of their income on food, compared with about 10 percent in the U.S.

Countries that export crops would gain economically by the increase in food prices, while countries that import crops would suffer. As a result, the U.S., despite being the biggest planter of GMO crops, would profit under a GMO ban because of its strength as a crop producer and exporter. China, a major crop importer, would suffer a welfare loss—a measure of economic wellbeing—of $3.63 billion.

Banning GMO crops would also lead to an increase in global cropland of 3.1 million hectares (about 7.7 million acres), as land would be cleared to compensate for the lower yields of conventional crops. Converting forests and pastures into farmland is an environmentally costly process that releases carbon stored in plants and soil, and this expansion of cropland would add the equivalent of 0.92 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Getting out the word on atrazine

Written by TF Staff on .

The personnel situation at EPA might be fluid in the coming weeks. Regardless of changes there however, growers in MFA’s trade territory made their opinion known about proposed changes in long-standing environmental rules for atrazine. EPA recommendations, if implemented as written, would change the agency’s “level of concern” for aquatic life from 10 parts per billion to 3.4 parts per billion, severely affecting the ability to use the proven herbicide.

With much of Midwest agriculture concerned about the recommendation, growers were encouraged to share their opinion during the EPA’s comment period. MFA Agri Service Centers were one place that growers could find cards to fill out and submit as official comments to the EPA. This fall, MFA joined Missouri Corn Growers Association in celebrating the 6,349 signatures gathered in the process. It was a clear message.

Apps for farming

Written by TF Staff on .

Compatible with Android and Apple mobile phones, a new app from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service app helps forecasts times when cattle will undergo heat stress. The app forecasts up to seven days in advance of extreme heat conditions and offers suggestions that can protect animals before and during a heat-stress event.

In addition to high temperatures, weather-related factors like humidity, wind speed and solar radiation can contribute to heat stress.

According to the ARS, the Midwest is subject to recurring heat waves that can have significant financial impact on livestock producers and especially feedlot cattle producers. In the last ten years, there have been several heat events in the Midwest; direct and indirect financial losses for these events are estimated at over $75 million for the cattle industry alone. These weather events are unavoidable, but management strategies can reduce the impact of heat waves. Advance notice combined with heat stress management plans can help minimize losses associated with these recurring weather phenomenon.

Until the early 1990s, the National Weather Service issued livestock safety warnings that helped feedlot producers preempt losses or diminished productivity resulting from heat-stress events. Starting in the mid-2000s, researchers filled the void with a Web page (, which is still available, offering similar forecasts.

Recent increases in smartphone usage prompted ARS to design and launch a mobile-app that allows producers to access forecasts while they’re in the field.

A list of ARS apps can be found at

GMOs come to the fruit bin

Written by TF Staff on .

Consumers will get the chance to vote on GMOs directly with their pocketbook as Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ nonbrowning Arctic apple has been given deregulated status by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Arctic Fuji apples join the company’s Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny varieties, both of which use similar breeding technology to achieve non-browning fruit.

The approval follows a review of OSF’s petition for extension by USDA/APHIS and the successful conclusion of a comment period that sought public feedback. In an announcement from USDA/APHIS, Michael J. Firko, APHIS Deputy Administrator, explained that “this determination of nonregulated status of [Arctic Fuji] apples is the most scientifically sound and appropriate regulatory decision.”

In fruits, there are several factors that lead to browning: the phenolic content; an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase; and these compounds’ ability to mix. Arctic apples have been improved through reducing the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. The Arctic Advantage non- browning trait becomes apparent when an apple is sliced, bitten or bruised. The work was done without introducing novel genes to the trees.

Farming for Sustainability

Written by TF Staff on .

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance recently released a short animated video, Farm On: Sustainable Food Production, and educational infographics highlighting sustainable farming and ranching practices. The educational media focus on sustainability in water, soil, air and habitat. The release builds on the USFRA’s ongoing effort to help consumers better understand agriculture.

“Sustainability is a vital part of our everyday lives as farmers and ranchers, and we know consumers care about the environment when it comes to how food is grown and raised,” said CEO Randy Krotz. “Since not every consumer has the opportunity to see farming first-hand, our goal is to bring the farm to them. We hope watching this video and sharing these infographics gives people a glimpse into the practices that farmers and ranchers created and adopted to grow safe, nutritional and sustainable food. Along with this approach, farmers and ranchers carry a deep-rooted pride in environmental stewardship, knowing how we farm today impacts generations to come.”

The video explains some of the complex ideas that technology has brought to agriculture, including:

  • Precision agriculture: farming tools like GPS to help plant seeds and apply fertilizer in the right place and in just the right amount
  • Advanced seeds: the ability to grow more crops on less land and utilize the seeds’ strength to fight off certain pests
  • Advanced monitoring tools: the ability to monitor animals to ensure health and safety
  • Water conservation: irrigation systems to ensure a precise amount of water application and usage

The infographics help define the terms and the social contract around farming, including:

  • Consumer perceptions around sustainability and farming: results revealing consumer perception around sustainability and how food is grown and raised
  • Pillars of sustainability: what farmers and ranchers are doing to improve the water, soil, air and habitat on and around their land and animals
  • Sustainability: the definition of sustainability regarding farming and ranching
  • Technology, sustainability and continuous improvement: information demonstrating how farmers and ranchers are using technology to do more with less

Watch the video:
See the infographics:


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