By Gabriel Carballal: Mercedes, Uruguay
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
That’s why I like to take pictures of my crops: My pictures tell a simple story about good food and crop protection in a way that only images can.
The latest of these photos, which I recently posted on social media, shows four cobs of corn. The pair on the left are non-GMO, or what some people insist on calling “natural.” The pair on the right are the result of conventional biotechnology.
See the difference? Of course you can. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes.
The GMO corn is big and healthy. It shows no sign of rot. It looks clean.
The non-GMO corn is much smaller. It has many fewer grains. It looks sickly.
I take pictures such as this so that people who don’t think much about agriculture will come to understand why farmers like me choose to plant and grow GMO crops. They are not just a safe and reliable source of food. They are in fact the best source of food that we can produce.
On my farm in Uruguay, I don’t own an acre of land. Instead, I rent my fields and grow a wide range of crops in rotation. My winter crops are mostly barley, canola, wheat, oats, and rye grass. My summer crops are mostly soybeans and corn. My goal is to produce all of them in abundance.
That’s why I turn to science and technology, as farmers always have. We want the best tools available so that we can grow the most food for our hungry planet.
Pictures can show us a lot about the success of our methods. Is there any question about which of my corncobs you’d rather eat? When you look at my photo, you know the answer instantly. Even the loudest anti-GMO activist would pick the GMO corncobs.
That’s what I prefer. I tour my fields all the time, looking for the best crops to bring back to my family for our own use. The GMO crops are always the most attractive.
Yet we still need words to explain why these cobs of corn look so much better—and it all comes down to crop protection.
Our crops are under constant assault. Pests want to eat them. Weeds want to steal their water and nutrients. Diseases want to infect them.
My job as a farmer is to prevent this from happening. I use several methods, and insecticides are among the most important. They keep bugs from devouring my crops.
Here’s something that many people fail to realize: The non-GMO crops require insecticides but the GMO crops don’t. I apply insecticides safely and responsibly; they pose no threat to consumers. Yet one of the great advantages of GMO crops is that they don’t need insecticides at all. They contain a natural protein that repels bugs. This is an amazing advantage, plus an important reason to prefer them.
The contrast between the GMO and non-GMO corn in my photo is greater still: Another thing the picture doesn’t show is that the non-GMO corn is often riddled with worms. As if that weren’t bad enough, the worms chew into the grains, creating pathways for disease.
Without biotechnology and crop protection, I’d have to transform the way I farm. I’d rearrange my rotations and grow fewer varieties. I’d possibly stop planting corn entirely, as non-GMO yields are as much as 50 percent less than GMO yields. Worst of all, I’d have to use many more sprays to control weeds and insects.
It would become much harder for me to make a living as a farmer—and food prices for consumers would go way up.
That’s the definition of a lose-lose situation. With modern methods, however, food producers and consumers enjoy a win-win.
The only impediment to this desirable outcome is accurate information about how farming and food production really work.
We need reliable data. We need sound science. We need farmers to tell their stories.
And sometimes we just need a good picture.
Gabriel Carballal is a ‘farmer with no farm’, growing winter crops of wheat, barley, canola, oats, grass seed and summer crops of soybean, corn and sorghum on 700 personally leased hectares with additional hectares in partnership with his father and two different societies in Uruguay. Gabriel is a member of the Global Farmer Network www.globalfarmernetwork.org