Hundreds of protestors, many who’ve never been on an Iowa farm, are heading to our state next week to protest progress in farming. They don’t believe in genetically modified crops and no amount of peer-reviewed science or speeches from Nobel laureates will convince them otherwise. Just as they have the right to voice their opinions and be heard, the Iowa men and women who spend years in the field growing your food also hope you will hear their stories, and let common sense prevail.
Paul Vaassen has been growing corn and beans on his Dubuque county farm since 1962. Although he’ll proudly admit being “old fashioned,” he says there are some things that nostalgia can’t cure, like hunger.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind that the genetic improvements that seed companies have developed have given us the opportunity to see greater yields, despite what Mother Nature can dish out. We can’t forget that feeding people is really what this is all about. Last year, for example, we were very dry and even though yields were not up to what we considered ‘normal,’ they were much better than, say, 10 to 15 years ago when we had the same drought conditions, but didn’t have these great seeds that were more resistant to drought or pests.”
Roger Zylstra, a longtime corn, soybeans and hog farmer from Jasper County, has seen a lot of changes, too. If he can be more productive and more sustainable, he can also keep farming in the family, and that’s why he favors GMO crops.
“The reality is we’re trying to build and grow for the future. My youngest son just came back full time to the farm. I work hard to build a sustainable farm for his return and only innovation helps us do that.”