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Ernst: GMOs are vital for food production

Joni Ernst
Joni Ernst
By Senator Joni Ernst (Source: Waverly Newspapers)

Des Moines welcomed dignitaries from around the world to come together and celebrate the life and contributions of Iowa’s greatest son: Dr. Norman Borlaug.

The World Food Prize, sometimes called the Nobel Prize for Agriculture, has been awarded every year since 1987 to individuals who have improved the quality, quantity, or avail- ability of nutritious and sustainable food.

Dr. Borlaug dedicated his life to the tireless pursuit of an important goal to feed a growing and hungry world. He made breakthroughs in plant breeding, especially in developing disease resistant varieties of wheat, which were well suited to broad swaths of the globe, and produced dramatically higher yields than their predecessors.

The spread of these ever improving seeds, as well as the knowledge of improved cultivation practices, across Mexico and later in Asia and Latin America became known as the Green Revolution, which has subsequently reduced hunger, famine, and poverty around the world. For this, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and has been credited with saving over one billion lives.

While we celebrate his vast contributions, we are faced with the harsh reality that his fight is not yet won.

Much of the world remains impoverished, and malnutrition in children is the primary force holding back emergent nations. Additionally, the global population is projected to swell to nine billion by the year 2050.

However, the good news is we are currently enjoying a second Green Revolution due in large part to the remarkable advances being made in biotechnology. Our Iowa farmers and the agricultural industry nationwide have been growing safe, nutritious, and affordable Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for decades; and much like the first Green Revolution, many have taken for granted the remarkable benefits that have accompanied this transition.
 Every year we are producing more food on fewer acres, while using less pesticides to produce healthy and bountiful crops in all cli- mates and conditions.

Sadly, there are those among us actively working to demonize these proven methods of food production. Ignoring the overwhelming scientific evidence of the food’s safety, opponents of GMOs continue their fear mongering campaigns on social media, across Capitol Hill, and around the world.

Many governments have made the mistake of caving to the pressure, banning the importation or cultivation of GMOs. That in turn raises food prices for their citizens and inexcusably contributes to continued global hunger.

Some states have passed or are pushing initiatives that require special labels on food products that contain GMOs, which would lead to a patchwork of standards across the nation. This inconsistent food labeling would be confusing to consumers, costly to coordinate for food companies, and ultimately promotes the false idea that these products are somehow uniquely different and less safe to consume. I support a consistent and comprehensive approach for a federal food label standard, which would be adopted on a voluntary basis, in order to avoid customer confusion or impose additional costs at the grocery store.

America has proven the benefits of GMOs as our families spends less on food than any other nation on the planet. Everyday families in Iowans and folks nationwide enjoy the benefits of our incredible production capabilities coupled with a rigorous food safety vetting process. We cannot take this for granted and assume that we will always have safe, afford- able food regardless of new restrictions based on fear rather than science.

It is time for us to take a stand and protect our bountiful crops that feed a growing and hungry world. In light of the World Food Prize, I encourage folks to embrace the spirit of Dr. Norman Borlaug and share our story of success with GMOs in the developing nations of the world so they too may thrive, just as we have.

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