Smartphones, video games, tablets, apps … the list could go on and on. Our society and economy run, function and communicate via technology. Technology has become so advanced that we now use the “phone” portion of the smartphone far less than we use the device to browse the Web, tap into social media, listen to music and play games.
Technology is changing the way we do just about everything, and by all accounts we can’t get enough of it. Until we start talking about food technology, often referred to as biotechnology, and then our mindsets revert to the Dark Ages.
Farmville vs. Farm Technology
For years, farmers and ranchers have used technology to produce more food, feed, fiber and fuel, while using less acreage, chemicals and water. Now, facing quite possibly the biggest challenge of our generation – to produce 100 percent more food by 2050 – we need technology to feed far more than our brains and our Facebook accounts. In fact, in doubling the amount of food grown in the next 37 years, 70 percent of that additional food will have to come from efficiency-enhancing technologies that will compensate for one of the few things technology can’t produce: farm and ranch land.
Through advancements in science and technology, agriculture production has made tremendous strides. Consider the improvements to corn yields since the mid-to-late 1800s. In 1870, the national corn yield was 29 bushels per acre. This year, corn yields are projected to be 155.3 bushels per acre. The advancements in science and technology have resulted in a roughly 436 percent increase in the nation’s corn yields since 1870.
Today, approximately 90 percent of corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the U.S. are adopted from a biotech variety. Yet, there has not been a single documented, statistically significant incident of harm to human health or to the environment. Due to the stellar performance of biotechnology products, the U.S. government, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences have all embraced the safety and benefits of these critical advancements. Still, some people are reluctant to accept this technology, let alone embrace it, as a means of feeding an increasing population.
The Great Contradiction
To those who continue to be skeptical of biotechnology, please consider this: every choice you and I make involves risk. Waking up, eating breakfast, taking a shower, driving to work or even walking on the sidewalk has its hazards. And what about your new smartphone? There are risks associated with that, too. The reality is that we accept that technology can help mitigate these risks to the benefit of all society.
Why are we still in the Dark Ages in our approach to food technology, but we’re giddy over the release of the iPhone 5s? With a partner in technology, farmers and ranchers are prepared to meet the food, fuel and fiber demands of the 21st century, but there, too, is a risk: the minority who contradict their own acceptance of technology could ultimately eliminate food options for those who would take a meal over the latest iPhone any day.