Around 90 percent of certain crop farmers have been growing GMOs for a couple of decades now, but what are they and why? Currently, the list of commercially available GMO crops includes alfalfa, corn, cotton, canola, soybean, sugar beets, papaya, and a small percentage of summer squash, potato, and apples. Some of the benefits can be found here, but GMOs overall allow farmers to grow more crop on less land, while using less pesticides, fuel, tillage, etc.
A majority of the crops shown above are what are called “commodity crops,” which can be grown in large quantities, stored for a long period of time, can be internationally traded (market prices vary!), and can be used for a wide variety of products. Did you know there are over 4,000 uses for corn?
There is a difference between sweet corn and field corn, and a lot of people may think that field corn is grown primarily for sweeteners and the “junk food” market. True, a lot of corn sweetener is used in processed foods, but that only accounts for 12 percent of the corn market. Corn is also used for fuel, livestock feed, fireworks, tires, alcohol, batteries, plastics, medicines, matches, textiles, crayons, dyes, detergents, diapers, makeup, glue, and many other products! The U.S. is the largest producer of corn in the world, and over 30 percent of it is grown for export.
On the flip side of this, what do you think of when you think of cotton? T-shirts? Linens, towels, jeans? But in addition to being “The Fabric of our lives,” the average person consumes 3 pints of cottonseed oil annually, which is used in baked goods and frying. Cotton can also be found in air filters, tampons, tents, books, X-rays, Band-Aids, even cash.
Another popular commodity crop, soybeans make important products like crayons, candles, hydraulic fluid, inks, lubricants, toilet seats, etc.
These popular commodity crops, as well as many others not listed provide so many products we use every day. It’s true commodity crops can also be used to feed livestock, but even besides the meat aspect, they provide many byproducts while no part of the animal goes to waste. There’s over 185 uses for a pig, from paint to cement to lifesaving pharmaceuticals.
In a world where the population is growing by 200,000 people every day, it is so important to conserve resources while giving farmers the tools they need to grow more crops on less land while keeping food, fuel, fiber, and everyday products affordable for the masses.
Look around you! It’s pretty much impossible to live a life that doesn’t include GMOs and modern agriculture. We drive our cars that have corn-fed leather seats, drive home on car tires made from corn with corn-powered fuel in the tank, take a shower and dry off with a towel made of cotton, put on cotton jeans and T-shirts, and take a snooze on cotton sheets. (All paid for with cash money made with GMO cotton.) Let’s have a meal cooked in canola oil, raise a plastic cup made from soybeans and have a sip of whiskey made from corn and cheers to agriculture for the products we use every day!
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