David Bollich with the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation in Baton Rouge, La., is convinced that good science will win out over propaganda in biotechnology's public relations battle.
While Bollich admits that neither side of the biotechnology debate does “the best job” defending its position, he says the agricultural industry is beginning to fight back in an effort to sway public opinion its way.
“Biotechnology's role in agricultural production will likely continue to be controversial and there will be those who will always find something to be upset about. But, where some snags will be serious, most others will simply be smokescreens for the hidden agendas of some environmental groups,” says Bollich, who spoke recently at a meeting of the Louisiana Plant Protection Association and the Louisiana Association of Agronomists at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La.
He says most of the negative press so far has centered around the push by some groups for mandatory labeling of genetically modified products and the anti-biotechnology stands taken by some manufacturers, including those companies producing baby food and some fast food companies.
The truth of the matter, according to Bollich, is that through the use of biotechnology, farmers are better able to use their best agricultural land to more efficiently produce higher-yielding crops.
“Biotechnology, to me, is the most interesting aspect of agriculture,” he says. “It holds the most promise for meeting the world's food needs, improving diets in Third-World areas, and helping to solve diseases through better nutrition.
“Natural or organic crop production is not feasible for Third-World countries. However, I do think it has its place, if for no other reason than that there is a consumer desire for it,” Bollich says.
In comparison, Bollich believes, transgenic crops allow growers to reduce their input costs, decrease overall pesticide use, and increase their yields through the planting of improved varieties.
The use of agricultural biotechnology also helps protect wildlife habitats by increasing production yields on land already in cultivation, decreasing the need to expand agricultural production to land better suited for wildlife than crop production, he says.