By Sean Battles
US Row Crops Communications
Looks great…Nice cob size and flavor nice color…Where did you get it?…If this is what GMO produces, maybe I need to re-consider a few things.
Last harvest, four growers heard those comments from friends, church members and neighbors. The growers had planted, for the first time, Seminis® Performance Series™ Obsession II sweet corn.
Inclined to share their summer treat anyway, the growers decided to give away some sweet corn, this time, with advocacy in mind. “Consumer education is especially important in areas where people are generally more opposed to biotechnology,” says Vic Miller, who operates a corn and soybean farm in Oelwein, Iowa.
Miller’s daughter, who is a nurse at The University of Iowa (her husband is a surgeon, and they have four children), had offered some sweet corn to her friends in Iowa City. “My daughter didn’t tell them it was GMO, grown and harvested by her dad, not at first,” says Miller. “Once they learned where the sweet corn came from and they experienced how it tasted, well, it really opened their eyes.”
Near Assumption, Ill., Len Corzine, his wife and son grow corn and soybeans on their family farm, along with a few Angus cows. Corzine, a fifth-generation farmer, says they donated their extra sweet corn to their church and local food pantry. “There were a few folks who were skeptical of biotechnology, but they loved our sweet corn,” says Corzine, who also is past president and chair of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). “Some even came to our farm and helped us pick the corn.”
Greater knowledge breeds greater understanding, says Ken McCauley, who runs a no-till corn and soybean operation in White Cloud, Kan. “To change hearts and minds, we have to visit with neighbors and friends about not only the benefits [of biotechnology] to farmers, but also about benefits to the land and to the environment, as well as to the quality and safety of the food itself,” says McCauley, who donated some sweet corn to his local food bank.
“This is the perfect way to talk about biotech,” says McCauley. “It’s not just helping us [farmers] grow a better crop, but it’s showing the good quality and taste of the sweet corn directly to those who will enjoy eating it.”
Seminis Obsession II sweet corn allows farmers to reduce insecticide applications by as much as 85 percent.
“We need to tell that story – it’s all of our jobs,”sayss Jim Broten, a third-generation farmer from Dazey, N.D., and past vice chairman of the U.S. Grains Council. Broten produces corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as beef cattle, barley, canola, field peas, sunflowers and potatoes. He has a “measurable amount” of land, he says (as does each of the growers) with a keen sense of humility.
Only two percent of the U.S. population makes a living farming, says Broten. “Most times, we’re speaking to the choir. So, we need to go out to the other 97% of the country and continue to show people who we are.”
Not only farmers need to share their story, recommends McCauley, but the breeders and the scientists who are making advancements to help feed the world and improve lives. “Sweet corn is one of many examples of the benefits of biotechnology,” says McCauley.
Vic Miller has been farming for more than 35 years. He’s travelled to six continents as a spokesman for U.S. agriculture and international market development. “If we in the United States are going to continue to be a major food supplier to the world, we have to continue to move the genetic ladder of biotechnology even faster,” says Miller. “I’ve seen starvation, and it tears at your heart. Raising awareness and increasing education [on biotechnology] is one thing we can do to help.”
Miller adds, “We’ve been blessed with these skills and technologies. It’s important to put a face behind the crops we plant, the food we grow and the land we protect.
How? “Do not be shy about sharing this in every venue of your life – your family, your church groups and your schools,” says Corzine.
Adds Broten, “We’ll keep sharing our obsession [sweet corn], too.”
Each of the four growers says they will plant Seminis Performance Series Obsession II sweet corn this year. For important stewardship information regarding Seminis® Performance Series™ sweet corn, please click here.