Commentary: John Block Reports from Washington
Hello everybody out there in Farm Country. Today I will give the microphone to my daughter Savannah Block. She graduated from Virginia Tech University with a degree in Ag Economics. She has worked on ag issues with Members of Congress and in the private sector. It’s all yours, Savannah.
I want to talk about a very important topic for farmers, ranchers, and rural America:
Many people who are not familiar with the agriculture world think about “pharmaceuticals”
when they hear that word. But what they don’t realize is how much agriculture biotechnology
touches our everyday lives and helps promote and grow the rural economy.
Ag biotech, which should be applauded as a key technological advancement, has unfortunately
become controversial for consumers outside of the food and ag world. There have been many
misconceptions that I won’t get into today, but the truth of the matter is when it comes to
providing farmers with the tools they need to feed a rapidly growing world population, biotech is
Genetically engineered crops and biological solutions allow for improvements that help farmers
increase yields, use fewer chemical inputs, and allow plants to resist harmful pests, drought,
diseases, and more. In addition, we have seen these tools help boost shelf life and even enhance
nutritional value for certain foods.
From 1996 to 2020, genetically engineered crops have increased global food production by
nearly 1 billion tons, while reducing the environmental footprint associated with crop protection
practices by over 17%. Biotech increases the productivity of not only existing cropland, but
throughout the entire value chain, for instance enzymes and microbes enhance our livestock feed,
increase the efficiency of our energy production, and even improve our finished foods.
Biofuels production, which is energy made from biomass such as corn, soy, and cellulosic
feedstocks, is another important industry that supports rural economies, creates jobs, and boosts
our domestic energy production. Biofuels also burn cleaner than traditional gasoline, so higher
blends of biofuels in your gas tank are critical to help decarbonize our transportation sector.
It’s exciting that biotechnology has been getting a lot of attention lately in Washington. There are
new pieces of legislation that have passed, and President Biden’s Executive Order on
Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing invests billions of dollars into boosting the country’s
biotech sector and bioeconomy.
Our farmers and ranchers work hard day after day to provide us with a safe and abundant food
supply, and they deserve the most advanced technology to do so. They have constantly been
evolving their farming practices to become more and more efficient. Farmers today grow five
times as much corn as they did in the 1930s – on 20% less land, and ag biotech has been a key
component of that progress. With a new Congress on the horizon, it is important to continue to
educate policy makers not only on the successes of ag biotech, but also its untapped potential. A
strong biotech industry translates into a strong rural economy and strengthens food security.
Have a great week. – I’m Savannah Block
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The views expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not necessarily those of sfntoday.com nor the Southern Farm Network.