Science really had nature beat with genetically modified (GMO) corn. Resistant to bugs and strong in the face of harsh weather conditions, it's been billed as the answer to farmers' woes. Then GMO corn started biting back—literally.
According to a recent interview on American Public Media's Marketplace, GMO corn may be solving some farming problems, but it's causing others. Even if GMO corn were safe on all other fronts—which research suggests it's not, particularly for human health—using the uber-tough corn is a calculated risk. Super-strong corn stalks are wreaking havoc on tractor tires, poking into their surfaces. Farmers might see fewer crops lost to bugs and drought, but they'll pay for it in farm equipment—tires cost, on average, a couple of a hundred dollars apiece.
Mark Newhall, editor of Farm Show magazine, told Marketplace's Adriene Hill that these stalks are so tough that "when you cut them off to harvest them, it's like having a field of little spears."
Tires that would normally last five or six years are lasting just one or two years, according to tire producer Robert Parks.
Instead of rethinking the GMO corn—which has been linked to a host of health maladies—farmers are searching for tougher tires. Jim Patrico, editor at Progressive Farmer magazine, told Marketplace that tire companies are introducing materials like kevlar, "the kind soldiers have in their helmets and vests."
Kevlar is used in combat helmets, ballistic vests, and ballistic face masks, which seems fitting, given the battle of man vs. GMO crop. But it's also used in protective clothing, bicycle tires, and racing sails. So while the solution tire companies have come up with isn't outrageous, we do have to wonder: why not take a closer look at the corn, not the tire?
What do you think: Are more problems down the road for farmers who plant genetically modified foods?