Since genetically engineered crops hit the market two decades ago, midwestern agriculture has become increasingly reliant on biotechnology.
Though polls reveal rising consumer fears over yet-to-be-confirmed dangers about consuming GMOs, those worries may have come too late to matter, as the large-scale farming that fills American stomachs remains more sold than ever on biotechnology. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of food Americans consume has genetically engineered ingredients.
Some niche sectors now command higher prices for grain raised without genetically modified crops, aided by a recent uptick in consumer worries.
But the very dominance of GMOs makes those niche crops harder to deliver. Even when companies try to avoid GMOs, they can’t. Plants without the biotechnology can become pollinated by others miles away that do have it. Or harvested grain gets accidentally mixed in field machinery, in trucks, in on-farm grain bins or in commercial elevators.
Most contracts for GMO-free supplies set limits for contamination for genetically modified levels below 2 percent. That can be a risky promise in today’s agriculture.
Lingering resistance to genetically modified crops, paired with its dominance in the American Grain Belt, creates trouble for farmers and consumers alike.