QIve heard that some organic farmers would really like to be able to use biotech, and actually are appreciative of being able to benefit from a neighboring farms insect resistance, for example it helps their own field have less insects, too. Is that accur

Ive heard that some organic farmers would really like to be able to use biotech, and actually are appreciative of being able to benefit from a neighboring farms insect resistance, for example it helps their own field have less insects, too. Is that accurate?

AExpert Answer

It is not surprising that some organic farmers would like to be able to use biotech. There is a push by some academics for biotech to be part of the “green revolution,” including organics. After all, biotech, such as Bt crops, is a form of host-plant resistance, similar to traditional breeding for insect control. Moreover, Bt has been used in agriculture for over 50 years and is widely used in certified organic agriculture. So the scenario stated above, wherein an organic farmer benefits from a neighbor's farm that actively controls insect populations (does not have to be biotech or Bt crops; can be virtually any insect-control measure that reduces insect populations), has merit. Actually, the recipient of "free insect control" does not have to be an organic farmer. It could be any farmer who does not control the same insect species as rigorously as a neighbor. However, there are some caveats to this practice of using "free insect control":
 

  1. The insect population could be large enough that even if the population were suppressed in a neighbor¹s field, there would still be enough insects to damage neighboring fields.
  2. If the crop to protect has a very low ET (economic threshold‹the level of damage you can tolerate before you initiate some type of control), such as fresh market fruits and vegetables, where only a very small amount of damage can be tolerated, relying on insect population suppression solely by one¹s neighbors would be risky.
Posted on April 11, 2018
Interesting question - that's a good example of how the term "GMO" (genetically modified organism) is too vague to be really useful. In a sense, yes, your genes are modified compared to both of your parents. And you're definitely not genetically identical to your parents (unless you're a yeast, or a starfish, or a willow tree, or some other organism that can reproduce asexually).   But in common usage, the term GMO refers to an organism containing a gene... Read More
Posted on March 1, 2018
I don't see organic foods becoming obsolete in the future, but I could see what qualifies as certified organic changing over time. There is some debate right now about whether or not the meaning of organic is being diluted. For example, look at growing produce hydroponically. There are some who do not want hydroponics to fall under the organic label. They believe organic should be about taking care of the soil as much if not more than growing the crop, and when there's no soil involved... Read More
Posted on March 8, 2018
GMOs will not “save the world,” however they are an important tool in the toolbox for food security and agriculture. Dr. Stuart Smyth, Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics at the University of Saskatchewan, explores this topic in depth in a similar question and response here. “No single crop or food production method is capable of feeding the world on its own, so no, GMOs by themselves will not feed the world. However, as part... Read More
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