Despite some recent victories in the court of public opinion, the use of biotech crops is still opposed by a sizable minority. In particular, many of the countries that make up Europe have banned the growing of biotech crops within their borders.
To this group, I have only one word to say: Polenta.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar, polenta is a heavy dough-like substance made from corn meal. In certain countries in Europe, including Italy and Slovenia (where my family hails from), it is used as a bread substitute. It is often served hot covered in stew, cold with maple syrup for breakfast or plain.
And now, polenta is at the heart of the biotech debate in Italy. At the recent Ag Issues Forum, sponsored by Bayer CropScience, one of the speakers was Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. He told attendees how Europe’s anti-biotech stance has changed the polenta business in Italy.
“Following the rest of Europe’s lead, Italy has prohibited the growing of biotech corn and taken away the ability for farmers in the country to use many pesticides on the crops they do grow,” said Tolman. “As result, because of the higher quality standards needed to produce corn meal for polenta, Italian farmers can’t produce enough corn to meet demand. Instead, Italy is now importing corn from Spain, where biotech crops are allowed, to keep with its population’s desire to eat polenta.”
In my mind, this is a perfect example of the debate concerning biotech crop use. Rejecting new and more productive ways to grow crops as the world’s population heads towards the nine billion mark will have far-reaching consequences on cultural food consumption.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Italy’s polenta-loving population.