Farmers grow a lot of things, but money isn’t one of them.

Yet some people seem to think “cash crop” is a literal description rather than a figurative expression, judging from the subject of last week’s meeting of AC21–the acronym for the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture. I addressed the panel during a public session, leaving my farm for a day to do it.

Our country is going broke faster than a roadrunner on hot asphalt. That hasn’t stopped certain sectors of the organic-food industry from demanding special compensation for when trace amounts of biotech ingredients show up in organic fields, suggesting that this poses a serious economic hazard. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has asked AC21 to study the dispute and propose a solution.

This assumes there’s a problem in the first place. The question has to be raised:  After all these years of proven technology, why are we still even entertaining the idea of GMO’s vs. the organic production of growing crops?

In my 50-plus years on the farm, I’ve learned a few things – some of them the hard way.  I can remember saving our seed stocks because we thought we had something special, only to discover a few years later that the ‘sacred’ strain had gone away anyhow.  I remember hundreds of variety trials, cross pollinating the parent stock with little paint brushes in an attempt to get a new hybrid tomato, pepper or sweet corn and then waiting years to get a viable, marketable variety that I could plant on my farm.  I also remember the years I hoped we might somehow be able to speed up that process.  Now, we can finally grow varieties with traits that sustain our agriculture while providing more nutritious food for our family and yours.

Farmers like me have grown billions of acres of genetically enhanced crops around the world. These remarkable plants have shown themselves to be both safe and popular, fighting weeds and pests so successfully that we’re now growing more food on less land than ever before. And protecting the land, an important natural resource, as we do it!

Yet a handful of outspoken activists are attempting to slow down or ban the use of biotechnology.  To support their ideological agenda, they are using the carefully chosen scare word- “contamination”- to describe the presence of biotech particles in non-biotech fields, suggesting that we’re confronting a vicious plague.

Their latest scheme is to demand that Washington establish an elaborate system of payments, to make up for the “contamination” that poses no health hazard to anyone.