Feeding A Hungry Planet

As the world’s population grows, genetic engineering plays an increasingly important role in helping meet our need for crops. Since genetically engineered crops have laboratory-inserted defenses against disease and pests, they are a frequently misunderstood segment of food production. And that’s where agronomy professor Joe Lauer steps in to make a difference.

For the past two decades, Lauer has been analyzing the performance of corn hybrids across the state. This data compares genetically modified (GM) corn and non-GM strains alike. Over this period, Lauer has found that GM corn doesn’t necessarily increase a farmer’s yield in a good year. Rather, the modified corn helps protect farmers against larger losses in a bad year.

Lauer compares the use of GM corn with buying low-risk stocks with low volatility. Like safer stocks, the crop yields on GM corn don’t swing as wildly year to year, and when they do show a downswing due to factors like weather or infestation, the effects aren’t as drastic.

His work has been vital in understanding how to better ensure food production well into the future—and in helping the consumer better understand the benefits of GM crops.