Feeding the World—One Crop at a Time.

As the world’s population grows, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) play an increasingly important role in helping meet our demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. Since they have laboratory manufactured built-in defenses against disease and pests, they are a frequently misunderstood segment of food production. And that’s where Professor Joe Lauer steps in to make a difference.

For the past two decades, Professor Lauer—a UW-Madison agronomist at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS)—has been analyzing the performance of corn hybrids across the state. This data compares GM corn and non-GM strains alike. In this time, he 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.

Professor 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 demystifying the benefits of GM crops to the layperson. It’s just another way that UW-Madison and CALS are helping shape the future of agriculture just as they shaped the past since its founding in 1889.