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The time has come to look to the future

The challenge for farmers and ranchers will be to double food production by 2050 to help feed an estimated 9 billion people.

GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- have the potential to dramatically increase the world's output in coming decades without causing significant environmental hazards. This new technology is affording us ways to improve plant characteristics to lower production costs and increase yields on existing farmland.

Today a wide variety of plants are products of genetically modified science. Some are being developed with the ability to withstand certain herbicides while yielding higher productivity with lower costs and less environmental impact.

Contrary to what you might have read or heard, the use of GMOs can be a win-win situation for everyone. Farmers can realize higher yields producing a more economical crop and consumers wind up with a safer, better tasting and healthier food.

In spite of these advances, some environmental groups in this country and some members of the European Union have resisted the use of GMOs because they fear genetic manipulation is unnatural. They believe the food it produces is dangerous and this technology is bad for the environment.

GMOs have already been tested, and field trials are being conducted. All indications are that GMOs present no danger, but this will need to continue to be proven in tests with sound science.

The future of agriculture will remain bright as long as technology is allowed to progress without being hampered by unfounded fears. GMOs are an important production tool for the American farmer and rancher.

We must continue to talk openly with the public about this safe scientific procedure to promote complete understanding of the issue.

It would be a major blow to production agriculture if GMO research were slowed or stopped. Scientific information must be readily available to all consumers so they too can understand this vital issue.

Biotechnology has the ability to revolutionize medicine as well as agriculture. Already there have been significant medical breakthroughs.

Examples include gene therapy to build blood vessels that bypass clogged arteries; destruction of cancerous tumors by cutting off their blood supply; vaccines for AIDS, malaria and ear infections; an anticancer booster shot that could stimulate immune systems; tissue engineering that helps the body regenerate itself; lab-grown bone, cartilage and skin or even organs such as the heart are in the works.

Our future can be enhanced with GMOs and biotechnology if these advances are allowed to progress. It's important we learn and inform others as much as possible about these upcoming advances.

John Schlageck, a Hoxie native, is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansan who writes for the Kansas Farm Bureau.