Chapter 5. A Glowing Trend

Unlike many of his generational peers, Glowing Plant chief scientific officer Kyle Taylor was never put off by genetically modified organism (GMO) crops. On the contrary: Kansas-born and bred, cutting-edge agriculture was as natural to him as the torrid summers and frigid winters of the southern plains.

“GMO corn first hit the market while I was still in high school,” says Taylor, “And I have to admit I was fascinated by it. It was Roundup resistant, meaning that you could spray it with the most commonly used herbicide in commercial agriculture and it would remain unaffected. I found that really profound, a breakthrough.”

Agribusiness felt the same way. Roundup (generically, glyphosate) is relatively benign as commercial herbicides go (compared to 2, 4-D and Paraquat, anyway): it binds to soil so migration to waterways is minimal, and it generally degrades quickly. Roundup-resistant corn—and later, resistant soybeans—ushered in the era of no-till agriculture. Farmers no longer had to cultivate between their rows for weed control; they could spray right alongside their standing crops without affecting them. This bolstered profits, and it also had environmental upsides: fewer passes through the fields with heavy farming equipment meant a big drop in fossil fuel consumption and significantly reduced atmospheric carbon emissions. Less cultivation also meant less erosion because the topsoil wasn’t disturbed and exposed to rain and wind.

Taylor’s ...

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