GMO Corn and The Effect on Tires
The debate/discussion about the effects of genetically modified crops on human health and on the environment is well-worn territory, but last night I heard about an effect of GMO corn and soy that’s new to me – it’s causing a lot of damage to tractor tires.
Corn and bean stalks have been genetically altered to be sturdier to withstand wind and insect damage. Machinery has also been cutting stalks closer to the ground (perhaps to get a little bit more for the ethanol industry???) which means that the tires are usually going over the stubble rather than knocking it down. The article describes the short and hard stalks as like pieces of rebar in the ground that will occasionally chip and even puncture a tractor tire.
If you’ve never seen a tractor tire up close they are very, very dense and it’s not easy to puncture one. Corn stalks are normally fairly hard and when you have a short piece sitting in the ground stabilized by the root system for a 6′ stalk, yeah, that can be pretty formidable.
The ag tire industry is kicking around ways to strengthen tires, such as kevlar, new synthetic rubber compounds and steel belts. People will pay for quality, but these things will add a lot of extra costs to the tire. Remember we’re talking about something that weighs 300lbs and up, so there’s a lot of raw material costs plus labor – the process of making one of these tires is probably a little more involved that most people would imagine. I suppose if it works it beats buying more tires that don’t last as long.
I’m not sure what the economic impact of damage to agricultural tires actually is, but it should be taken into consideration when looking at the pro’s and con’s of GMO’s. Not only are we creating “super bugs” and “super weeds” by the widespread use of GMO’s, looks like we need to create “super tires” too.