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For four generations, Riley Lewis’ family has farmed a plot of land near Forest City, Iowa. Lewis currently raises corn, soybeans and hogs. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)
For four generations, Riley Lewis’ family has farmed a plot of land near Forest City, Iowa. Lewis currently raises corn, soybeans and hogs. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

In his home in Forest City, Iowa, Riley Lewis has the original warranty deed for his farm, signed by President James Buchanan and issued to one Elias Gilbert, a soldier who served in the War of 1812.

“He moved here, northeast of Forest City, and lived there for one year,” Lewis said, which was the obligation veterans had if they homesteaded. “And then he sold it to Robert Clark, who was the founder of Forest City.”

In 1871, Lewis’ great-grandfather bought 40 acres of that original homestead. Over the years, Lewis’ family acquired the rest of the 160 acres and has farmed here ever since.

The USDA reports that 93 percent of the corn planted in the United States contains a genetically modified trait. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)
The USDA reports that 93 percent of the corn planted in the United States contains a genetically modified trait. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

Genetically modified seeds have been embedded with a gene—usually from a bacteria—that protects the corn from pests or herbicides. And the percentage of  genetically modified seed within the U.S. corn crop nearly doubled over the past 10 years, from less than half of the total planted corn acres in 2004 to 93 percent this year, up from 90 percent last year.

Soybeans have a slightly higher figure, at 94 percent containing a genetic modification, but those seeds have been available longer. In 2004, already 85 percent of soybeans contained an engineered trait.

Iowa State University extension agronomist Mark Johnson says the leap in corn adoption is partly thanks to the success of the first genetically modified corn seed, which fought off a bug called the European corn borer.

(Courtesy Merck)
(Courtesy Merck)

The feed additive Zilmax, which was pulled from the market after reports of lame and stressed cattle, does not harm an animal’s health, a university study found.

Zilmax, known generically as zilpaterol, was pulled from shelves in August 2013 and remains off the market, according to its manufacturer, Merck Animal Health.

On Tuesday, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service released results of a study that showed no detrimental effects to cattle fed zilpaterol, said Ty Schmidt, a UNL animal scientist. Further, the drug seemed to help the animal handle stress by lowering body temperature and producing less cortisol, a stress hormone, he said.

The study contradicts many reports made last summer that cattle fed Zilmax were more heat stressed and showed up lame and with missing hooves just before they entered packing plants. The claims shook the cattle industry, triggering the four largest U.S. beef companies to place a temporary ban on buying animals that had been fed the additive.

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