GMO crops so tough that farmers are turning to Kevlar tractor tires

Farming is one of the most difficult ways to earn a living. You'd think that with all the innovations mankind has developed over the centuries, we could make farmers' lives easier. But as it turns out, sometimes miracles of modern science make things tougher. Literally.

Take genetically modified organisms (GMO) for instance. For now, let's ignore the controversy over its safety, usefulness and ethical issues. The main issue for those guys actually growing and harvesting the stuff is much more practical. As it turns out, corn modified to stand tall and tough against pests is also wreaking havoc on tractor tires.

Mark Newhall of Farm Show Magazine tells American Public Media's Marketplace that after the stalks are cut during harvest, the leftover stubs are like "having a field of little spears."

So instead of tractor tires lasting the usual five to six years, they're getting chewed up after just one or two years. One tractor tire can cost thousands of dollars, and some tractors have as many as eight tires.

How does a modern farmer fight back against a genetically modified enemy intent on destroying the very thing his business rides on? The same way our military defends against its enemies: Kevlar. While these augmented tractor tires can't be cheap, they should at least outlast their thin-skinned counterparts.

The use of Kevlar in tires might seem extravagant, but in fact it's very appropriate. The material was invented in 1964 by DuPont during its search for a strong, lightweight material for, you guessed it, tires.

Take a listen to Marketplace's story with the player below.

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