Farmers Reject GM Seeds, Citing High Costs and Few Benefits

Farmers Reject GM Seeds, Citing High Costs and Few Benefits

GM crops reportedly come with increasingly high costs and few benefits, and as a result, many farmers are refusing to plant them.

On its website, Monsanto – the world’s biggest producer of genetically modified organisms – claims that these realities are false. The manufacturer says that by genetically building certain traits into seeds, such as insect and herbicide tolerance, it can “help to increase yields by protecting the yield that would otherwise be lost due to insects or weeds.” Monsanto goes on to list five countries that have seen rather drastic increases in crop yields since the introduction of GM traits.

But nothing is more powerful than first-hand accounts from farmers who have tried to utilize GM crops in their own fields.

Illinois farmer Dan Beyers told the San Jose Mercury News last week that he abandoned GM corn and soybean seeds that had been altered to withstand glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, because planting the crops no longer made sense financially.

“As they added more traits, we didn’t really see a yield advantage. And every time they added a trait, they added cost,” said Beyers, who also worries that GMO seeds could be damaging his soil.

According to the Mercury News, anecdotal evidence suggests that Beyers is far from alone in his rejection of GM crops. [1]

As the world begins to wake up to and worry about the impact GMOs could have on humans and the environment, non-GMO foods – especially soybeans – are in high demand. Thus, they make farmers far more money. The demand for non-GMO crops is largely driven by foreign nations like Japan and South Korea, which are constantly in the market for conventional (non-GM) soybeans.

Plus, non-GM seeds are just plain cheaper because they lack the need to recoup the massive costs of research and development that are basically built into the price of GM seeds. [1]

Even if profit is the cornerstone on which this change is based, it is still telling. After all, experts project over $35 billion in sales for organic, non-GMO foods in 2015. As GMO corn, soy, and other GM grain prices rise, along with the costs to grow them (associated with more pesticide and herbicide use to control super weeds, for example), farmers are looking past the GMO propaganda which promised higher yields and more cash for farmers who grew their poison crops.

This phenomenon is explained clearly in “The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science” (full text available for download here) published in The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food.

Gilbert Hostetler, president of Illinois-based Prairie Hybrids commented:

“Our non-GMO seed sales are significantly higher than last year.”

Mac Ehrhardt, president of Minnesota-based Albert Lea Seed reports that he is selling more conventional (he describes conventional corn as non-GMO) corn seed by the end of November than he did all of last year. He says that farmers are turning to non-GMO to cut costs and to earn more money for their non-GMO yields.

Farmers are also fearful of planting GM seeds in their fields because they see the damage already caused by GMOs and wearily wonder what kind of toll they might take on their businesses in the future. Glyphosate is becoming less effective as more weeds become resistant to the chemical. “Roundup isn’t cleaning up the fields the way it used to,” Beyers said.

In order for a crop to be considered non-GMO, it must contain less than 1% of glyphosate.

The ever-present nature of glyphosate is making it hard for non-GMO farmers to keep their crops “clean.” Sometimes glyphosate from neighboring farms finds its way onto non-GMO farmers’ crops, for example, making it hard for farmers to keep their crops separate from GMO crops. This is called GMO cross-contamination, and it’s a problem.

GMO farmers have to be more cautious about where they spray herbicides, and non-GMO farmers simply have to hope that GMO farmers will be careful.

[1] San Jose Mercury News