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An anti Monsanto sign in a crop field  (Source:
May slowly but surely switch from biotech seed to conventional seed

Seed farmers throughout the United States are complaining that biotech seeds (which are genetically altered seeds) are becoming much too expensive, resistant to weed killer, and can contaminate conventional seed crops. However, they still continue to use the seeds. But with anticompetitive practices being investigated on biotech seed companies, seed farmers may change their minds. 

"The technology has really been hyped up a lot," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, author of a 2009 study for the Union of Concerned Scientists, which concluded that yield increases have come mainly from conventional plant breeding. "Even on a shoestring, conventional breeding outperforms genetic engineering. 

Genetically altered seed is used by a majority of U.S. farmers because weeds at one time were much easier to kill with herbicides such as Roundup. Also, these biotech crops, like corn, contained genes that allowed them to "manufacture" their own insecticide meaning farmers did not have to pay money and spend time killing insects with store-bought insecticides. In addition, biotech seed companies like Monsanto have created a monopoly in the seed business, buying smaller seed businesses and selling nothing but their genetically engineered seed. Traditional seed has even become hard to find because most "crop improvements" produced by conventional plant breeding are only sold together with biotech traits. 

But with rising costs and recent resistance to herbicides, biotech seed has become less favorable and farmers are taking notice. For instance, last year, the price of biotech soybean seeds rose 24 percent while corn seed rose 32 percent. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the anticompetitive practices of Monsanto, and Monsanto is countering by saying it plans on offering more seed options at lower prices next year.

"There just isn't competition out there," said Craig Griffieon, a farmer in Ankeny, Iowa. 

Biotech crops have grown resistant to herbicides mainly in cotton fields in the Southern United States where giant ragweed and horsetails are affecting thousands of acres. But the problem is spreading toward the midwest now as well.

As far as genetic contamination of traditional crops that are grown near biotech crops goes, farmers have testified that biotech crops have lowered the value of their conventional crops. 

"If you've got your conventional seed right next to your neighbor's [biotech] seeds, the pollen flies," said John Schmitt, a farmer from Quincy, Illinois who had to sell a third of his conventional corn for much lower prices due to genetic contamination. "It's nature."

A majority of farmers still use biotech seed also because they believe that biotech seed yields more crop at harvest, but even Monsanto doesn't argue that most of the increase in crop yields is due to traditional plant breeding. Conventional seeds produce just as well as biotech seeds, but as noted before, conventional seed is becoming harder to find. 

While biotech seed is used more so than conventional, farmers are slowly getting the picture by realizing that there aren't many benefits to genetically altered seed as opposed to conventional seed. According to the latest statistics, the amount of farms using biotech seeds only rose one percent last year, from 85 percent to 86 percent. This is the smallest increase since 2001. In Illinois specifically, the percentage of acres using biotech corn seed decreased from 84 percent to 82 percent, where soybeans reduced as well from 90 percent to 89 percent.

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Farming in South Texas
By ICBM on 10/5/2010 4:31:54 PM , Rating: 5
As a farmer in South Texas, I can safely say that the only complaint farmers have with genetically modified seed is price. Yes there is some concern about some weeds becoming resistant, however this can be overcome by using traditional crop specific herbicides that conventional farms would use IF the need arises.

You do save a lot of money on herbicide, pesticide, and fungicides, so this can offset the extra cost of seed. Not to mention, there is only one herbicide you will really need to use (Round Up or generic), which compared to the most chemicals is very safe and very cheap. One of the biggest advantages not mentioned is reduced risk. You don't need to worry about which herbicide to use, or whether you catch an insect invasion in time to spray the correct pesticide. You don't need to worry about the weather holding up allowing you to make a spraying. Not to mention, you save time not having to put out the chemicals.

As far as monopolies goes, this could be very dangerous for everyone. The lower we can keep seed costs the better. Monsanto is a scary force, and they do need to have someone keep an eye on them. Competition is good in all industries.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By The Raven on 10/5/2010 5:40:31 PM , Rating: 4
I haven't looked too much into the matter but from what I understand M$ (MonSanto ;-) is prosecuting people who's fields are inadvertantly being pollenated by plants grown from their GM seeds. It is like M$ (MicroSoft) prosecuting people for using Windows that self installed on their hardware.

(I'm so glad that is impossible for Microsoft to do that.)

Also, I understand that Monsanto prevents farmers from using the seeds that are produced by the GM crops to grow new crops. If they do, they are prosecuted just like a pirate who burns a copy of Windows.

Of course correct me if I'm wrong, but that is my understanding.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By NovoRei on 10/5/2010 7:23:13 PM , Rating: 2
Always thought that GM seeds cant pollinate so thats why you need to buy again each year.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By mino on 10/5/2010 7:31:39 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that is the theory, pardon, business model.

But, you know, mother nature does not give a shit about our theories ...

RE: Farming in South Texas
By PCR on 10/6/2010 11:56:25 AM , Rating: 2
There are so many factual inaccuracies in a lot of these posts I have read that I am not even sure where to begin correcting.

GMO seed crops will cross pollinate with regular crops without any issues. Monsanto had a project called "Terminator" which it acquired by buying Delta & Pine Land Company. These plants would develop normally except that they would not flower, thus would not produce any fruit. This technology was never commercially deployed.

All current GM plant seeds in use have the ability to flower and produce fruit.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By JediJeb on 10/6/2010 12:19:18 PM , Rating: 2
All current GM plant seeds in use have the ability to flower and produce fruit.

Which if they didn't in corn and soybeans would make them pretty much worthless since the fruit(seeds) is what you want to sell.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By RivuxGamma on 10/5/2010 8:24:45 PM , Rating: 3
I would so love to see a field of crops with the BSOD.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By The Raven on 10/6/2010 12:04:51 PM , Rating: 2
FYI, one point of contention are the claims in the documentary Food, Inc.
Here is Monsanto's response on the matter (aimed specifically at the film).

I have seen the film and read their response, but I still don't like what Monsanto is saying here (in their very carefully crafted words). And I can't remember everything from the film but it seems Monsanto left some stuff out as well. I'll have to watch it again sometime.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By ICBM on 10/6/2010 4:47:59 PM , Rating: 2
Monsanto owning rights of seed is nothing new, not even in the traditional non-GMO foods. For example, traditional seed is grown and bred. The idea is to take traits from both parents, and have a superior variety. This is traditional plant breeding. You have private companies and universities that will breed new varieties, and then they sell the seed and have royalties anytime the fruit is sold as seed. So "copyright protection" has existed on the agriculture side of things for quite a while.

Where it can get scary is when you have companies like Monsanto producing the seed, and the chemical. The only way they will sell you the seed at a cheaper price is if you agree to buy RoundUp from them, which is way overpriced compared to generics. And when I say cheaper, it is still outrageously priced. However if it was too expensive, farmers would not be planting GMO crops. There is a reason the overwhelming number of farmers plant GMO crops.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By AlexWade on 10/5/2010 6:19:47 PM , Rating: 3
I have a friend who is a farmer. I specifically asked him about Monsanto after watching the documentary Food, Inc. He acted like they weren't that bad and told me about how much of a time saver Round Up was. (Of course, he then went on about how organic is a scam because the foods are washed so many times there isn't any pesticide left on them.) I have no doubt Monsanto does some questionable practices. But I concluded that documentary was over-dramatic for effect.

As an aside, I will say I do know of chicken houses like those depicted in the documentary. That has me very concerned. Livestock should be treated properly. It is my opinion that animals that are treated properly and fed properly taste better.

RE: Farming in South Texas
By JediJeb on 10/6/2010 12:25:01 PM , Rating: 2
As an aside, I will say I do know of chicken houses like those depicted in the documentary. That has me very concerned. Livestock should be treated properly. It is my opinion that animals that are treated properly and fed properly taste better.

I can agree there. My parents and grandparents always had a farm and we always raised a steer or hog our use and had it processed at a smaller size than what is normally sent to market. Comparing that to what I get in the stores now, well there really is no comparison even if buying the organic or other specially certified types.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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