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An anti Monsanto sign in a crop field  (Source: teeth.com.pk)
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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RE: Amazing isn't it...
By OoklaTheMok on 10/5/2010 5:52:00 PM , Rating: 5
While the article is written in a confusing manner, GMO crops have a number of significant problems.

They lead to the overuse of herbicides and pesticides.

Powerful herbicides and pesticides are not needed. Organic farming is be able to produce significant quantities of produce without the need for these chemicals. And if you think that the chemicals are not absorbed into the crops, you would be a complete fool.

Patent infringement via natural process.

Many farmers who use traditional seed have been sued by Monsanto for patent infringement because of cross-pollination between traditional harvested seeds and GMO seeds. The farmers don't have the financial means to defend themselves, and are forced to either go bankrupt defending themselves and sell their farms or start purchasing GMO seeds. I think it is a travesty that the courts have upheld this perversion of law. Not only is it illegal, but it's arguing against the way in which nature works.

Monsanto has also been doing the same thing to farmers in other countries.

They find ways to force farmers to buy their product. Sorry, actually farmers only license their product, because farmers are not allowed to keep or use the seeds from the crops that are grown from GMO seeds. So farmers are forced to buy new seed every year.

GMO crops make family farming harder because of the constant threat of legal action.

I would be more than happy if GMO crops were out lawed. We don't need GMO in order to produce enough food. GMO crops don't make healthier food. GMO crops are a tool for herbicide companies to sell seeds that are compatible with their chemicals.


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By Spuke on 10/5/2010 6:54:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Powerful herbicides and pesticides are not needed. Organic farming is be able to produce significant quantities of produce without the need for these chemicals.
Don't organic farms still use pesticides?


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By amanojaku on 10/5/2010 7:20:13 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Don't organic farms still use pesticides?
Hippie urine isn't classified as a pesticide, yet.


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By RivuxGamma on 10/5/2010 8:36:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, they do. Some of them don't, but the majority do.

It'd be super freaking awesome if we didn't need them, but crop yields suffer if we don't.

They also use fertilizers and whine about commercial ones. Cow poop is great and all, but, in reality, it's not so great. There aren't enough cows in the world to fertilize all the fields that we grow crops in and they also introduce E. Coli, which isn't found in the nitrate-based fertilizers, which makes it more hazardous.

I think I'll stop posting for now. I just realized that I'm venting to Dailytech readers. Not that you guys suck, just that it won't make a real big difference.


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By Alexvrb on 10/9/2010 4:34:59 PM , Rating: 2
Even in organic farms that use pesticides, the type and amount differ greatly from conventional farms. I'm on the complete opposite side of the political spectrum from hippies - I think anthropogenic climate change is a crock of dung, carbon taxes are idiotic, and nuclear power is clean and safe.

However, when it comes to things like untested gene modification of seeds, along with overuse of chemicals used for pest control and plant growth, I'm with the hippies. I never thought I'd say that. Also growth hormones we feed animals, no thanks. The government on the other hand is all for that stuff.

Too bad the hippies are too stupid to realize that the Congress and President they elected aren't interested in truly helping the enviroment. They'd rather waste our time with the carbon boogeyman, and ignore the all of the stuff they're doing to our FOOD, or the plight of the honeybee, etc.


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By Quadrillity on 10/5/2010 10:18:34 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Many farmers who use traditional seed have been sued by Monsanto for patent infringement because of cross-pollination between traditional harvested seeds and GMO seeds. The farmers don't have the financial means to defend themselves, and are forced to either go bankrupt defending themselves and sell their farms or start purchasing GMO seeds. I think it is a travesty that the courts have upheld this perversion of law. Not only is it illegal, but it's arguing against the way in which nature works.


Very informative post. Our forefathers would choke on their own tongues if they were around to see this happening. Suing farmers for farming... now that's a new one! This sort of injustice makes me want to lose hope for America; and humanity in general :(


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By bupkus on 10/7/2010 12:58:28 AM , Rating: 2
If only farmers were in a position to stop planting crops for one season. This would bring the problem to the attention of Congress right fast.


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By Quadrillity on 10/7/2010 11:19:31 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah, that's the major problem here. They can't do a single thing about it because the majority of people still think that, "food comes from the grocery store". Think of how immoral it would be for farmers to stop farming? They would essentially be starving people all over the world! And since they most of them aren't tyrants like that, they are in the palm of congress/big business until the day they die or retire. It's a sick and pathetic catch22 that should be stopped at all cost. The perversion of law in this country makes me want to throw up!


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By nafhan on 10/6/2010 9:16:39 AM , Rating: 2
It's kind of crazy that one of the biggest problems facing farmers today is patent infringement. We tend to focus on the software side of things, here, but the problems with US patent system are affecting everyone!
At this point, patent reforms could solve three of the four problems you listed below. Genetic code really should not be patentable.


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By JediJeb on 10/6/2010 12:13:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They lead to the overuse of herbicides and pesticides.

Powerful herbicides and pesticides are not needed. Organic farming is be able to produce significant quantities of produce without the need for these chemicals. And if you think that the chemicals are not absorbed into the crops, you would be a complete fool.


I can agree with all but this statement. GMO seeds are actually designed to reduce the amount of herbicides and pesticides used. In corn and soybeans it allows the use of a much less dangerous Roundup to replace other herbicides like Atrazine which does not break down in the soil and can remain in the ecosystem for decades. My laboratory has investigated situations where Roundup has been applied to a lake and after a few weeks there is not even enough there to be detectable since it breaks down into inert forms so quickly, yet other pesticides will be detectable even a year later.

Also Organic farming may be able to produce significant quantities of produce in a garden or small patch, it will not produce the same amount in a 1000 acre corn field unless you hire a huge workforce to manually go through it with a hoe and cut out the weeds, which would mean that either the food in the store would need to increase in price significantly to cover the cost, or we would need to find some form of free labor which I doubt will happen.


RE: Amazing isn't it...
By flatrock on 10/6/2010 1:19:17 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
They lead to the overuse of herbicides and pesticides.


They generally make herbicides more effective against weeds by protecting the crops while not protecting the weeds. That can reduce the need for herbicides. It gives the farmers the option of using herbicides that won't kill their crops, but saying that causes the overuse of herbicides is misleading.

I can't understand how you can blems GM crops on overuse of pesticides. GM has allowed the plants to produce some protection from pests on their own, removing the need for pesticides. How does that get twisted around to leading to pesticide overuse?

quote:
Powerful herbicides and pesticides are not needed. Organic farming is be able to produce significant quantities of produce without the need for these chemicals.


You are welcome to that opinion, but a lot of farmers who make their livings off of this and have an awful lot of experience with it obviously disagree with you, and are in a much better position to know.

quote:
And if you think that the chemicals are not absorbed into the crops, you would be a complete fool.


You are apparently drifting to the topic of herbacides and pesticides rather than GM crops, but I don't disagree that small quantities are absorbed. The question is if such small quantities cause any harm to those that consume them, and the science says no. Our bodies are very good at removing small quantities of most herbicides and pesticides without any harm. It is only when our ability to do so is overwhelmed that harm is done. However, it is always easy to make people fear that maybe we don't know all the effects of everything we put in our bodies.

quote:
Many farmers who use traditional seed have been sued by Monsanto for patent infringement because of cross-pollination between traditional harvested seeds and GMO seeds.


I haven't heard of this, but I would expect that the farms growing the GM crops would be liable to any damages to the crops of their neighbors, including the loss of the ability to use seeds from their crops. The way our legal system works, Monsanto has to protect their product. The losses appear to come from the misuse of the GM seeds by the neighboring farms. I would think those neighboring farms would be liable.

quote:
They find ways to force farmers to buy their product. Sorry, actually farmers only license their product, because farmers are not allowed to keep or use the seeds from the crops that are grown from GMO seeds. So farmers are forced to buy new seed every year.


Licensing the produce isn't really unreasonable due to the type of product they are selling. Otherwise someone else could simply buy a small quantity of their seeds and then steal the fruits of their labors.

The problem comes from cross polination with crops from farmers that did not buy or license the GM seed. I suspect that Monsanto has guidelines on how far appart crops should be planted to avoid this problem. If those aren't being followed, or the farmer planting the GM seed has good reason to expect that his crop will cause cross polination with a neighbor's crop than they should be liable for the results, not Monsanto.

quote:
I would be more than happy if GMO crops were out lawed. We don't need GMO in order to produce enough food.


You do farmers a disservice by assuming they are too stupid to to have figured out what works best for them and what poses the least risk for the possible reward. This is true even among the smaller family farms. The market has been competitive enough for a long time that most of the stupid ones are gone. As for producing enough food, how much is enough? You do realize that if you decrease supply, the price will go up. You will raise the costs of the essentials for people. You will significantly effect the cost of living of our poorest citizens. Most likely you will reduce the standard of living for a great many people.

quote:
GMO crops are a tool for herbicide companies to sell seeds that are compatible with their chemicals.


And if that increases net crop yields after taking into account losses to pests, then they are providing a worthwhile service.

If you want "organic" foods, buy organic foods. There is a thriving market for them and they are widely available. Crops grown that way have a greater intrinsic value to many people that are willing to pay a bit more for them, so a thriving market has developed to meet that demand.

However, outlawing GM foods, not to mention the pesticides and herbacides you appear to strongly oppose as well, is something that would have an adverse effect on a great many people. The government needs strong, scientific evidence of a genuine problem before such an intrusion into what is a thriving market. Not merely fears and a dislike for big business.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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