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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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RE: Amazing isn't it...
By flatrock on 10/6/2010 1:19:17 PM , Rating: 3
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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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