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.
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.
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.
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.
just isn't competition out there," said Craig Griffieon, a
farmer in Ankeny, Iowa.
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.
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
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
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
plant breeding. Conventional seeds produce just as well as
biotech seeds, but as noted before, conventional seed is becoming
harder to find.
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