by Marion Nestle
Jul 3 2008

Latest stats on GM crops

Think what you like about genetically modified crops; farmers love them.  How else to explain the latest data from USDA?  GM soybeans are leveling off a bit – at close to 90%–and corn at close to 60%.   The public doesn’t like GM much.  They aren’t labeled.  What’s in this for farmers?

  • I don’t think the public knows very much about GE crops, because few have attempted to educate them about them, and compare them to the kinds of plant breeding that we’ve been doing for ages. I’ve been looking forward to reading what you have written on the subject, although I have not yet had the time. 🙂

    I have noticed that there are some people who are convinced that the farmers don’t want to grow GE crops. When faced with the phenomenal adoption rate of this technology amongst those who grow our food, critics have fallen back on two arguments:
    1. The farmers are being forced to buy them somehow, usually this is accompanied by the claim that non-GE seed is simply not available, which isn’t true.
    2. Conversely, the argument is made that the farmers are somehow ignorant or stupid. That if they were properly ‘educated’ that they wouldn’t choose to buy them.

    Each of these seem to miss the reasons why farmers are actually interested in them, don’t you think?

    In some cases, it allows them to move from current herbicides to safer ones – like Atrazine —> Glyphosate. Then, there’s the pest protective benefits of Bt genes, and now in the case of corn, rootworm resistance.

    Herbicide tolerance brings up a lot of questions, such as being dependent upon herbicides to use the trait, and keeping resistance from developing in weeds, however, there’s a farmer-side benefit that doesn’t often get talked about, namely the increased adoption of conservation tillage and no-till farming. This leads to fewer greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, less compaction, and less fuel use. And it also builds the soil. I can dig up a very recent paper for you on soil buildup in Canadian farms that I came across if you like.

  • Jackie

    Wow, that sounds like an answer straight out of Monsanto’s PR package. How about the farmers who are not able to get regular seeds anymore because Monsanto has clandestinely bought up all the major seed purveyors and had replaced the seeds with their GM varieties.

  • Jackie, I already addressed your objection. Even the seed companies that Monsanto bought out still offer the non-GE seed – the same goes for other companies. Apparently you weren’t reading very closely. Show me one crop where you cannot buy non-GE seed. Just one. It’s simply not true.