A Biotech Backlash? Farmers beginning to question the GMO path

 There are so many aspects of the GMO debate, one might find oneself at a loss for where to start. There are studies indicating GMOs cause organ damage and infertility. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine released a paper showing more than a causal association between GMOs and adverse health effects.

According to the AAEM,

several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.

Then there is the issue of GM crops contaminating neighboring farmer’s fields through cross-pollination. These are all issues that the biotech giants want to sweep under the rug while cheerfully touting that their seeds will save the world. Biotech has had a good run over the past ten years, it promised farmers an easy way to grow crops with higher yields. It did deliver, for a time, but now farmers are beginning to see the promise of a quick fix was not without repercussions.

Farmers of the popular Roundup-Ready GM crops, engineered to withstand the pesticide glyphosate, are now walking into fields populated with super-weeds which are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticide application every year. Proponents of the Roundup-Ready crops once claimed that use of GMOs would reduce pesticide use in conventional farming methods. As such, it was claimed to be more eco-friendly. But as the years have gone by, the weeds have evolved and farmers have found their pesticide needs increasing.

Contrary to what Monsanto wants you to believe, recent years have shown the growth of the biotech market slowing down. 86 percent of US farm acres were planted with GM seed last year, only rising one percent from the year before. Though this number is still large, this is the smallest increase since 2001 and it shows that the industry is changing.

Money drives the market, and when farmer’s bank accounts start to take a hit, they look for changes. In some instances, GM contamination of fields has forced farmers to sell crops at lower prices.

“If you’ve got your conventional seed right next to your neighbor’s [biotech] seeds, the pollen flies,” says John Schmitt, a corn-and-soybean farmer in Quincy, Ill., who had to sell a third of his conventional corn at lower prices last year because of contamination. “It’s nature.”

Prices of GM seed have also been rising. Last year, the price of GM rose 32 percent while GM soy rose 24 percent. Farmers blame this on lack of competition, the biotech companies can charge whatever they want.

The US Justice Department is looking into complaints of anti-competitive practices in the seed business, where seed giants like Monsanto have raised prices, bought up or pushed aside smaller seed companies, and emphasized genetic engineering over traditional plant breeding.

In spite of these examples of corporate greed, the biotech giants continue to try to sell us on their humanitarian agenda of saving the hungry people of the world through genetic engineering. Monsanto and DuPont want us to believe that the world is greeting genetic engineering with open arms, but the reality is quite opposite. This issue is taken much more seriously by countries around the world than it has been in the US, with people protesting in the streets of India against GM eggplant. The European Union requires genetically modified organisms to be labelled while no such requirement exists here in the US.

Even the data that GM crops increase yields is questionable.

“The technology has really been hyped a lot,” says Doug Gurian-Sherman, author of a 2009 study for the Union of Concerned Scientists that concluded that yield increases have come almost entirely from traditional plant breeding. “Even on a shoestring, conventional breeding way outperforms genetic engineering.”

Since the beginning of this year, we saw Monsanto’s stock price fall 42%. Perhaps investors are beginning to see that there are too many potential risks with the genetic engineering of our food.

“The first seven or eight years it was the greatest thing since sliced bread,” says Bill Johnson, a weed specialist at Purdue University, who called Roundup “arguably the most rapidly adopted agricultural innovation ever.” Now, he says, “We’re going to see the value of it erode over time.”

It can seem daunting at times, standing up for the integrity of our food. But as stories such as this show, it pays to have truth on your side. The biotech companies will keep churning out science experiments that are hailed to be newer and better. But they are working against the forces of nature. As all physicists know, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As farmers now must deal with superweeds, perhaps they are beginning to see those few years of easy crops were not worth the trouble. There must always be balance.

October 2010 is the first ever Non-GMO month! Keep up the good work everyone.

[via Christian Science Monitor]


  1. I support local, organic, sustainable farming and find no reason to believe the biotech companies are in this business for humanitarian purposes. They have poisoned us with chemicals in the past and under the guise of making farming “better” they are now poisoning our food supply. Monsanto and company should be stopped immediately and no longer try to bulldoze over our crops with their seeds that kill honeybees and other natural pollinators. We are all connected and if we destroy the land and other species it can only lead to our demise as well.

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