Some farmers across the United States may stop planting genetically modified crops after poor yields are increasing costs beyond what they can absorb.
According to Farmers Weekly, those farmers are considering returning to conventional seed after increased pest resistance and crop failures have meant smaller GM crop yields over non-GM counterparts.
Farmers in the U.S. pay about $100 more per acre for GM seed. Many have begun questioning “whether they will continue to see benefits from using GMs,” the farmer’s publication reported.
“It’s all about cost benefit analysis,” economist Dan Basse, president of AgResource, an American agricultural research firm, said.
“Farmers are paying extra for the technology but have seen yields which are no better than 10 years ago,” he told the Weekly. “They’re starting to wonder why they’re spending extra money on the technology.”
A problem that is becoming more widespread
The publication said one of the biggest problems U.S. farmers have experienced with GM seed is resistance. When GM seeds were first introduced, biotech engineers said it would be 40 years before resistance would develop; but pests such as corn rootworm have instead developed a resistance to GM crops in as few as 14 years.
“Some of these bugs will eat the plant and it will make them sick, but not kill them. It starts off in pockets of the country but then becomes more widespread,” Basse said.
“We’re looking at going back to cultivation to control it. I now use insecticides again,” he said.
If farmers don’t move back towards non-GMOs, the availability of seed will become an issue, he said, noting that some 87 percent of U.S. farmers currently plant genetically modified seed.
Countries around the world that do not use GM seed are outperforming U.S. farmers. The largest crop yields last year were in Asia, and China in particular, where farmers don’t plant GM seed.
For years, there has been concern that GM seeds would develop resistance to pesticides and weed killers, though some of the largest biotech firms that push such seeds – like Monsanto – have consistently denied or downplayed such concerns.
Scott McAllister, a third-generation farmer in Iowa, told The Huffington Post in October he was leery of Monsanto’s claims when a seed peddler came to see him last fall.
“Down the road, are we going to experience resistance in weeds with the continued use of Roundup?” McAllister said he recalls asking the salesman.
“Oh no, that’ll never happen,” he was told.
Sure it won’t…
Monsanto’s combination of GM seed and Roundup herbicide was supposed to help crops thrive, not weeds and bugs. But 15 years later, when most corn, soybeans and cotton cultivated in the U.S. comes from Roundup Ready seed, an increasing number of these crops are falling prey to “superweeds” that have become resistant to the GM seeds and herbicide that was supposed to kill them forever.
Repeated application of the herbicide has literally weeded out the weak weeds and given the rare resistant weeds the opportunity to take over. The situation, according to a report published…in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, has driven growers to use larger quantities of Roundup, more often and in conjunction with a broader arsenal of other weed-killing chemicals.
“It’s been a slowly unfolding train wreck,” Charles Benbrook, author of the study and professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, said.
“Before biotech came on the market, we had one airplane in the county to do all the aerial spraying,” McAllister told the online newspaper. “Now they bring in seven or eight. We’ve got the same acreage of crops. They’re just spraying more.”