The Happy Story of GM Crops | Civil Eats

The Happy Story of GM Crops

Since the first commercial cultivation of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in 1996, Monsanto and the rest of the big six Biotech seed companies, (Pioneer/DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, BASF and Bayer) have become masters at the art of story telling. Farmers looking for the next big technology fix have loved their stories: the promise of better yields, less chemical need for weed control, higher profits and of course, a solution to the elusive goal of feeding the world.

Governments, seeing biotechnology as a huge economic engine, embraced the technology. University research was shifted almost exclusively to biotech crops. GM was the wave of the future, bankers encouraged planting GM crops to guarantee a “profitable harvest”. Crop insurance premiums were lower for farmers planting GM. Everyone bought the story.

In a recent opinion piece in the Wisconsin State Journal, former Secretary of Agriculture, John Block, touted the virtues of GM crops and credited them with producing higher yields, lower pesticide use and solving the ever growing problem of world hunger. Current Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, plugged GM at last week’s USDA Outlook Conference. Problem is, the promises are just good stories. The believers are missing the truth.

Weeds have become resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup and insects became resistant to the toxins produced by their GM corn. As GM was planted on more acres, overall pesticide use went up, not down. A University of Kansas study found that GM crops actually had lower yields than their conventional counterparts. Even as the problems of GM crops become more apparent, the cost of GM seed continues to rise. Many farmers are backing away from GM, but finding non-GM seed is difficult, considering Monsanto controls roughly 90% of the corn and soy genetics in the U.S.

With corn and soy well under their control, Monsanto now hopes to gain USDA approval for Roundup resistant alfalfa. A perennial crop, alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the U.S. and again, Monsanto sees profit. The contamination of non-GM and organic alfalfa, the potential for further reduction of bee populations, among other problems, seem of little consequence.

Feeding the world? GM will not do it, even former Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro admitted, “The commercial industrial technologies that are used in agriculture today to feed the world… are not inherently sustainable.”

Still, Monsanto bills itself as a leader in global sustainability, ignoring the fact that true sustainability cannot be achieved when your driving goal is the next quarterly profit report. The world stands a better chance of feeding itself by using and improving upon farming methods [PDF] that have been relied upon for centuries. In Africa, if indigenous crops, long adapted to their environment, were put forward as the solution to hunger, studies show that the population could have adequate food supplies and at times, cash income from sales of surplus crops.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

So, why do so many continue have faith in the story, when the evidence is against them? GM crops do not yield as promised. A USDA report [PDF] shows that farmers actually loose income by planting GM crops.

Seed costs are unreasonably high, as are the fertilizers and chemicals that are absolutely required to grow GM. Researchers continue to reject GM foods citing concerns of their serious health risks.

GM will not feed the world [PDF] The GM story as told by the Biotech giants paints the future as a happy and prosperous place: Farmers are profitable, everyone is well fed and the environment is protected.

The real GM story is not so happy. It is a story of market control, environmental degradation and deceived farmers and consumers.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Jim Goodman is an organic dairy farmer in Wisconsin and board member of Family Farm Defenders. He blogs for the National Family Farm Coalition. Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

  1. Philip
    There is an interesting article at the Skeptic’s Health Journal Club about a former Pfizer microbiologist who claims she was infected during research by a genetically modified virus and is suing Pfizer. If you are interested there is more on it here,

    http://healthjournalclub.blogspot.com/
  2. Judy
    I see a future where the fields grow beautiful green crops with beautiful green foliage but yet they yield no food because they have been so genetically motified that the DNA inside the cells of the plants is confused and doesn't know to produce food.

More from

Farm Bill

Featured

Olivia Kamei Myrick crafting sake at Sequoia Sake in San Francisco.

Civil Eats TV: Women Brewing Change at Sequoia Sake

Of the three female craft sake brewers in the U.S., two make up the mother-daughter team at Sequoia Sake in San Francisco. Working with California rice farmers, they’re bringing the nearly 2,000-year-old national drink of Japan to more Americans.

Popular

Will New Standards for Salmonella in Chicken Cut Down on Food Poisoning?

A raw whole chicken on a tray to illustrate the risks of salmonella in chicken

This Pastor Wants to Recreate a Black Farming Paradise in California

Allensworth, California (Photo credit: Wayne Hsieh via Flickr)

Op-ed: Is There Plastic in Your Soda? Beverage Companies Must Go Beyond Recycling

a worker stands in front of a massive pile of plastic bottles destined to be recycled

‘Slow Cooked’: How Food Policy Expert Marion Nestle Persisted

A collage of Marion Nestle present-day and the cover of her new memoir, slow cooked