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.

Thank you for being a loyal reader.

We rely on you. Become a member today to read unlimited stories.

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.

Get the latest. Delivered every week.

We rely on you. Become a member today to read unlimited stories.

Avatar

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.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  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

Popular

Op-ed: What the Farmers’ Revolution in India Says About Big Ag in the US and Worldwide

Farmers participate in a candlelight vigil on New Year's Eve on a highway leading to Delhi on the Gaziabad border on December 31, 2020 in Delhi, India. (Photo by Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images)

Op-ed: We Need to Get Food Industry Dollars Out of Politics to Save Our Democracy

A photo of a bunch of soda cans from above, representing big food and junk food

Grocery Stores Continue to Push Back Against Hazard Pay for Workers

A grocery worker behind plexiglas and with masks during covid

How a Food Business Incubator Is Building Black Economic Strength in Minnesota

the little africa market parade put on by the aeds