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Post GMO agriculture: Are some farmers turning away from high tech crops?

| December 10, 2013
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

In pockets across the nation, commodity growers are embracing conventionally grown corn, due to consumer and market pressure and genetically modified traits that “don’t work like they used to.”

Farmers like Chris Huegerich, who owns 2,800 acres in central Iowa, have been planting conventionally bred corn because genetically modified traits like herbicide and pest resistance are not as effective as they used to be. Last year, Heugerich planted 320 acres of conventional corn and 1700 acres of GM corn. The conventional fields yielded 15-30 more bushels per acre than the GM fields, with a profit margin of up to $100 per acre.

“Five years ago the traits worked,” says Huegerich, “Now, the [bollworms] are adjusting, and the weeds are resistant.”

Crop consultant Aaron Bloom has been experimenting with non-GM varieties of corn for five years, and says that he gets “the same or better yields” compared to GM varieties. He also saves money on conventional seeds that don’t cost as much as genetically modified seeds.

Conventional seed growers can also charge a premium. Farmers who live near river systems that send conventional grain to GMO-averse markets charge one to two dollars extra per bushel, to ensure that the supply–from harvest, to storage, to transportation–does not become mixed with GM strains. Huegerich doesn’t live near a river, but he does sell to a plant that converts his corn crop into plastics. He gets a fifty-cent-per-bushel premium for his conventional corn.

Smaller companies that specialize in non-GM seeds are carving out a niche into the budding market. Companies like eMerge Genetics and Spectrum Seed Solutions, both based in the Midwest ‘grain belt,’ have seen business rise significantly in the last five years. Ken Roseboro, editor of the Organic & Non-GMO Report, surveyed 10 smaller companies that focus on conventional seed and found that each saw an increase in demand.

Still, Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer say that their sales are trending upward. Aaron Blooms admits that “winning converts to conventional corn” can be an uphill slog because farmers think that growing conventional corn uses more resources.

The US Department of Agriculture reports that in 2013, 90% of corn grown in the US was genetically modified.

Read the full, original story: The Post-GMO Economy

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The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

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