View from an Iowa farm: In choosing seeds, ‘I’m no pawn of Monsanto’

Winter allows a bit of downtime for most farmers. We use it to look back on the prior year and to make plans for the next. We learn from mistakes, failures and successes and attempt to make sense of it all. Personally, I think of each growing season as a clean slate to test out theories and debunk some popular myths about how a corn or soybean plant creates maximum yield. It’s also a time when we get to make the choices about what to plant, where to plant it and what seed to use in each situation. It’s often a very personal and private decision.

I put on some Stevie Ray Vaughn, pull up a mountain of reports, yield data, my own yield maps, spreadsheets, drink lots of coffee, fire up the old adding machine and go at it. You see, our decisions are based on dollars and cents as well as market demand. Each decision must make the most sense to our bottom line and align with the goals we have for land stewardship. It’s a burdensome responsibility. The right decision assures future success for the farming business, puts food on the table for our family and hundreds more, helps ensure the land will yield its bounty for years to come and allows us the income to enjoy life as a family. The wrong decisions can be disastrous.

If you believe many of the cyber-arguments, the seed and chemical company Monsanto has control over what farmers do, say, plant, etc. I’ve been told by denizens of the online forums that Monsanto “controls” farmers. I suppose the company may have secretly adapted some sort of Vulcan mind-meld without our knowledge. Hmmm…… Nope. Maybe Monsanto has some really deep pockets and influential people working for it to tell every commercial farming operation what to do. It’s a daunting task, I’m sure, but completely baseless. No, really, spend some time on the Monsanto Facebook page and read the comments.

This Monsanto-hate is pretty funny, actually. Sometimes I think the critics mistake Monsanto for the Illuminati, a darkly secret society that has influence over every aspect of our lives and has plans for world domination by killing everyone but the chosen few.  That’s a discussion for another time. You see, we farmers are a pretty independent bunch. Just ask our wives. If you tell us to do “A”, we’ll sometimes find a way to do “B” instead, simply because you TOLD us to do “A”. It’s in our blood, our nature. I think my wife truly believes it requires a genetic anomaly to be a farmer.

Besides, Monsanto isn’t the only game in town and has less influence than many think. Some years, they are not even the biggest player. The market share shifts from time to time between several players, depending on product performance, sales programs, and to a small degree company image.. People who think Monsanto is the only game must really tick off DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, Agriliant, and the smaller regional companies. Those poor souls don’t even get an honorable mention in the seed industry from the anti-GMO crowd. I’m pretty sure they think they have some pretty good the products out there, but get no love from the anti’s. Oh well. They’re probably happy that Monsanto has the biggest target.

There are no seed company minions running around out here in the countryside telling us what to do. Sorry to disappoint some, but it simply does not happen. If someone from Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, whomever would come into my office and tell me what to do, he would likely get a tongue lashing that would make a sailor blush, then summarily be told were to put that opinion, and to get the hell out or be removed. By me. Without a shadow of a doubt this would happen, and has.

So, what does influence my decision? Actually, it’s pretty simple and no great secret. You see, I’m a no-nonsense dollars and cents, ‘just the facts’ kind of guy. When the seed salesmen come around each year, we will sit down and have a conversation about what he learned, and what I knew. I’d ask for data, tons of data, then the conversation is over. On goes the Stevie Ray Vaughn, probably something from “Double Trouble” or anything live, and I fire up the coffee pot. I will occasionally call with a specific question on disease resistance or best population for a certain hybrid, but I don’t leave much room for someone “selling” me.

When the decision is made, I call the salesman and tell him the seed order is finalized. He will come in, we might have a brief discussion about supply, or if anything new has arisen that I need to know. Then I usually slide over a slip of paper. On that paper is written a list, my order, of each variety or hybrid I want to plant and how much. At that point, there is no more discussion. End of story. That’s how the decision process goes for me and most farmers that I know. We don’t want to be “sold”; we just want the information to make our own decision. Some farmers can be influenced a bit more than others, but in the end it is a personal decision to buy or not to buy from any particular company.

It’s a dollars and cents on the bottom line kind of thought process that drives the decision. Will non-GMO corn or soy add more to our bottom line in 2014, or not? The economics of it will shift from year to year with available crop premiums, chemical costs and my general willingness to scout, treat, and put in a higher level of management. I’ve never felt pressured to buy a particular type of seed, GMO or not, from Monsanto or any other seed company. I buy what’s best for my farm for this year’s circumstances. Next year it could be different.

For our operation this spring it will be the traited seed, or GMO seed, that I think will have the best impact on the bottom line and the least impact on the environment. The last time we set up a comparison of Bt corn vs non-Bt corn and measured it strictly for yield, the Bt showed a +14bu/ac advantage mainly due to corn borer damage in the non-Bt hybrid. At the current price, that’s about $60/acre. Sure the GMO seed costs more, but adjusting for that, Bt still has a significant advantage in profit per acre. It protects the yield against pests that we might have to use non-selective insecticides to control. It allows us to use more environmentally friendly herbicides and reduce the amount of tillage used to control weeds. Reduced tillage in turn reduces soil erosion and allows us to sequester more carbon in the soil. Reducing tillage saves me wear and tear on the machinery and equipment, saves labor, and saves diesel. It’s a win-win, really, and one that those in the green movement are just starting to realize–or I hope they are.

Next year, the economics of the decision may change and we could plant more non-GMO corn or soybeans. It’s a decision that we re-visit each year. It’s our decision to plant the brand of seed that we feel gives us the best chance of a financially successful season. It’s our decision to plant the brand of seed we want, the crops we choose to, GMO, non-GMO, or if we want to switch our operation to organic.

In the end, it’s a choice that we are free to make and it’s our personal choice. We are not pawns of some Illuminati-like seed and chemical company.

I’m fine with that.

Dave Walton, a contributing columnist to the GLP, is a full-time farmer in Cedar County, Iowa growing GM and non-GM corn, soybeans, alfalfa and pasture on about 500 acres of the world’s most productive soil.

46 thoughts on “View from an Iowa farm: In choosing seeds, ‘I’m no pawn of Monsanto’”

  1. There seems to be a persistent perception that the introduction of GE varieties somehow ended the practice of seed saving. That the technology use agreement contractually binding the producer not to replant harvested seed is a novel development, that before GE, farmers commonly saved seed, or at least had complete freedom to do so. Many people reason that it is economically irrational for a producer to incur the cost of purchasing seed each year when they can save seeds for free. Therefore, if farmers purchase seed each year, it must be because they are coerced to do so in some manner. The public then takes the next logical step that are dependant on seed companies for seed supplies, it confers a lot of control to the Monsantos of the world over our food and Monsanto is only interested in its bottom line, not necessarily what is good for farmers or consumers. There is also the confusion that somehow Monsanto owns the farmers crop when in reality the seed companies merely own the right to utilize the genetic traits for propogation.
    I appreciate you explaining that the decision of which variety to plant is an economic one, and that farmers make planting and purchasing decisions based on what is the most advantageous to them. A lot of the public does not understand that non-gmo varieties also come with replanting restrictions. Also, there are also non restricted varieties in the public domain, and even currently patented genetics will eventually be public domain (roundup ready becomes public domain this year). Like any decision any one of us might make, a farmer would not chose to plant seeds that cost more and come with restrictions on planting unless the gains offset these disadvantages. Even where seed saving would be legal and viable, the decision to save seeds has to be weighed against the opportunity cost of foregoing beneficial genetics, which may include yield advantages, disease resistance, etc, as well as a preference for pure seeds as saved seeds may acquire inferior traits and genetic drift. You also forego the yield advantage that comes with hybrid vigor, and it doesn’t make sense to replant hybrid varieties anyway. You also forego the income that you could have gotten from the saved seeds.
    There are many logical and rational reasons why a producer would choose to purchase seeds each year. But farmers saving seed and lovingly developing heirloom varieties is a romantic notion and a powerful and appealing cultural concept.

  2. Thanks for this. I think what most people don’t understand is that the sales of seeds or other products to a farmer is a business-to-business transaction which is nothing like consumer marketing. When an ag company like Monsanto or any of the others develops a marketing strategy its all about how much value is created for the farmer and how to demonstrate that with real data

  3. Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers

    Earth Open Source press release 17 June 2012

    Aren’t critics of genetically engineered food anti-science? Isn’t the debate over GMOs (genetically modified organisms) a spat between emotional but ignorant activists on one hand and rational GM-supporting scientists on the other?

    A new report released today, “GMO Myths and Truths”,[1] challenges these claims. The report presents a large body of peer-reviewed scientific and other authoritative evidence of the hazards to health and the environment posed by genetically engineered crops and organisms (GMOs).

    Unusually, the initiative for the report came not from campaigners but from two genetic engineers who believe there are good scientific reasons to be wary of GM foods and crops.

    One of the report’s authors, Dr Michael Antoniou of King’s College London School of Medicine in the UK, uses genetic engineering for medical applications but warns against its use in developing crops for human food and animal feed.

    Dr Antoniou said: “GM crops are promoted on the basis of ambitious claims – that they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce reliance on pesticides, and can help solve world hunger.

    “I felt what was needed was a collation of the evidence that addresses the technology from a scientific point of view.

    “Research studies show that genetically modified crops have harmful effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials and on the environment during cultivation. They have increased the use of pesticides and have failed to increase yields. Our report concludes that there are safer and more effective alternatives to meeting the world’s food needs.”

    Another author of the report, Dr John Fagan, is a former genetic engineer who in 1994 returned to the National Institutes of Health $614,000 in grant money due to concerns about the safety and ethics of the technology. He subsequently founded a GMO testing company.

    Dr Fagan said: “Crop genetic engineering as practiced today is a crude, imprecise, and outmoded technology. It can create unexpected toxins or allergens in foods and affect their nutritional value. Recent advances point to better ways of using our knowledge of genomics to improve food crops, that do not involve GM.

    “Over 75% of all GM crops are engineered to tolerate being sprayed with herbicide. This has led to the spread of herbicide-resistant superweeds and has resulted in massively increased exposure of farmers and communities to these toxic chemicals. Epidemiological studies suggest a link between herbicide use and birth defects and cancer.

    “These findings fundamentally challenge the utility and safety of GM crops, but the biotech industry uses its influence to block research by independent scientists and uses its powerful PR machine to discredit independent scientists whose findings challenge this approach.”

    The third author of the report, Claire Robinson, research director of Earth Open Source, said, “The GM industry is trying to change our food supply in far-reaching and potentially dangerous ways. We all need to inform ourselves about what is going on and ensure that we – not biotechnology companies – keep control of our food system and crop seeds.

    “We hope our report will contribute to a broader understanding of GM crops and the sustainable alternatives that are already working successfully for farmers and communities.”


    The report, “GMO Myths and Truths, An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops”, by Michael Antoniou, PhD, Claire Robinson, and John Fagan, PhD is published by Earth Open Source (June 2012). The report is 123 pages long and contains over 600 citations, many of them from the peer-reviewed scientific literature and the rest from reports by scientists, physicians, government bodies, industry, and the media. The report is available here:

    A shorter summary version will be released in the coming weeks.

    Key points from the report

    Genetic engineering as used in crop development is not precise or predictable and has not been shown to be safe. The technique can result in the unexpected production of toxins or allergens in food that are unlikely to be spotted in current regulatory checks.

    GM crops, including some that are already in our food and animal feed supply, have shown clear signs of toxicity in animal feeding trials – notably disturbances in liver and kidney function and immune responses.

    GM proponents have dismissed these statistically significant findings as “not biologically relevant/significant”, based on scientifically indefensible arguments.

    Certain EU-commissioned animal feeding trials with GM foods and crops are often claimed by GM proponents to show they are safe. In fact, examination of these studies shows significant differences between the GM-fed and control animals that give cause for concern.

    GM foods have not been properly tested in humans, but the few studies that have been carried out in humans give cause for concern.

    The US FDA does not require mandatory safety testing of GM crops, and does not even assess the safety of GM crops but only “deregulates” them, based on assurances from biotech companies that they are “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts. This is like claiming that a cow with BSE is substantially equivalent to a cow that does not have BSE and is thus safe to eat! Claims of substantial equivalence cannot be justified on scientific grounds.

    The regulatory regime for GM foods is weakest in the US, where GM foods do not even have to be assessed for safety or labelled in the marketplace, but in most regions of the world regulations are inadequate to protect people’s health from the potential adverse effects of GM foods.

    In the EU, where the regulatory system is often claimed to be strict, minimal pre-market testing is required for a GMO and the tests are commissioned by the same companies that stand to profit from the GMO if it is approved – a clear conflict of interest.

    No long-term toxicological testing of GMOs on animals or testing on humans is required by any regulatory agency in the world.

    Biotech companies have used patent claims and intellectual property protection laws to restrict access of independent researchers to GM crops for research purposes. As a result, limited research has been conducted on GM foods and crops by scientists who are independent of the GM industry. Scientists whose work has raised concerns about the safety of GMOs have been attacked and discredited in orchestrated campaigns by GM crop promoters.

    Most GM crops (over 75%) are engineered to tolerate applications of herbicides. Where such GM crops have been adopted, they have led to massive increases in herbicide use.

    Roundup, the herbicide that over 50% of all GM crops are engineered to tolerate, is not safe or benign as has been claimed but has been found to cause malformations (birth defects), reproductive problems, DNA damage, and cancer in test animals. Human epidemiological studies have found an association between Roundup exposure and miscarriage, birth defects, neurological development problems, DNA damage, and certain types of cancer.

    A public health crisis has erupted in GM soy-producing regions of South America, where people exposed to spraying with Roundup and other agrochemicals sprayed on the crop report escalating rates of birth defects and cancer.

    A large number of studies indicate that Roundup is associated with increased crop diseases, especially infection with Fusarium, a fungus that causes wilt disease in soy and can have toxic effects on humans and livestock.

    Bt insecticidal GM crops do not sustainably reduce pesticide use but change the way in which pesticides are used: from sprayed on, to built in.

    Bt technology is proving unsustainable as pests evolve resistance to the toxin and secondary pest infestations are becoming common.

    GM proponents claim that the Bt toxin engineered into GM plants is safe because the natural form of Bt, long used as a spray by conventional and organic farmers, has a history of safe use. But the GM forms of Bt toxins are different from the natural forms and could have different toxic and allergenic effects.

    GM Bt toxin is not limited in its toxicity to insect pests. GM Bt crops have been found to have toxic effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials.

    GM Bt crops have been found to have toxic effects on non-target organisms in the environment.

    Bt toxin is not fully broken down in digestion and has been found circulating in the blood of pregnant women in Canada and in the blood supply to their foetuses.

    The no-till method of farming promoted with GM herbicide-tolerant crops, which avoids ploughing and uses herbicides to control weeds, is not more climate-friendly than ploughing. No-till fields do not store more carbon in the soil than ploughed fields when deeper levels of soil are measured.

    No-till increases the negative environmental impacts of soy cultivation, because of the herbicides used.

    Golden Rice, a beta-carotene-enriched rice, is promoted as a GM crop that could help malnourished people overcome vitamin A deficiency. But Golden Rice has not been tested for toxicological safety, has been plagued by basic development problems, and, after more than 12 years and millions of dollars of research funding, is still not ready for the market. Meanwhile, inexpensive and effective solutions to vitamin A deficiency are available but under-used due to lack of funding.

    GM crops are often promoted as a “vital tool in the toolbox” to feed the world’s growing population, but many experts question the contribution they could make, as they do not offer higher yields or cope better with drought than non-GM crops. Most GM crops are engineered to tolerate herbicides or to contain a pesticide – traits that are irrelevant to feeding the hungry.

    High adoption of GM crops among farmers is not a sign that the GM crop is superior to non-GM varieties, as once GM companies gain control of the seed market, they withdraw non-GM seed varieties from the market. The notion of “farmer choice” does not apply in this situation.

    GM contamination of non-GM and organic crops has resulted in massive financial losses by the food and feed industry, involving product recalls, lawsuits, and lost markets.

    When many people read about high-yielding, pest- and disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, and nutritionally improved super-crops, they think of GM. In fact, these are all products of conventional breeding, which continues to outstrip GM in producing such crops. The report contains a long list of these conventional crop breeding successes.

    Certain “supercrops” have been claimed to be GM successes when in fact they are products of conventional breeding, in some cases assisted by the non-GM biotechnology of marker assisted selection.

    Conventional plant breeding, with the help of non-GM biotechnologies such as marker assisted selection, is a safer and more powerful method than GM to produce new crop varieties required to meet current and future needs of food production, especially in the face of rapid climate change.

    Conventionally bred, locally adapted crops, used in combination with agroecological farming practices, offer a proven, sustainable approach to ensuring global food security.

    About the authors

    Michael Antoniou, PhD is reader in molecular genetics and head, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London School of Medicine, London, UK. He has 28 years’ experience in the use of genetic engineering technology investigating gene organisation and control, with over 40 peer reviewed publications of original work, and holds inventor status on a number of gene expression biotechnology patents. Dr Antoniou has a large network of collaborators in industry and academia who are making use of his discoveries in gene control mechanisms for the production of research, diagnostic and therapeutic products and human somatic gene therapies for inherited and acquired genetic disorders.

    John Fagan, PhD is a leading authority on sustainability in the food system, biosafety, and GMO testing. He is founder and chief scientific officer of a GMO testing and certification company. He is a director of Earth Open Source. Earlier, he conducted cancer research at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and in academia. He holds a PhD in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology from Cornell University.

    Dr Fagan became an early voice in the scientific debate on genetic engineering when in 1994 he took an ethical stand challenging the use of germline gene therapy (which has subsequently been banned in most countries) and genetic engineering in agriculture. He underlined his concerns by returning a grant of around $614,000 to the US National Institutes of Health, awarded for cancer research that used genetic engineering as a research tool. He was concerned that knowledge generated in his research could potentially be misused to advance human germline genetic engineering (for example, to create “designer babies”), which he found unacceptable on grounds of both safety and ethics. For similar reasons, around the same time, he withdrew applications for two additional grants totalling $1.25 million from the NIH and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). In 1996 he founded one of the pioneering GMO testing and certification companies after realising that this could be useful to assist industry in providing consumers with the transparency that they desired regarding the presence of GMOs in foods.

    Claire Robinson, MPhil is research director at Earth Open Source. She has a background in investigative reporting and the communication of topics relating to public health, science and policy, and the environment. She is an editor at GMWatch (, a public information service on issues relating to genetic modification, and was formerly managing editor at SpinProfiles (now Powerbase).

    – See more at:

    • This is bologna, head claims of of “different bt gene is just plain false, same with claims of cancer and animal safety. To say that it hasn’t been tested is an out right lie and the blowing off your mouth about super weeds shows a complete ignorance of farming in general. ( all weeds eventually become resistant to a certain herbicide.). These claims of roundup causing birth defects and such is just completely untrue and the person that claim it have time again shown a complete disregard for science, real science and have never come forward with any facts to back up their ridiculous claims. You are just a shrill for the uneducated.

        • Your links are BS and prove nothing. Nothing but overblown falsehoods that have been debunked in the science world because of major flaws in method and not being able to be replicated. The French study is case in point, but that doesn’t stop idiots like you from reposting such outrageous lies. Try going to real science pages like Bio fortified and the GMO pundit. Tell me, how do we know that’s your real name and explain to me how that matters.

          • You brought the typical paid commentary B.S., and that you walk on your hind legs is an insult to the human race.

          • Again, you can’t supply facts so you go for the insult.

            I am an artist, and not employed or paid by any agri chemical company.

            I am glad I am not as ignorant and abusive as you are. Do you know you sound like a pre teen on the school yard?

            Does it say something, he LIKES his own posts.

          • Tell you what, since you believe it’s SO good:

            1) The “Lease Agreement” should be removed, and Monsanto’s Seeds, Feed, and Chemicals should have to compete on an open market WITHOUT the numerous Tax Loopholes and Subsidies it currently has-that’s FAIR and AMERICAN, right?

            2) No more BS about Labeling-if it’s SO okay-they should be proud to announce it’s in the food.

            3) All the whining Grocery chains shouldn’t really have “under the table” money pushing them to push such products.

            4) No more PAC money to Congress.

            5) No more ex-Monsanto Execs in high Government Posts[or for that matter from ANY Big Business, Wall Street Investment House, or Global Bank-they’re all stealing us blind].

            6) Since you buy into all that handsomely paid for propaganda…er…research, please eat all you can.

            In fact, I would like you to put yourself on the front lines, and exclusively eat only foods with GM ingredients.

            Of course, for safety’s sake, you should have a Physician Monitor you, and make sure you get ALL your Vaccines, as Monsanto contributes ingredients for them, too.

            Seriously, Monsanto on a level playing field?

            It wouldn’t make it to the end of the decade.

          • Why should it be removed? It is no different than the agreements on a lot of software.

            Did you know that Monsanto was not the first to use such an agreement? Harry Stine an independent soybean breeder in Iowa bound Monsanto to a similar agreement.


            2) The seeds are labeled, that is ALL that is needed. There is no mandatory labeling for any process.

            Not only that but there is no test that can tell GMO sugar beet sugar from conventional sugar beet sugar. Why is labeling needed? The product is the same.

            3) Monsanto doesn’t produce food products, only seed, so why is this a problem to you?

            4)Why only in seed industry?

            5) Can you show evidence that any of them have favored Monsanto? (I know you can’t)

            6) Why would I choose to eat such a limited diet? It would not be healthy to eat a diet of only organic corn, soy beans, canola oil, squash and papaya.

            Do you think that would be a balanced diet?

            BTW, I am 63 and I have NO diet related health problems, and my diet is high in pork and low in fruits and veggies.

            Why don’t you try LEARNING about what you are opposing instead of repeating what you have been TOLD by your organic guru.

            Farmers CHOOSE GMO seeds —did you know that Monsanto doesn’t even have a majority share of that market? Other companies produce GMO seed as well.

          • While it would SOUND to the totally clueless, that you answered back, regurgitating the same old talking points as “rebuttal” hardly qualifies.

            There are no legal INDEPENDENT studies of these Seeds in the US, as Monsanto [the other companies licensed their patents, some of which have expired-which could be a legal deal-breaker for disgruntles farmers, if the significance ever occurs to them…] is still able to use the excuse of the information being proprietary.

            So, aside from some emerging issues with Glyphosate and it’s adjuvants, most non-supporting Peer-Reviewed Studies, Articles and Papers come from overseas-which immediately get squelched one way or another here.

            However, as nation after nation kicks Monsanto out, demands labeling [64 and counting] and/or refuses products with GMO’s altogether, American Consumers are wising up.

            Monsanto’s days are numbered.

            They persist in the use of out-dated tech-even admitting that gene-editing without insertion of foreign material IS the preferable way to go.

            They have pretty much strong-armed the Government into approving 2,4-D for commercial use despite the fact there are already a number of weeds resistant to it, and it’s use as a base component for Agent Orange is STILL in litigation, even as this is being deployed.

            It is now, was and portends to be ALL about the money…which, along with time, is quickly running out.

            Grant has a private police force to shore up security at Creve Ceour, but should still consider the closing scene from the 1930’s Classic “Frankenstein” as a picture of his future…if the fracking destabilizing the New Madrid Fault doesn’t get him and Muscatine first.

          • Did you bother to check my links out? There were INDEPENDENT studies from the EU and more from the US.

            Why are you IGNORING them? I guess because it doesn’t fit you belief system.

            Here they are AGAIN. Try checking them out.

            A Decade of EU-funded GMO Research


            BioFortified’s Independent Studies

            Much of the rest of your post is a Gish Gallop of misinformation and pure bunk.

            2-4D is NOT agent orange. Never was. Agent Orange was not developed by Monsanto, it was developed by the Brits in the 50s. Monsanto was one of 8 companies that produced it for the military with a process that they had warned the military about, because it could cause some batches to be contaminated with dioxin.

            BTW, fracking can’t destabilize the New Madrid fault. It seems your knowledge of geology is even worse than your understanding of biology and farming


          • YET, Monsanto got it approved, manufactured and distributed it. And while the EU is waffling away from Biotech, the UK continues to be Monsanto’s Chief Apologist across the pond, and the big money, grants and contributions fuel those “Independent Researches” you cite. We ALL know it.

            It’s the same in Australia and the Government official stance in Canada. It WAS in India, but it looks like they’re “wandering-or more aptly WONDERING off the reservation”.

            There’s NOTHING you can argue to change my view. My health has been serious compromised by the crap, I seriously doubt you would exclusively eat for a year. Your lame deflection was noted and snickered at.

            And the Fracking in Southern Illinois NOT being a destabilizing factor:

            The USGS disagrees:

            Man-Made Earthquakes Update

            POSTED ON JANUARY 17, 2014 AT 1:00 PM
            LAST UPDATE 2:03 PM BY: WILLIAM ELLSWORTH ([email protected]), JESSICA ROBERTSON ([email protected]), AND CHRISTOPHER HOOK (703-648-4460)

            Seismicity of the coterminous United States and surrounding regions, 2009–2012. Black dots denote earthquakes with a magnitude ≥ 3.0 are shown; larger dots denote events with a magnitude ≥ 4.0. Background colors indicate earthquake hazard levels from the U.S. National Seismic Hazard Map (NSHM). Learn more about the NSHM at

            The number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States. Nearly 450 earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and larger occurred in the four years from 2010-2013, over 100 per year on average, compared with an average rate of 20 earthquakes per year observed from 1970-2000.

            This increase in earthquakes prompts two important questions: Are they natural, or man-made? And what should be done in the future as we address the causes and consequences of these events to reduce associated risks? USGS scientists have been analyzing the changes in the rate of earthquakes as well as the likely causes, and they have some answers.

            USGS scientists have found that at some locations the increase in seismicity coincides with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells. Much of this wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production and is routinely disposed of by injection into wells specifically designed for this purpose.

            Review Article on Injection-Induced Earthquakes

            U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist William Ellsworth reviewed the issue of injection-induced earthquakes in a July 2013 study published in the journal Science. The article focused on the injection of fluids into deep wells as a common practice for disposal of wastewater, and discusses recent events and key scientific challenges for assessing this hazard and moving forward to reduce associated risks.

            What is Induced Seismicity?

            Although it may seem like science fiction, man-made earthquakes have been a reality for decades. It has long been understood that earthquakes can be induced by impoundment of water in reservoirs, surface and underground mining, withdrawal of fluids and gas from the subsurface, and injection of fluids into underground formations.

            Cumulative count of earthquakes with a magnitude ≥ 3.0 in the central and eastern United States,1970-2013. The dashed line corresponds to the long-term rate of 20.2 earthquakes per year, with an increase in the rate of earthquake events starting around 2009.

            What is Wastewater Disposal?

            Water that is salty or polluted by chemicals needs to be disposed of in a manner that prevents it from contaminating freshwater sources. Often, it is most economical to geologically sequester such wastewater by injecting it underground, deep below any aquifers that provide drinking water.

            Wastewater can result from a variety of processes, including those related to energy production. For example, water is usually present in rock formations containing oil and gas and therefore will be co-produced during oil and gas production. Wastewater can also occur as flow back from hydraulic fracturing operations that involve injecting water under high pressure into a rock formation to stimulate the movement of oil and gas to a well for production.

            Wastewater injection increases the underground pore pressure, which may, in effect, lubricate nearby faults thereby weakening them. If the pore pressure increases enough, the weakened fault will slip, releasing stored tectonic stress in the form of an earthquake. Even faults that have not moved in millions of years can be made to slip and cause an earthquake if conditions underground are appropriate.

            Although the disposal process has the potential to trigger earthquakes, not every wastewater disposal well produces earthquakes. In fact, very few of the more than 30,000 wells designed for this purpose appear to cause earthquakes.

            Hydraulic Fracturing

            Many questions have been raised about whether hydraulic fracturing — commonly known as “fracking”— is responsible for the recent increase of earthquakes. USGS’s studies suggest that the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only very rarely the direct cause of felt earthquakes. While hydraulic fracturing works by making thousands of extremely small “microearthquakes,” they are, with just a few exceptions, too small to be felt; none have been large enough to cause structural damage. As noted previously, underground disposal of wastewater co-produced with oil and gas, enabled by hydraulic fracturing operations, has been linked to induced earthquakes.

            Unknowns and Questions Moving Forward

            House damage in central Oklahoma from the magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Nov. 6, 2011. Research conducted by USGS geophysicist Elizabeth Cochran and her university-based colleagues suggests that this earthquake was induced by injection into deep disposal wells in the Wilzetta North field. Learn more about that research at: Photo Credit: Brian Sherrod, USGS.

            USGS scientists are dedicated to gaining a better understanding of the geological conditions and industrial practices associated with induced earthquakes, and to determining how seismic risk can be managed.

            One risk-management approach highlighted in Ellsworth’s article involves the setting of seismic activity thresholds for safe operation. Under this “traffic-light” system, if seismic activity exceeds preset thresholds, reductions in injection would be made. If seismicity continues or escalates, operations could be suspended.

            The current regulatory framework for wastewater disposal wells was designed to protect drinking water sources from contamination and does not address earthquake safety. Ellsworth noted that one consequence is that both the quantity and timeliness of information on injection volumes and pressures reported to the regulatory agencies is far from ideal for managing earthquake risk from injection activities.

            Thus, improvements in the collection and reporting of injection data to regulatory agencies would provide much-needed information on conditions potentially associated with induced seismicity. In particular, said Ellsworth, daily reporting of injection volumes, and peak and average injection pressures would be a step in the right direction, as would measurement of the pre-injection water pressure and tectonic stress.

            Importance of Understanding Hazards and Risks

            There is a growing interest in understanding the risks associated with injection-induced earthquakes, especially in the areas of the country where, before the modern boom in oil and gas production, earthquakes large enough to be felt were rare.

            For example, wastewater disposal appears to be related to the magnitude-5.6 earthquake that struck rural central Oklahoma in 2011 leading to a few injuries and damage to more than a dozen homes. Damage from an earthquake of this magnitude would be much worse if it were to happen in a more densely populated area.

            The USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) have conducted research quantifying the changes in earthquake rate in the Oklahoma City region, assessing and evaluating possible links between these earthquakes and wastewater disposal related to oil and gas production activities in the region. In a joint statement {}, USGS and OGS identified wastewater injection as a contributing factor for the 2011 earthquake swarm and damaging magnitude 5.6 event.

            Studies show one to three magnitude 3.0 earthquakes or larger occurred yearly from 1975 to 2008, while the average grew to around 40 earthquakes per year from 2009 to mid-2013.

            “We’ve statistically analyzed the recent earthquake rate changes and found that they do not seem to be due to typical, random fluctuations in natural seismicity rates,” said Bill Leith, USGS seismologist. “These analyses require significant changes in both the background rate of events and earthquake triggering properties needed to have occurred to be consistent with the observed increases in seismicity. This is in contrast to what is typically found when modeling natural earthquake swarms.”

            The Oklahoma analysis suggests that a contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes occurrence may be from injection-induced seismicity from activities such as wastewater disposal. The OGS has examined the behavior of the seismicity through the state assessing the optimal fault orientations and stresses within the region of increased seismicity, particularly the unusual behavior of the swarm just east of Oklahoma City.

            Oilfield waste arrives by tanker truck at a wastewater disposal facility near Platteville, Colo. After removal of solids and oil, the wastewater is injected into a deep well for permanent storage underground. This disposal process has the potential to trigger earthquakes, but very few wastewater disposal wells produce earthquakes. No earthquakes are associated with injection at the site in this photograph.

            Start with Science

            As the use of injection for disposal of wastewater increases, the importance of knowing the associated risks also grows. To meet these challenges, the USGS hopes to increase research efforts to understand the causes and effects of injection-induced earthquakes.

            An Illinois Reader Sent This “Letter To The Editor” of the Southern, a S Illinois Newspaper:

            Voice of the Reader: Fracking causes earthquakes

            To the Editor:

            Perhaps fracking supporters who claim Illinois could experience a boom in oil and gas production similar to that in North Dakota should take a look at what fracking has done to Oklahoma.

            A recent Newsweek magazine (09-05-2014) reported that Oklahoma is now the most earthquake-prone state in America. “From 1978 until 2008, Oklahoma averaged only two earthquakes over 3.0 magnitude a year; midway through 2014, the state has already registered 230 quakes of that strength.”

            According to Newsweek, “these quakes seem to be induced by a step in the hydraulic fracturing process…the disposal of vast volumes of salty, chemical-laced waste water by injecting it deep into the ground.”

            These waste-water injection wells and the amount of fluid injected continue to grow as the fracking boom soars.

            Seismic events can be induced by abrupt changes in tectonic stress from the water’s weight causing a fault to ‘slip.’

            Scientists indicate that this explains the dramatic increase in Oklahoma’s quakes.

            Texas, Ohio and Arkansas are dealing with similar problems.

            Arkansas has imposed a moratorium on injection wells.

            Southern Illinois is in a much more precarious situation.

            Scientists tell us the New Madrid fault line will produce another major quake sooner or later.

            Let’s ban hydraulic fracturing so that this event will come later rather than sooner.

            Chuck Koerner

          • Monsanto did not improve Agent Orange. No matter how many memes you see say they did.

            Doing a C& P of something you don’t understand does not support your New Madrid conclusion. Small earthquakes on ‘dead’ shallow faults are not the same thing as the New Madrid fault. The N M fault is a VERY deep fault, that is why it has been hard to study. The deep water disposal wells are not deep enough to cause problems with it, and fracking is even more shallow.

            I wonder if you realize that with every post you make, you are showing both a lack of knowledge of science and a disdain for facts.

            It makes you weak position even weaker.

          • You simply denounce and make declarative statements across the board-who said Monsanto IMPROVED Agent Orange?

            I supplied articles, including one from the USGS-and you call bad science-so why not call THEM out on that. Let me know how THAT works out.

            As for me, I know I’m dealing with a troll. There is NOTHING I could show you that would do anything other than prompt your next scripted response.

            So, since I have more important things to do, I’ll leave this to you. You can “claim victory” to anyone who stumbles on to this thread, but you and I KNOW DIFFERENT.

          • You posted a piece discussing the shallow earthquakes that are caused by the deep disposal wells and btw, the deep geo thermal systems can do the same thing. Even water reservoirs can trigger quakes on ‘dead faults’.

            The first case of reservoir-induced seismicity occurred in 1932 in Algeria’s Oued Fodda Dam.

            The 6.3 magnitude 1967 Koynanagar Earthquake occurred in Maharashtra, India with its epicenter, fore- and aftershocks all located near or under the Koyna Dam reservoir.[4] 180 people died and 1,500 were left injured. The effects of the earthquake were felt 140 mi (230 km) away in Bombay with tremors and power outages.

            During the beginnings of the Vajont Dam in Italy, there were seismic shocks recorded during its initial fill. After a landslide almost filled the reservoir in 1963, causing a massive flooding and around 2,000 deaths, it was drained and consequently seismic activity was almost non-existent. On August 1, 1975, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake at Oroville, California, was attributed to seismicity from a large earth-fill dam and reservoir recently constructed and filled.

            The filling of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, and the Nurek Dam in Tajikistan is an example.[5] In Zambia, Kariba Lake may have provoked similar effects.

            The 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which caused approximately 68,000 deaths, is another possible example. An article in Science suggested that the construction and filling of the Zipingpu Dam may have triggered the earthquake.[6][7][8]

            Some experts worry that the Three Gorges Dam in China may cause an increase in the frequency and intensity of earthquakes.

            Waste disposal wells

            Injecting liquids into waste disposal wells, most commonly in disposing of produced water from oil and natural gas wells, has been known to cause earthquakes. This high-saline water is usually pumped into salt water disposal (SWD) wells. The resulting increase in subsurface pore pressure can trigger movement along faults, resulting in earthquakes.[11][12]

            The 2011 Oklahoma earthquake, of magnitude 5.6[13] (often reported as 5.7), which occurred after 20 years of injecting waste water into porous deep formations, is believed by some researchers to be the strongest earthquake induced by injection of material.[14] However, the Oklahoma Geological Survey believes that the quake was most likely due to natural causes, and was not triggered by waste injection

            A 2012 report from the U.S. National Research Council examined the potential for energy technologies—including shale gas recovery, carbon capture and storage, geothermal energy production, and conventional oil and gas development—to cause earthquakes.[24] The report found that only a very small fraction of injection and extraction activities among the hundreds of thousands of energy development sites in the United States have induced seismicity at levels noticeable to the public. However, although scientists understand the general mechanisms that induce seismic events, they are unable to accurately predict the magnitude or occurrence of these earthquakes due to insufficient information about the natural rock systems and a lack of validated predictive models at specific energy development sites.[25]

            The report noted that hydraulic fracturing has a low risk for inducing earthquakes that can be felt by people, but underground injection of wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing and other energy technologies has a higher risk of causing such earthquakes. In addition, carbon capture and storage—a technology for storing excess carbon dioxide underground—may have the potential for inducing seismic events, because significant volumes of fluids are injected underground over long periods of time.[25]


            Now on your other piece of nonsense.
            In 1943, the U.S. Department of the Army contracted the University of Chicago to study the effects of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T on cereal grains (including rice) and broadleaf crops. From these studies arose the concept of using aerial applications of herbicides to destroy enemy crops to disrupt their food supply. In early 1945, the U.S. Army ran tests of various 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T mixtures at the Bushnell Army Airfield in Florida, which is now listed as a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS). As a result, the U.S. began a full-scale production of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T and would have used it against Japan in 1946 during Operation Downfall if the war had continued


            The only thing someone stumbling on this exchange will see is an abusive poster that does not support their claims, and when they try to, it is clear that they have no understanding of what they posted and another calm, educated person that responded with FACTS and knowledge.

          • And here we get to the crux of the matter “..There’s NOTHING you can argue to change my view..”.
            Don’t confuse me with facts…

          • YAY – Time for the “Paid Monsanto Shill” gambit. It actually took longer than I thought it would for that one to come up.

          • God don’t you ever shut up when you are wrong?

            You have an undiagnosed mental illness. It’s side effects include conspiratorial ramblings about Jews, GMO, vaccines, and Chemtrails.

            Leave the library, go home, take a shower and dump all the glass jars of urine you have been saving down the toliet.

          • I’ll bet you were a hoot on the playground. Who asked you? What does any of that contribute to, aside from branding you as a poorly educated thug?

      • Yep…Monsanto “tested it” Michael Taylor, ex-Monsanto employee, said, “Okay…Good enough.” So, it’s “tested”. [sound of a klaxon followed by canned sit-com laughter and choking.]

    • It would help if the anti GMO ‘terrorists’ wouldn’t destroy the
      fields where Golden rice is being tested. And yes, I used the T word.
      The goal of these ‘activists’ is to make farmers AFRAID to grow GMO
      crops. That is a type of terror. I see is being close to what the KKK
      did in the south. Add to that, death threats to those that support
      GMOs and that work for companies that produce them.

      There are almost 1800 studies listed on here


      Then there are the statements by various creditable groups.

      • “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and
      during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been
      reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.” –
      American Medical Association, 2012
      • “No effects on human health have
      been shown as a result of the consumption of GM foods by the general
      population in the countries where they have been approved.” — World
      Health Organization, 2013
      • “The science is quite clear: crop
      improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is
      safe.” -American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2012

      The Royal Society of Medicine: ”Foods derived from GM crops have been
      consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more
      than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to
      human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most
      litigious of countries, the USA.” (

      The European Commission: ”The main conclusion to be drawn from the
      efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more
      than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent
      research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no
      more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.” (

      International Seed Federation: ”The development of GM crops has
      benefited farmers, consumers and the environment… Today, data shows that
      GM crops and foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts:
      millions of hectares worldwide have been cultivated with GM crops and
      billions of people have eaten GM foods without any documented harmful
      effect on human health or the environment.” (

      Consensus document on GMOs Safety (14 Italian scientific societies):
      ”GMOs on the market today, having successfully passed all the tests and
      procedures necessary to authorization, are to be considered, on the
      basis of current knowledge, safe to use for human and animal
      consumption.” (

      Society of Toxicology: ”Scientific analysis indicates that the
      process of GM food production is unlikely to lead to hazards of a
      different nature than those already familiar to toxicologists. The level
      of safety of current GM foods to consumers appears to be equivalent to
      that of traditional foods.” (

      “Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture” – Prepared by the Royal
      Society of London, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian
      Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian
      National Science Academy, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and the Third
      World Academy of Sciences:“Foods can be produced through the use of GM
      technology that are more nutritious, stable in storage, and in principle
      health promoting – bringing benefits to consumers in both
      industrialized and developing nations.” (

      French Academy of Science: ”All criticisms against GMOs can be largely rejected on strictly scientific criteria.” (

      Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities: ”Food derived
      from GM plants approved in the EU and the US poses no risks greater than
      those from the corresponding conventional food. On the contrary, in
      some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior with respect to
      health.” (

      International Council for Science: ”Currently available genetically
      modified crops – and foods derived from them – have been judged safe to
      eat, and the methods used to test them have been deemed appropriate.” (

    • Let’s see what an unbiased person thinks of your source.

      In truth, the uncontrollable spread of disinformation about GMOs is what’s really contaminating the environment. The latest, most egregious example is a report with an Orwellian title, “GMO Myths and Truths” that purports to be science-based. It was done by a UK-based nonprofit group called Earth Open Source, which

      challenges the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture on the grounds of the scientifically proven hazards that they pose to health and the environment and on the grounds of the negative social and economic impacts of these technologies.

      Here’s how their clever press release opens:

      Aren’t critics of genetically engineered food anti-science? Isn’t the debate over GMOs (genetically modified organisms) a spat between emotional but ignorant activists on one hand and rational GM-supporting scientists on the other?

      A new report released today, “GMO Myths and Truths,” challenges these claims. The report presents a large body of peer-reviewed scientific and other
      authoritative evidence of the hazards to health and the environment posed by genetically engineered crops and organisms (GMOs).

      In actuality, it’s an extended Gish Gallop that twists science in the most cynical fashion to advance an ideological agenda. If the writers of this report were smarter–if they weren’t so blinded by their own biases–they would have tried to give it an even greater sheen of credibility by not stacking the deck the way they did. That was the giveaway to me. The authors, (one who is a founding editor of an anti-GMO website) pretend to be authoritative but their skewed review of the scientific evidence leads them to conclude that GMOs are dangerous, have no redeeming value, and no utility whatsoever as an agricultural tool.

      Yep a Gish Gallop, just like your post is.

      • There are NO unbiased reports in this whole brouhaha. It’s disingenuous to even suggest it. I AM quite angrily prejudiced AGAINST the Crops AND the Business Practices of Monsanto and its little BFF’s.

    • They don’t care Randy, they’re not experienced at “life,” enough to know that being experienced on Genetic Engineered Food in the modern world of Ag, – means absolutely nothing to the long term food supplies, and especially proves they’ve bothered themselves ZERO to understand how the human body uses genetics of what is put in the human body. Again, it’s all about having lived long enough, to WITNESS THESE CATASTROPHIC EFFECTS!
      Of course they’re going to stand there and say, “it’s having no effects, human or on the foodstuffs of humankind” – they’ve not known, nor taken the time to study, the historic lessons on these matters. The scary thing is, I think we’re already too far along in erasing reality’s of old, (THE TRUTH) to where these future generations won’t even understand any historic reference points that might one day lead them back to saving their sorry “smart” asses. I’m surrounded by both. Elderly farmers who’ve either been smart enough to stay away, and a few who’ve been suckered. Side by Side proves, Monsantos CRAP has already lost its benefits, and just because it hasn’t hit every farmer who’s dumb enough to plant it, (neglecting the obvious harms they’re adding to the human species) does not mean, it’s not destroying our food supply. Interestingly, the last site I was on that was Monsanto’s advertising suckerheads, actually claimed that “traditional methods of pest control” will be needed, then the idiot/liar had a link to EPA’s site talking about “traditional pest control inside buildings?” I’m thinking, these communist idiots will do anything to make another sucker. Which is also why, communists call them all: “THEIR – USEFUL IDIOTS.” If they’d only understand they’re being used like puppets, we might be able to wake the dumb asses up.
      Then of course, they’ll un-bashfully claim they’re not the suckers they are, and go on to author some crap like this.
      It’s also easy for them to claim, “there’s no difference?” If all they’re doing is planting and disseminating toxic soybeans to their fellow humans. How many of them will look you in the face after taking a big bite of a store bought GM Tomato and tell you, “there’s no difference?” IF they do, then they’re merely publicizing the fact they’re compulsive liars. Holy smokes man, I guess they’ll need to see piles of bodies or overrun hospitals with a shortage of life saving equipment like Kidney dialysis machines etc., before they comprehend their yuppie aged ignorance is really a murderous ideological lie from the same people who’ve been trying to control the population for years.

  4. Great article, Dave. You really bring to light how we farmers make decisions from one year to the next. Due to recent weather patterns in Indiana, efficacy of Bt crops, and the fact we haven’t seen rootworm problems in our non-Bt corn and popcorn we’ll be backing off corn rootworm trait on about half of the remaining acres for 2014. This move will save us $21/acre where we plant that corn. As you say we can plant what we want and how to care for it all.

    I’ve linked your post here to a similar one on my blog.

  5. Yeah it may be a choice but your still subject to all the terms & conditions that you agree too when you sign the Stewartship agreement with the chemical company. That includes giving the company the right to come onto your property at anytime & search your grain bins or go through your seed receipts if they feel that you have somehow violated the contract in which you have signed & agreed to.

    Sure most farmers don’t violate the agreement but give companies like Monsanto a reason to search your farm & be assured they will show up & a slap a fine on you.

    Sure farmers like you have a choice but it’s only a choice as long as you agree to all the terms & conditions and sign on the dotted line.

    • Just like you agree to certain rules when you download a program or play an on line game. You can DECLINE.

      In almost 20 years of GMO, less than 175 farmers have been sued in the US and Can. They do ‘slap a fine’, they might refuse to sell you seed.

      Why don’t you look for facts instead of repeating a FB meme

      • Cairenn, Have you ever read Monsanto’s Technology/stewardship agreement before?

        Well here it is:

        “Below is a small excerpt from the agreement and yes they can come onto your land and search your bins if they feel they need to.

        To identify and allow Monsanto and its representatives access to land farmed by or at the direction of Grower (including refuge areas) and bins, wagons,
        or seed storage containers used or under the control or direction of Grower,
        for purposes of examining and taking samples of crops, crop residue or seeds located therein. Such inspection, examination or sampling shall be available
        to Monsanto and its representatives only after Monsanto’s actual (or attempted) oral communication with Grower and after at least seven (7) days prior written request by Monsanto to Grower.”

        I’m organic farmer and I don’t half to sign any agreement to buy my seed. No MATTER what the farmer is still bound by the agreement and in same way is inslaved to them. Signing the agreement is the price the farmer has to pay for the convenience of planting Roundup Ready crops

        • It’s no different, really, than a vehicle lease. If you sign an agreement to use it in a certain manner, and instead go off-road racing, you’re gonna get charged extra or sued. And you should be.

          The anti-technology crowd likes to toss up the Technology license, but have yet to see Monsanto go after ANY grower who abides by the rules. They go after those who signed the agreement and knowingly violate it, or refuse to sign it and steal the technology. Either way, I’m glad those criminals are prosecuted. Their theft is not dis-similar to the recent case of the Chinese nationals trying to steal seed genetics in the midwest.

        • I have read it and I have talked to farmers that Monsanto have questioned and they did not have a problem with it.

          The only folks that do, are those trying to evade the rules.

  6. I understand what you are saying. I did my plant biotechology a long time ago, and currently working as a biomedical researcher. But whenever I speak out against the flawed understanding of GMO food as espoused by anti-GMO crowd, I am always accused to be in the pay of monsanto, or some other company. Unsupported accusations like this effectively stop any further discussion on a topic and these anti-GMO folks thus remain ignorant of the truth.

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