Corrente

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Some farmers in the Midwest reverting to non-GMO seed as a business decision

Modern Farmer:

“Five years ago the traits worked,” says the strongly built [Chris Huegerich], who followed in his father’s footsteps and planted GMO seeds. “I didn’t have corn rootworm because of the Bt gene, and I used less pesticide. Now, the worms are adjusting, and the weeds are resistant. Mother Nature adapts.”

Staring at a future of lower corn prices and higher inputs, Huegerich decided to experiment. Two years ago, he planted 320 acres of conventional corn and 1,700 with GMO corn. To his delight, the conventional fields yielded 15 to 30 more bushels per acre than the GMO fields, with a profit margin of up to $100 more per acre. And so in 2013, he upped the ante, ordering six varieties of conventional seeds for close to 750 acres and GMOs for his remaining acres.

Hugerich Isn’t the only farmer retreating from GMO seeds. In pockets across the nation, commodity growers are becoming fed up with traits that don’t work like they used to. Not only are the seeds expensive (GMO corn can cost $150 more per bag than conventional corn), they’re also driving farmers to buy and apply more chemicals. During the growing season, Huegerich sprays both his conventional and his GMO corn twice with herbicides and twice with pesticides, despite the GMO’s theoretical resistance to rootworm. “It gives me peace of mind,” Huegerich says. Between 2001 and 2010, the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch reports, total on-farm herbicide use increased 26 percent as weed resistance grew. Today, 61.2 million acres of cropland, including many of Huegerich’s, are plagued by glyphosate-resistant weeds.

More pesticides isn't a bug. It's a feature.

NOTE It looks like seed sales people are just like pharma sales people, except you go to the same church with them:

[W]inning converts to conventional corn can be an uphill slog. Post-harvest, farmers face a barrage of TV and print ads touting the latest seed technology. There’s a subtler psychology at work, too. Farmers have close relationships with their seed dealers, who often live nearby and keep them company at local baseball games, PTA meetings or church. “You can’t break up with them,” Bloom says, noting that seed dealers work on commission. DuPont Pioneer, for example, offers him a non-GMO corn for $180 a bag, while Wyffels Hybrids sold the same for $115 a bag last year.

Why does Pioneer charge so much? Because it doesn’t want lower-priced conventional seed to lure customers away from GMOs. Bloom says a company dealer confessed: “We don’t want our farmers to buy it.”

And people do want to be nice....