Series: The Benevolent Side of GMOs
Calling all farmers!
2. Do you use any kind of genetically modified seed? Why or why not? And if so, what type(s)?
M. Bendzela/Dow Farm: No GMOs, simply because they’re not available to small farmers. I hesitate even to call myself “farmer,” which makes me think of thousands of acres and huge equipment in the Midwest (where I grew up). I’m more comfortable with “grower” or “market gardener.” I’d plant GMOs if they were available. Well, depending on what our customers thought about it, of course. Popular opinion is an issue. Most of our friends and customers are very liberal, and liberals’ marching orders demand that they hate hate hate GMOs. We’re very old-fashioned here, but I have a foot in the future as well as one in the past. Here’s how we plant potatoes (see photo below). I’d plant genetically-engineered potatoes the same way, if we could ever get them.
Potato planting at Dow Farm. Pictured are Don Essman (left) and Mike Bendzela (right).
B. Womack/Homestead Hill Farm: Presently, we do NOT use genetically modified seed. GM seeds are not available for the crops we grow. We do, however, find ourselves talking about GMOs constantly.
Our animals eat grain (and that opens a whole ‘nother can of worms…) The only options at present for feed grains are “certified organic” and well… not. Certified organic feed is at least double the cost of “not”. We have been doing this whole thing since long before GMOs became an issue and our animals have always done extremely well on regular feed, so it doesn’t seem economically prudent to make a switch. It is our customers’ concern with the whole GMO in feed thing that got me interested in researching the subject of genetically modified organisms. Since we are on a first name basis with the feed mill owner, he was my first information source when it came to GMO feed. He was astounded at the questions and concerns from our customers. He pointed out that much of the information that is constantly repeated in internet-land is totally and utterly false. While the grain we use is LOCAL, I have absolutely no idea how it is produced.
D. Wilde/West Texas Cotton Farm: I plant GM cottonseed that carry the Boll worm Resistant (Bt2) and Round Up Ready Flex (RRF) genes. The Bt2 trait makes the cotton resistant to the cotton boll worm, our major pest pressure. Once I started planting the Bt2 cottonseed, I was able to stop spraying insecticide. Since I don’t spray insecticide, the beneficial insects are now flourishing and controlling the minor pests naturally. Without the Bt2 trait, I would have to spray several times a year to control the boll worm, which leads to spraying for other pests because the beneficial insects are effected also. In a recent trip to Brazil, the farmers there told us that they don’t use GM cottonseed and they spray up to 13 times for insects.
Dry land cotton farm owned by Daniel and Suzie Wilde near San Angelo in West Central Texas. Cotton pictured here contains a genetic trait which makes it resistant to the boll worm.
The Round Up Ready Flex trait allows me to spray Round Up, a weed herbicide, over my growing cotton at any point during the year. However, after only a couple of years with the RRF trait, I was able to clean my fields so well with timely applications that there are very few weeds left to go to seed. Therefore, I only apply 2 applications of Round Up per year. The second application is only applied at the spots in the field that have weed pressure. T(If we receive rainfall at unusual times, this can lead to a crop of weeds that may require another spot application.) The clean fields don’t require tractors and plows in the field any longer. Back before the the RRF cottonseed, we would use a knifing plow to keep the weeds clean several times throughout the growing season.
J. Hoadley/Slow Money Farm: No we don’t – mainly because, despite what many think, it’s just not available for what we do. We also have a personal preference for conserving heritage/heirloom varieties.
B. Scott/corn, soybeans, popcorn & wheat farmer: All our of soybeans have been Roundup Ready for several years. RR soybeans fields have really great weed control on our farm. We rotate our crops and the types of herbicides we use which are important parts of weed control.
Most all of our dent corn contains multiple traits known and triple stacks. These are Roundup Ready and have multiple events for insect resistance. Most of what we planted this year is also tolerant to Liberty Link (glufosinate) herbicide. For Bt fields we do have to plant refuge acres that contain non-Bt corn to prevent resistance forming. This refuge is now being integrated as refuge-in-a-bag where the refuge corn is mixed in with the Bt as opposed to two separate products. I think this is a good thing as it will prevent some of those farms who plant corn after corn and don’t take the time to plant a refuge from doing so.
Waxy corn generally is not GMO. We’ve had some RR varieties in the past, but don’t spray Roundup on that corn because we have non-RR corn in the same field. Waxy is a big thing in the immediate area because there is a market, but I find you don’t have to go far to find a corn farmer who doesn’t know about waxy. So nationwide it is a small market. Breeders have a hard enough time taking a strong hybrid and breeding a waxy version that performs well. Pioneer had 5 or 6 varieties for use to choose from this season vs dozens of dent corn choices. The market isn’t large enough to support the cost of making GMO waxy. That being said I think it’s good we have at least half our corn crop where we can’t spray glyphosate. That way we aren’t adding to that selective pressure that leads to resistance.
Same goes for popcorn. Right now there is no such thing as a GMO popcorn plant available. Popcorn is not as tough a plant as field corn, so it will show signs of stress before the rest of our corn given similar circumstances.
All our corn and popcorn comes with seed treatments and so do most of our soybeans. Between seed treatments and Bt it’s a pretty rare thing for us to have to come in with a sprayer or airplane during the summer to take care of any pests. The good thing about different forms of Bt is that they are very specific in what pests they control vs spraying a pesticide over the entire field. Also we purchased a new planter in 2012 and did not equip it with a liquid application system. This means we are no longer applying liquid fertilizer at planting or the insecticide Capture as we were doing in the past.