In Their Own Words: Farmers Weigh In on GMOs, Part Four
Series: The Benevolent Side of GMOs
Calling all farmers!
3. Has your experience with GM seed been favorable? Are you a repeat customer?
M. Bendzela/Dow Farm: No experience with GM seed. It’s just not available. I used to be against it, because I was a self-styled “organic” gardener for awhile, and such opinions were part of the package. I even had a part-time summer job at an organic farm for several years. About five years ago, I got nosy and started reading the standards and “fact” sheets for organic farming. I’m interested in the skeptics movement, and they convinced me that “organic” is pretty much a scam. I started feeling pretty stupid once I discovered what “organics” was really about. I now see the movement as a sort of secular religion. GMOs are their Devil. I now just call myself “grower.” I’m currently against any group or movement that puts an adjective before the word “farming.”
D. Wilde/West Texas Cotton Farm: I have told many people that if I have to go back to spraying for insects all the time, I don’t want to farm any longer. That has been the best benefit of all, to be able to eliminate most of the chemicals from my operation. The Round Up that I still use is a very safe and effective chemical that I feel good about using. It is not like the pre-emergent weed herbicide that I used before, which stays in the ground much longer and can have more runoff effects. I have planted GM cottonseed for maybe the past 10 years, with the only downside being the much higher cost. However, I feel that all the benefits I have far outweighs the extra expense. I have no intentions of going back to non-GM seed, however, there are hundreds of varieties that are non-GM available for farmers who live in areas that don’t have pest and weed pressure or who just choose not to grow it.
J. Hoadley/Slow Money Farm: With a large % of corn said to be GM, it’s likely that our chickens have eaten it as we don’t buy organic feed. There just isn’t the interest in paying double the cost of eggs (feed is double the cost) in order to have organic. We are looking at non GMO options for feed to serve those customers who wish to avoid it even in the meats they eat.
B. Scott/corn, soybeans, popcorn & wheat farmer: We like our GM crops. They perform well for us. Of course our non-GMO do well too. Personally I think we need to scrutinize insect pressure on our farm more intensely and see if we can buy less Bt in some fields for no other reason than to save some money on seed cost. We’ve seen our refuge corn perform as well or better when pest populations are low. But seeing as we have now integrated cover crops onto a good deal of the farm I wonder what bugs we are attracting by being the big green patch in the middle of brown patches during the winter.
4. Do you see GM seed in your sustainable farming future? Even if you’re not yet using it, or can’t yet use it because it isn’t available for your type/size of farm, do you see it as a way to sustain and/or help your operations? Why or why not?
M. Bendzela/Dow Farm: Sustainable is just a word. I agree with Professor Albert Bartlett that “sustainable” has both “virtue and vagueness” and can mean “anything you want it to mean.” Farming takes over land, grows populations, and uses non-renewable (fossil) fuels. Therefore, farming is, by definition, “un”sustainable. I do not care to speculate about what this means for our future. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I’m an optimist who loves to read about the latest science and medical developments and the rosy future of mankind. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, I’m a doomer who worries about climate change, peak oil, and over-population. I take Sundays off and don’t believe a damn thing.
B. Womack/Homestead Hill Farm: As the population continues to grow and the amount of farmland available continues to shrink, we, as global citizens as well as farmers, better investigate all the options. If GM crops enable “big ag” to continue to grow the grains that smaller operations need… then everyone should try to understand the science and not flip out over the fears. (The local old-timers tell how farmers who switched from small square bales to the large round bales were seen as radicals, turning their back on the traditional way of harvest and adopting some “new-fangeld high tech” thing.
Today, a single farmer can bale a large field in an afternoon by himself, sometimes after completeing his day job in town. This enables a small farm to be sustainable with fewer farm works. Keeping in mind that skilled farm labor is incredibly hard to find, technology that enables farmers to keep farming needs to be considered. While I don’t think ANYTHING should be accepted blindly, or without a great deal of thought and consideration, we must at least explore the options.
D. Wilde/West Texas Cotton Farm: I believe that GM cottonseed has made my operation more sustainable, because my impact on the environment has been greatly reduced. I use less chemicals and I don’t run the tractor as much, which is leaving my farmland cleaner than ever before. I believe that the technology will be able to adapt to future challenges and even more benefits for the land and the environment will be seen from GM seeds.
J. Hoadley/Slow Money Farm: We’ve lost squash to wilt, and have an issue with bugs. Some of that is not enough hands to observe the gardens as much as needed to be completely organic. Avoiding those would be an interest. I think every farm must use what works for them and their customers. When I buy grain for the chickens and ducks, admittedly cost is a factor – and if GMO helps farmers get more yield in the same area, it brings costs down.
B. Scott/corn, soybeans, popcorn & wheat farmer: GMO is not a silver bullet solution for everything. Nearly everything in farming is a trade-off. For example, my no-till fields tend to have more weed pressure than my tilled fields, but I didn’t spend any money on tillage. You just hope to gain more than you lose on each little choice. Weather wins every time no matter how you farm. We are definitely using less insecticides than we used to. GMO is a tool in the toolbox that we believe helps us cut both costs and inputs. Other resources like precision ag help us on that front as well.