The following information corresponds with the article "The Trait Debate." You can find the article in Farm Journal's 2013 Seed Guide issue.
What’s the best way to gain valuable farmer insights? Just ask them. Here are four farmers explaining, in their own words, why they prefer to plant seeds with or without biotech traits.
I believe in the push toward non-GM crops. I began looking into planting non-GM corn and soybeans several years ago, and the switch has suited my farm operation well. There is a financial incentive to grow identity-preserved crops, and it is prudent to scrutinize yields in that case. However, in this time of proliferation of GM products, the odds are if a hybrid or variety makes it to the sales floor in the non-GM form, it usually yields well. As innovations in this area are made, I’m working to become completely non-GM. Currently, my corn acres are evenly split between GM and non-GM hybrids, and my soybean acres are 40% GM and 60% non-GM.
GM crops might not end world hunger, but it’s a step in the right direction. Traited corn offers an insurance policy against corn borer, rootworm, cutworm, ear worm, etc. Reducing insect damage helps increase yields. Better drought tolerance helps increase yield, and, shortly, we’ll see enhanced nitrogen use not only increase yields but also reduce the amount of inputs.
Yes, $250 for a bag of seed corn is expensive, but it’s about the value it creates for me. I’m willing to pay more for seed knowing that I won’t have insect issues, and if I have a weed outbreak I can use Roundup to save the crop.
We’ve been growing conventional hybrids for a long time. We’ve tried other transgenics but weren’t as happy with them, so we’ve been growing conventional hybrids. One of the economic reasons we grow conventional crops is because of the premiums. We have better yields than people with triple stack. We try to change the mode of action in herbicides every two years. We don’t use Roundup. We don’t have resistant weeds, and we have better fertility with non-GMO.
I’m not putting down a company, and I don’t mind if other farmers use technology. We just have really good non-GM hybrids, seed cost is 50% less and we get 35¢ to 70¢ premiums for conventional corn.
On our farm, we plant solely GM corn and soybeans. There is a simple philosophy behind our decision: it eliminates plant stress. The key to unlocking yield potential is removing stresses and allowing the plant to reach its full potential. Plant stress comes from numerous areas: weather, moisture, insects, weeds, fungus and other diseases and animals feeding on them. Modern GM corn in a seed bag comes in one easy package with the tools to combat many of those stress points.
Soybean trait development should accelerate in the coming decade, much like corn did in the previous 10 years. Limiting disease and combating current weed resistance will help push up yields for U.S. farmers.