Does “Big Ag” Control Farmers? Survey Says No

11:42AM May 06, 2019
( Darrell Smith )

Farmers sign agreements every year to plant patented seed—a practice those outside the ag industry frequently question. By signing away their right to harvest the seed they grow, are farmers cornered by seed companies to buy their seed over and over? Furthermore, with the invention of herbicide-tolerant seeds are farmers forced to buy certain chemicals?

According to a recent survey by blogger Jenny Dewey, farmers don’t see it that way.

“Farmers feel like they have a choice, sometimes too many choices,” Dewey found. “Farmers drive the demand for the seed that is researched, bought and sold.”

According to one farmer in the survey, just like consumers have choices on seeds they buy from the garden section, farmers have choice on what seed they buy and from whom.

In fact, according to the survey, the seed company is among the smallest of the consideration points for most farmers, too. Farmers consider factors such as maturity, soil types, disease ratings, historical yield data, price and other agronomic considerations—not to mention the relationship they have with the retailer or dealer.

Still, some organizations and individuals criticize the current seed system.

“Farmers who buy GE seeds must sign contracts that dictate how their crop is grown—including what chemicals to buy—and forbid them from saving seeds. This has given corporations incredible control over the production of major staple crops in America,” said the advocacy site Farm Aid to the Genetic Literacy Project.

Traits—such as Bt corn or Roundup Ready soybeans, are just one of many factors included in this decision. And because traits are so widely licensed, many farmers don’t feel forced to buy from a specific company to gain access to a specific trait.

When it comes to chemicals, yes, certain traits allow farmers to apply specific chemicals. But, as farmers have seen in recent years, there is the option to apply but not an obligation to apply.

Read more about the study here.

What do you think of the current system? Let us know in the comments.