A farmer in South Dakota's northern half is taking a middle road as to whether he should use genetically modified seeds.
Tolstoy farmer Corey Johannsen told the Aberdeen American News (http://bit.ly/1a06J6O ) that he grows crops that are genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, as well as those that aren't. The subject is a touchy one among farmers, he said.
"When you mention non-GMO crops at meetings, I love to see eyes roll," Johannsen said.
Those who favor non-GMO crops have some legitimate concerns, Johannsen said. But he said "well over 90 percent" of South Dakota farmers make their money from GMO crops.
Farmers might use GMO crops as a "catch-all" for problems found in fields, Johannsen said. Such crops are genetically engineered to handle insect attacks, weed killer chemicals and drought conditions. But he said such resistance isn't always needed.
It can be difficult to talk with people on both sides of the GMO debate, Johannsen said.
"I'm pretty passionate about this," he said. "I've learned to tread lightly when I talk to people."
Johannsen got interested in non-GMO crops because of consumer demand but also over concerns about using a herbicide called glyphosate for weeds.
About a third of the farm he runs with his dad and brother was planted with non-GMO crops last year. This year, the plan is to make it about half.
"I know I'll make some mistakes, so I have a five-year plan to proceed as long as the market is there," Johannsen said. "I started connecting the dots on our farm. It was time to change the vision."