Record US Farmers Switching to Non-GMO Crops in 2015

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Con­tin­ue to vote with your dol­lar

Non-GMO is More Prof­itable.”

This is the ris­ing sen­ti­ment among farm­ers of the US as a con­flu­ence of fac­tors urges them to become pro-organ­ic. From falling GMO grain prices to a ris­ing tide of pub­lic dis­trust of genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied ingre­di­ents, fail­ing GMO traits, high­er GMO seed prices, and the pre­mi­um prices that peo­ple will­ing­ly pay for qual­i­ty food over tox­ic junk, the con­ven­tion­al farmer is chang­ing his tune when it comes to Big Ag prac­tices.

Even if prof­it is the cor­ner­stone on which this change is based, it is still telling. After all, experts project over $35 bil­lion in sales for organ­ic, non-GMO foods in 2015, and as GMO corn, soy and oth­er GM grain prices rise, along with the costs to grow them (asso­ci­at­ed with more pes­ti­cide and her­bi­cide use to con­trol super weeds, for exam­ple) farm­ers are look­ing past the GMO pro­pa­gan­da which promised high­er yields and more cash for farm­ers who grew their poi­son crops.

This phe­nom­e­non is explained clear­ly in  “The Genet­ic Engi­neer­ing of Food and the Fail­ure of Sci­ence” (full text avail­able for down­load here) pub­lished in The Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Soci­ol­o­gy of Agri­cul­ture and Food.

Gilbert Hostetler, pres­i­dent of Illi­nois-based Prairie Hybrids com­ment­ed:

Our non-GMO seed sales are sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er than last year.”

Mac Ehrhardt, pres­i­dent of Min­neso­ta-based Albert Lea Seed reports that he is sell­ing more con­ven­tion­al (he describes con­ven­tion­al corn as non-GMO) corn seed by the end of Novem­ber than he did all of last year. He says that farm­ers are turn­ing to non-GMO to cut costs and to earn more mon­ey for their non-GMO yields.

Ehrhardt says:

 “There is a con­tin­ued increased demand for non-GMO.”

His obser­va­tions are cor­rob­o­rat­ed by Wayne Hoen­er, vice pres­i­dent of sales for eMerge, an Iowa-based seed com­pa­ny, as well as Tim Daley, an agron­o­mist at Stone­bridge, Ltd., an Iowa-based buy­er of non-GMO soy­beans who are also see­ing a marked demand for non-GMO seed by farm­ers.

Daley says:

Some com­pa­nies have seen a 50 per­cent increase in sales of non GMO seed, and some have said they’ve sold more non-GMO seed this year than in the last five.”

Odd­ly, Mor­rie Bryant, senior mar­ket­ing man­ag­er at Pio­neer Hi-Bred, which sells non-GMO corn and soy­bean seeds but sells more GMO seeds says he doesn’t see a big dif­fer­ence.

 “On (non-GMO) corn, we’ve got a slight increase on sales over last year,” he says. “Non-GMO has emerged as the new niche. It’s about 4–5 per­cent of total corn pro­duc­tion.”

If con­sumer demand for organ­ic is any indi­ca­tion, farm­ers would be smart to step up their organ­ic seed pur­chas­ing, and ditch Mon­san­to, Dow and Syn­gen­ta seeds com­plete­ly.GMO-Corn-Test-Plot

Relat­ed: Mon­san­to Earn­ings Fall 34% as Farm­ers Reject GMO Crops

Non-GMO Eco­nom­ics

Farm­ers find non-GMO seed appeal­ing this year for sev­er­al rea­sons, but most­ly eco­nom­ics. Grain prices are low with corn sell­ing at about $4 per bushel and soy­beans aren’t goin g for much high­er at around $10. Con­verse­ly, a pre­mi­um is being shelled out for non-GMO corn and soy­beans.

 “(Non-GMO) seed costs less, and there are pre­mi­ums for non-GMO corn and soy­beans in some areas,” Daley says.

Some farm­ers don’t want to pay tech­nol­o­gy fees (for GMO seeds) and non-GMO gives them a mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty,” Bryant says.

Fail­ing GMO Crops

Oth­er farm­ers are con­sid­er­ing the switch because they are tired of super-weeds. One corn breed­er who pre­ferred to remain anony­mous for a recent inter­view stat­ed:

The insect and her­bi­cide traits are los­ing effec­tive­ness with increased resis­tant root­worm and weed species. Grow­ers are tired of pay­ing for input costs that are reduced in effi­ca­cy and fund­ing addi­tion­al forms of crop pro­tec­tion.”

Iowa State Uni­ver­si­ty weed spe­cial­ist Bob Hart­zler sec­onds that sen­ti­ment in an inter­view with Iowa Farmer Today.

You have peo­ple ques­tion­ing the val­ue of the Roundup gene. How many are doing it (mak­ing the switch) because of that con­cern, I don’t know.”

Non-GMO Out­per­form GMO Seeds

Non-GMO seeds are also pro­duc­ing more com­pet­i­tive yields.

The yield per­for­mance of non-GMO hybrids is sim­i­lar to or greater than trait­ed (GMO) hybrids,” says the corn breed­er.

Is this why mega com­pa­ny, Gen­er­al Mills, pur­chased organ­ic food com­pa­ny Annie’s Home­grown for near­ly $1 bil­lion. And oth­er large food cor­po­ra­tions are look­ing to swal­low up small­er organ­ic food com­pa­nies?

 “There is con­tin­u­al and accel­er­at­ing growth in organ­ic,” he says. “There has been more con­ver­sion to organ­ic by farm­ers recent­ly than I’ve ever seen.