Looking for Farmers to Answer a Question

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VegetablesI have an honest question.  I am not being sarcastic or trying to start an argument.  I really want to understand something and I need your help.

I’ve read a lot about how GMOs are the most evil thing to come along since Emperor Palpatine (yes, I’m a nerd).  I have forwarded a lot of this info along and done my share of ranting about how we need to live more naturally, but today I was reading an article that discussed the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act.”  One of the reader comments at the end was this:

Monsanto makes some excellent lawn-care products, and the company’s contribution to world agriculture is immeasurably efficacious. Senator Roy (who introduced the rider) speaks Blunt truth to Algorites & Redfordist tree-huggers.

There were many more along the same lines.  But I have heard repeatedly that GMOs actually cause more harm than good to world agriculture.  Examples are this site, and this site,  and this site.

In fact, I did a Google search for “why farmers use GMOs” and had to click to the 3rd page of results before I found a farmer discussing why he uses some GMOs.    However, I found much of what he had to say, while worthwhile and well-said, didn’t really answer the question.

I live in a tiny farming community surrounded by tiny farming communities.  My father always makes a comment you know you’re getting close, “when there’s corn on the left and beans on the right.”  It’s true. There are miles and miles and miles of corn and soybean fields all around me.  From what I have seen the men and women who run those farms are smart, wise, hard-working people who have been raised with great knowledge of their trade from the time they were little children.  They know their business!  I can’t even keep a houseplant alive. They know a LOT of things I don’t know about seeds and large-scale farming.

So…  I’m asking them and any of you to answer my question because I really want to know.  Please no “trolls.”  This is not meant to be a fight or a nasty discussion, but rather a chance to see another side of a debate.

Why do farmers use GMOs?

UPDATE: I have had two people contact me, privately, and say that they would love to share their experience but didn’t want to do so publicly because they didn’t want to start “issues” with their friends and family.  Obviously this is a very “hot button” topic among farmers.  If you would like to share, but don’t want to comment here, please feel free to email me at lazyhippiemama@hotmail.com. 

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18 responses »

    • Yes. I have gotten a handful, though I find it telling and slightly disturbing that folks will only talk about this privately. I have learned a few things I didn’t know. I have been told some great reasons why many farmers thinks GMOs may be helpful to the environment and public health and a few things that are very scary about them that I didn’t know before. I will write it all up and post it in the next day or two, but I’m hoping to get a little more input. Each person that has responded has added more info. It seems to be a far more complex issue than either side makes it out to be.

      • Why does it surprise you that people don’t want to make targets of themselves and their families? Haven’t you seen the abuse they get when they do talk publicly? Have a look at the comment threads for the lies and the name-calling.

        I’ve heard the same thing from scientists on this issue. Some of them have thanked me for speaking to the issues in public because they feel they can’t. Their labs are at risk (as some have been burned: http://www.nature.com/news/nanotechnology-armed-resistance-1.11287 read the part about Xoconostle’s lab) and they feel they can’t put their family + kids at risk.

        So maybe you aren’t hearing all the voices because it’s not safe for them. Maybe it’s not nefarious.

      • Definitely not hearing everyone! I suppose, in my happy little bubble of existence, I forget that there really is evil in this world… and that it exists on both sides of nearly every debate. The responses I’ve received to this post have really helped me to gain understanding. As is often the case, it seems that the best answers to everyone’s concerns lie somewhere in the middle of the extremes.

  1. It is a complex issue. Health benefits aside are many legal questions to be answered. Monsanto and others have pattens on their product and when pollination occurs to neighboring fields Farmers can be sued for stealing the technology. We have also all heard (and know) how organisms -bacteria, insects and such evolve, which overcome the poisons, weed killers, and antibiotics produced in the laboratory which results in the need for stronger chemical deterrents – on and on and on. Nature usually knows best – don’t mess with it too much. Bottom line most of the chemical companies are not really there to serve man but are in business to make money – what ever the consequences.

    • That’s kind-of the position I’ve been taking all this time but then I got thinking about the farmers I know. I’m sure they want only the best for the earth and for their families. I’m sure there are enterprising young scientists who are thrilled to have Monsanto’s money backing their heartfelt search for the solution to global hunger. It can’t ALL be evil and greedy. I’m finding that it is a complex issue indeed!!!

      • Part of the answer is asking “is this good for the Earth” What may be good for an individual or a company has little bearing in the big scheme of things. I would also hesitate to use the word ‘evil’ although I do think it. Does Dupont create poison with intent to cause harm or is it just factored in that it is an unfortunate side effect. Ask what is the motive for what(ever) is done and seek out the truth. All the money in the world will not buy a new planet.

  2. Hi! I’m the farmer you found 3 pages into Google. I find that good links are often hard to find because all the rhetoric ends up at the top of the searches on hot topics. I’m more than willing to answer your questions as best I can. I covered a fair amount of ground in the link you provided above, so I won’t rehash that in a comment. If you have any specific questions please ask!

    I’ve kinda become know for talking publicly about biotechnology. In fact you can find a scanned copy of a Monsanto Technology Use Agreement I signed on my blog. I’d love if you and your readers would take a look at it for themselves. You can find it here. http://thefarmerslife.com/biotechnology/i-occupy-our-food-supply-everyday/

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to “come over!” I will follow the link and I’m sure ask some more questions. I have heard from a few others who have reiterate much of what you said and it’s become clear to me that there are very much two sides to this debate.

      • There are very much two sides, but you’ll find farms on both sides who are really just looking to do what fits their plan. It’s not so black and white as a farm either raises GM crops or organic crops. Some farms do both! Some farms like mine do everything conventionally, but not everything GMO. Half my corn this year won’t be utilizing biotechnology. We grow waxy corn and the premium for waxy went up quite a bit this year so we backed off acres of dent corn in favor of waxy. Waxy simply doesn’t have the development dollars invested to always have a great hybrid that also does well with some gm traits. We also grow popcorn, and there are no gm varieties of popcorn on the market.

  3. We use biotechnology on our farm and I am more than willing to talk about this publicly or privately. Biotechnology is a tool in our farming toolbelt. It has helped us reduce the amount of pesticides by 2 to 3 applications. We are able to grow more on less land and with less water. God isn’t making anymore black dirt and after last year’s drought we are reminded again of the power Mother Nature holds. Yet certain crop varities faired okay in spite of the lack of rain. That is due to biotech.

    Our farm supports three families (my in-laws and brother-in-law and his wife). We do not have extra help, so using biotech has also helped us manage time. Because we’ve reduced the number of times we have to cross a field to control insect, disease or weed pressures, we have more time – ourselves – to tend to general farming and community involvement.

    Geez . . . I feel like I could go on and on. Final thought. Biotech is a tool, it is not the answer to all farming, hunger, etc. problems. At the end of the day, Mother Nature still holds all the cards and that is one thing we can’t control.

  4. Elizabeth, I see a few farm folks have already stepped up here. If you don’t mind a Monsanto employee chiming in, or if you think you have questions you would like to ask an employee of the company, feel free to ask away.

    I’m not sure what part of Michigan you are in, but I know quite a few farmers who are willing to talk publicly about using biotech. The fact of the matter is a lot of people generally don’t like to talk about what all they are doing publicly, they just like their privacy. I see it all the time in talking to someone I forget has a Facebook page knows everything I’ve been up to. A lot of farmers are like that. Some don’t know how to handle some of the questions they get too and others find it very uncomfortable to deal with the fact that a lot of people think there is a moral imperative or something that means you have screwed up values. What’s exciting is some of these farmers, because they know you obviously trust your asking them questions privately.

    I have been spending a lot of my personal time as well as some of my work hours trying to find ways to bridge the gap. I don’t think that biotech is a panacea for all the world’s ills but I also don’t think organic agriculture is. I think they are both valid means of agricultural production and each has some benefits and some drawbacks or black and white on the spectrum. And there is a lot of gray in between those points and the various systems share a whole bunch of gray.

    There is an awful lot of complex science to understand when you think about biotech, And that makes it hard to explain quickly and easily to people, and in today’s world, people love quick and easy. I know, I’m one of them! But I have a lot of scientists around who can explain things when it gets over my head. If you’d like to get in touch with questions, I have a contact form on my blog http://janiceperson.com/about/contact-jp/ (please note it is my personal blog, not something I get paid to do.

    • Thank you so much for your input! I really have learned so much from this conversation and I think that you are right. The answers lie somewhere in the middle. I will check out your link and I will probably have some questions for you as I write all of this up into something coherent. 🙂

  5. Pingback: What I Learned About GMOs from 9 Farmers, a Monsanto Employee and a Whole Bunch of Reading | lazyhippiemama

  6. Pingback: What Are Farmers Like? F is for Farmer in my A to Z Challenge

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