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Money behind the lies

Editor's note: The author sent this piece to Farmers Weekly Interactive (http://www.fwi.co.uk) in response to a story he'd read there.

by Jim Goodman

(Friday, Oct. 18, 2002 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- The FWI article of September 16, 2002, "GM crops "boost" agriculture, briefly describes a report on GM crops that was endorsed by nine US agriculture groups. One must first of all understand that these groups are industry groups, not local farm organizations. They represent the interests of the largest segments of corporate farming in the US. These organizations are partially funded by government mandated checkoffs that come directly off farmers yearly sales. (Most of these checkoffs have been challenged by farmers as unconstitutional).

Additional funding for these groups comes directly from agribusiness concerns, for example, in 2001 The National Corn Growers received 11 percent of their budget from Monsanto, Syngenta and other bio-tech companies. The American Soybean Growers received 10 percent of their budget form the same companies.

These facts are telling. First the more commodities, maize, soya, cotton etc. that are grown in the US, the more checkoff money available to these groups (while farm incomes continue to drop). Second, don't bite the hand that feeds you. These groups do have an agenda and a strong financial reason to support GM.

As to the claims of environmental protection, ploughing the land or not, planting millions of acres in a maize-soya rotation is causing soil erosion at a far higher rate than that seen in a typical hay, pasture, maize and cereal grain rotation that was common in most areas of the US prior to industrial farming.

Kimball Nill states that the Midwestern US was gripped by the worst drought in three decades, that is certainly true, but as this report was released in mid September, prior to the start of the soya harvest, I am curious how yield figures were determined when combines had yet to make the harvest? GM soya fared no better in the drought than conventional soya, and that is a fact based on yields, or lack thereof, in southern parts of the Midwest. To imply that GM soya is drought resistant is simply a lie.

I did notice a mention of reduced use of herbicides on GM crops, it might be wise to omit that claim. I watched my neighbors spray their RR soya two, three or four times. Now that the leaves are falling off I can see why, plenty of weeds amongst the beans. Many soya fields have good healthy maize plants growing there as well, obviously Roundup tolerant, although no RR maize was ever plantd in those fields. An article in the Oct. 2002 Progressive Farmer magazine stresses that reliance on one herbicide is a recipe for disaster in conventional or GM, I agree.

One statement made by Mr. Nill really must be turned back towards the US farm groups that endorsed this report, and the fantasy it contains; "Their random statements are ludicrous, untrue and deliberately misleading". That pretty well sums up the report (which I have seen in a much expanded version in the US farm press). Follow the trail of money and you will find the incentive for the lies.

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer in Wonewoc, Wisconsin