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Easiest is not always best

by Richard Oswald
Missouri farmer

(Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2003 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- It was refreshing to read in a widely circulated printed agricultural publication something other than a glowing recommendation of GMO crops.

In the past, some publishers have been more sensitive to corporate advertisers and producer groups than to maintaining a balanced editorial content.

I appreciate that you are not on record as opposing genetic manipulation as much as trying offer honest insights on the subject of biotech and markets.

Unlike the situation with wheat, corn and soybean producers raced headlong into biotech without taking a serious look at the pros and cons.

Herbicide resistant soybeans were a big boost for South American soy producers whose export business benefited from world importers, put off by the USA's lack of sensitivity to their concerns. Now, after two years of dry weather, the herbicide resistant advantage seems tarnished by a lack of drought stress tolerance piled on top of yield drag that is furthering a market rally based on supply. That rally, at its best, offers the same $200 per acre gross that U.S. soy producers have always expected.

We've turned back the clock ten years on yield and are in the process of creating glyphosate resistant weeds in the bargain. Those facts combined with declining market share should give us all something to think about.

As for corn, it is amazing how short the memories of some can be. Class action checks for Starlink victims haven't yet been printed, but already we have other corn with insect protection being promoted here even as Asian importers perfect their tests for allergens that threaten to reject each and every load of corn containing that locally unapproved gene.

Biotech advantages to herbicide budgets have turned into merely a balancing act between those costs and the seed expense side of the ledger as tech fees for modified seeds increase. No one seems to notice that chemical companies have been genetically modified themselves.

All of a sudden, some of those who were alleged to have been responsible for chemical pollution have altered themselves into life science pioneers who profess to feed a dioxin contaminated world. We should not forget that lawsuit-plagued Solutia is but another of Monsanto's creations, and that not all who play the gene game may be concerned with long term, moral commitment.

Advertising dollars spent to promote biotech seeds in the United States have flooded farm publications, and no longer do we look to land grant universities for variety improvement, promotion, and development. Today, if such research is performed in universities, it is funded by corporate interests who claim patents on the work based on the premise that they paid for it.

Wheat producers who are seeking a quick and easy way to solve weed problems should look twice at what the other two major grains have experienced at the hands of biotech promoters. The easiest way is not always the best way.--Richard R. Oswald, Langdon, Mo.

CropChocie editor's note: -- This originally appeared as a letter to the editor of the High Plains Journal. -- RS

Source: http://www.hpj.com/wsdocs/LTTE/letters.cfm