Agriculture Advocacy Crop Protection Farming Planting

Do Farmers Have Choices?

Do Farmers Have Choices-

 

There seems to be a consensus going around that farmers have no choice when it comes to the seed they choose to plant. Or if they do have a choice, large corporations like Monsanto force it upon them. And if anybody tries to voice their opinion and let the farmer’s themselves speak upon their choices, the individual suddenly becomes a pawn for Monsanto.

Okay so the above example may be a little extreme. Doesn’t mean I haven’t seen it happen again and again online. Why is it that because we are behind a computer it gives us the license to be disrespectful? Anyway, back to farmers. I was interested in what the farmers themselves have to say about their seed choices, how they choose the seed they do, and why do they CHOOSE to plant GMOs or maybe they don’t? So I asked several farmers some questions… And here’s what I found.

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Do farmers have a choice when it comes to the seed they plant?

Out of every single farmer I surveyed, 100% said they felt like they have a choice when it comes to the seed they plant. Not one farmer surveyed felt pressured into choosing a certain kind of seed, but instead felt like they have a good variety of seed to choose from and that they were free to choose however they wished.  One farmer responded, “Just as you have the choice on what seeds to purchase from your favorite garden store, we have the choice on what we want to buy from our favorite seed salesman.” But farmers don’t only feel like they have a choice, they are happy that they have a choice. One farmer told me, “I feel it’s important that we have a choice in the seed we choose because not every system or seed type is a fit for every operation”. There is no one solution fits all when it comes to seed.

What types of seeds are out there? How do you choose the seeds you do? What factors go into choosing seed?

Farmers today have a choice between conventional seed, or hybrids & GM seeds that have been altered using genetics. Regardless of what type of seed you choose, there are many different things factoring into seed choice. As one of the responses from my organic farmers stated, “Seed selection for organics is not very different from seed selection on a conventional farm. We may grow things differently, but for the most part, we are considering the same facts just as a conventional farmer does” Some of these factors include:

  • Maturity: How long it takes the seed to mature and eventually be harvested
  • Soil type: what kind of soil are you planting into? Some seeds do better in one type of soil versus another
  • Geography: Where you are growing the seed makes a big difference, some climate may be more wet or more dry than other.
  • Tolerance traits: This can be anything from weed tolerance, insect tolerance, to even drought tolerance. Some seeds do better with less moisture or rain than others
  • Yield potential or return: Which seed is going to give us the greatest chance for profit and keep our input costs within reason
  • Price: Being a farmer is a career and it’s how they make money to feed and support their families so of course price is going to play into the choice
  • Availability: You may find a seed variety you like but it may not be available due to a number of reasons. Maybe natural disaster: in order for that seed to make it to you as a farmer, it must first be grown and harvested… What happens if a natural disaster hits where they grow the seeds? Maybe a frost out of season? There are many reasons as to why some seeds just may not be available.

2012-05-31_011

How do farmers make decisions on what seed to plan?

Many farmers look at the records for previous years. Often times they look at yield maps which are graphed by the harvester or combine while they harvest. It tells the farmer where the crop did good (had a high yield), where it was average, and where it was poor (had a low yield). Other farmers look to replicated research by universities paired with replicated research by seed companies. Some look to their trusted resources whether they be their seed dealers, local agronomists. As one of the farmer’s shared with me, “The pace of change, new seeds, and seed technologies is quite fast. My ability as a farmer to keep up with all of it is challenging. I establish long-term relationships of trust and understanding with my seed dealers so that we can both work as a team towards selecting the right products for my farm.”

If you plant GMO seed, what are the benefits of choosing that over a conventional seed?

Each farmer has their own reasoning for choosing GM seed versus conventional seed.  And to be completely honest, many of the responses were because of convenience. GM seeds make it less labor intensive which means employing fewer people as well as fewer passes through the field, and in result they use less herbicides and pesticides, “For us, GM seed creates less labor intensive operations in that spraying herbicides and pesticides is easier, quicker, and more effective to control weeds and pests.” One farmer responded that by choosing GM seed allowed him to solve numerous weed problems he was having all at once. Another farmer responded that “The growers that I know, both GM and non-GM, simply view GM seed and crops as simply another tool or technology that are available.” Much like the rest of us, farmers are always looking to do their job better & more efficiently with less labor (work) and input costs. And I understand that, if I could get paid the same while working less and spending less money in order to go to work, I’d be on board with that.

Another farmer talks about raising cotton, “We plant GM cotton varieties and we CHOOSE to do so. We don’t want to have to use harsher chemicals and buy specialized equipment to put out chemicals on conventional cotton when there are more environmentally friendly options available. By using GM seed, we can save money on chemical purchases.” Being that I now work in Ag retail and bill out all of our farmers for their seed and chemical, there is one thing I have come to learn… That stuff is EXPENSIVE! Farmers will not and do not spend money on things they don’t absolutely need! If it’s going to make for a better crop and it’s within their input costs, absolutely farmers will use a certain product. But by no means we farmers just use an excess of insecticides, herbicides, or fertilizer because it costs a lot to apply! Whatever the reasoning, GM seeds are just another tool in the large toolbox of technologies at the disposal of the modern American farmer, not a weapon to unintentionally kill, hurt, or make people sick like some would have you believe.

So where do farmers get their seed from?

Would you be shocked to know that not every farmer answered Monsanto!? Some responses included: Dow Agroscience, Pioneer, Monsanto, as well as A LOT of regional seed companies throughout the U.S. which is great because it means that farmers like to support and keep good working relationships with the people local to them!

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To farmers: If somebody accused you of being a pawn for a large corporation because of the seeds you choose, how would you respond to that?
“Very simply, I choose my seed based upon the best variety for my conditions that we farm. I choose to use GM seed because it works for me, not because I don’t have other choices”

“I would invite them to do the research with me. First we go through the list of potential seed candidates every year comparing conventional, GM, and hybrids. Then we compare yields, cost per acre to keep plants alive, and then we throw in the variables: drought, flood, extreme heat or cold, early frosts, and untimely rains during harvest. If they could come up with a perfect seed variety after comparing the hundreds of varieties available from the hundreds of corporations and mom-and-pop seed companies, THEN I’d listen to them.”

And from the perspective of an actual seed dealer: “Seed companies, including ours, bring to market those varieties and traits that farmers want to buy. We have access to all kinds of conventional seeds, but when we have offered them, there are very few who want them. Farmers choose and want GM seeds, therefore, we supply that demand. Just as if there were a significant demand for conventional seeds, we would be happy to offer them.”

Do farmers have choices? YES!

So there you have it, straight from the farmers. And YES farmers feel like they have a choice, sometimes too many choices, they enjoy the fact that they have a choice, they choose their seeds based on a variety of different factors not just money. Farmers drive the demand for the seed that is researched, bought, and sold. And really, it never makes any logical sense to me why people praise the farmers but demonize companies producing the seeds?

In the end, I think some people forget that no matter what side of the fence we are on, whether it be an organic farmer, an employee for Monsanto, or a GM farmer, we are all people. We all have families, friends, and people we care about. We are all passionate about the food we eat and how it is grown. We are all passionate about what we do and farmers are no exception. Only in an area where food is abundant do you have a CHOICE in what kind of food you put in your body. So let’s celebrate that we live in a place where food diversity is abundant. Let’s celebrate the diversity that is agriculture and the fact that as farmers, we are given choices so that we can produce the very best crops we possibly can and that as customers and consumers of agriculture, you too have a choice when it comes to the food you eat and put in your body. And let’s work together in agriculture in order to ensure people in other places have that same choice too.

Thank you to those farmers who responded to my survey, I appreciate you taking the time to voice your thoughts on the matter and hopefully this post helps boost your voices!

Here are some other great resources about choosing seed and farmer’s indeed having a choice:

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140 Comments

  • Reply
    Brian
    May 23, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Great job, Jen. And great photos as usual! Thanks for including me.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      Thanks Brian! And anytime! Love your writings about info-heavy farm topics! 🙂

  • Reply
    Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON
    May 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    LOVE how much work you did on this! It is a great read. Love that you had a variety of farmers including organic!

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks Janice! I wish I could have gotten even more! But my sample group was indeed very diverse and it was neat to read through all their responses!

  • Reply
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    May 23, 2013 at 1:58 pm

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  • Reply
    Mike Compston
    May 23, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Such a complete and very understandable piece. Once again very well done. We are so very fortunate to have so many seed choices, and it takes a lot of time to study them.

  • Reply
    Colleen B
    May 23, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    This is a nicely written article. I just wish the farmers that chose NOT to plant GMOs got to have their choices respected. Darn that wind and bugs and birds…all that pollination kind of messes with THAT choice. And then they get the benefit of being taken to court by companies like Monsanto. I want to choose what to eat, but lack of labeling makes that very difficult for all but those willing and able to chose to go all organic. It’s nice to hear not all farmer’s who are choosing GMO’s are being tied into their decisions, but every farmer who makes this choice chooses for his/her neighbors and community and I just don’t think that is right.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 24, 2013 at 10:54 am

      Colleen- Thank you for reading and for your great comment! I agree with you in that no matter what method you choose to farm, your choices should be respected. Whatever method you choose, as a farmer, it is your choice to do what you think is best for your land, your crops, and your career. Since we are not organic farmers and many of the crops we grow are hybrids or GM seed and I do not have the knowledge base to address your concerns, I consulted some of my friends who do farm organically and conventionally to see what they had to say on the issues you bring up.
      Corn is the only crop when pollen drift can be an issue. With other crops, pollen drift is not an issue. But they can do things when planting corn to help prevent it like plant two weeks later as long as the soil temps to consistently remain above 50-53 degrees before planting. They can also take out a buffer strip. The width of the buffer strip depends on what is next to that side of the field (road, CRP acres, crop, etc) In order to be prosecuted or taken to court by Monsanto, there must be intention shown to cheat the system. If pollen drift into your field occurs and that wasn’t your intentions, you aren’t going to be held accountable for that. Bugs can be a problem, but if their neighbors spray for insects, I am betting that most non-GM farmers won’t complain because it helps prevent the spread to our fields too! The biggest worry non-GM farmers have is a neighbor accidentally spraying over their line, and directly onto their crop. This would result in the death of their crop and both parties involved would take a huge monetary loss which hopefully makes these occurrences rare. Having mutual and good working relationships with your neighbors is important and I know of many GM farmers who farm alongside non-GM farmers and they get along without any problems.

      As far as Monsanto goes, a fellow organic farmer of mine said to me, “I don’t believe they are intending to put us out of business. They don’t make things easy when it comes to corn inbreds, but I don’t think they intentional corrupted all parent lines when they bought out other seed breeding companies. Monsanto isn’t even the largest company out there that sells GM seed.” And I have to agree with her. I don’t believe that they are out there to put farmers out of business. In fact, they’ve acknowledged that in order to feed a growing population ALL types of agriculture are going to be imperative! I hope this comment addresses some of the issues you voiced! And let me know if you have any further questions!

      • Reply
        The Populist Farmer
        May 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm

        This is a very interesting article but I cannot agree with your main premise that Monsanto is not trying to put organic farmers out of business. Their continued attempts to buy up all available seed companies and corner the market on ownership of various seed varieties is actually contributing to the declining seed variety options available to all farmers, organic or conventional. I like your optimism but I fear it is misplaced.

    • Reply
      Jamie Lyn Stanton
      May 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Amen!

    • Reply
      Kate O'Brien
      May 27, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Well said Colleen – there are many things that ripple out from choices, and because of this other people are greatly effected, neighbors, consumers and environment!

  • Reply
    Kathy Johnson
    May 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I just read more negativity out the mouths of those who call Monsanto “Evil”! I am almost certain that they then went to the grocery store and/or the restaurant to eat of the abundance we have in this country. It is what the consumer demands and they also want it cheap!

    Thanks again for posting the farmer’s side?

    Kathy

    Sent from my iPad

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 24, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I am glad this project is getting some traffic! It was very interesting as well as a learning experience for me to read through these responses!

  • Reply
    Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
    May 24, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Great post and photos! This will be great to share with some people that I’ve tried explaining things to lately on Twitter!

  • Reply
    GMO Activists March Against Monsanto – Farmers’ Perspective | Agriculture Proud
    May 25, 2013 at 11:03 am

    […] Jenny Dewey, South Dakota, takes a look at several of the factors farmers take into account when choosing the seed varieties for their next crop. Read more in Do Farmers Have Choices? […]

  • Reply
    Y-Love (@ylove)
    May 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I actually stumbled upon this blog because I was looking for farmers’ reaction to the March against Monsanto on 5/25. Living in Los Angeles, a lot of the arguments for us are more theoretical (“GM” vs “non-GM” is no more than a label or a supermarket choice) – and I really appreciate this well-written article which voices a point of view I don’t get to hear often. If ever. (I’ve only lived in Baltimore and New York.)

    Much of the “Occupy Monsanto” movement’s rhetoric, though, is revolving around health benefits/risks involved in eating food grown using conventional vs GM seed. (Granted, at least 88% of this article is brand new info to me and I’m DEFINITELY sharing this.) What do farmers say when things like this are brought up? I’m sure they factor into decisions…or are they dismissed?

    I’ve learned a LOT from this blog. Thanks!

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Y-Love- First of all, THANK YOU for the wonderful comment! I write about these topics because as I learn, I hope that somebody else out there can learn with me! Farmers do indeed take into account the fact that GM and biotechnology seeds are criticized for being dangerous when it comes to health. After all, many farmers across the country are consuming their own products as well as feeding them to their families. Just like everyone else, they are looking to make the best choices for themselves and for their families. And if they really believed that the way they choose to produce their own crops was dangerous to others, they wouldn’t be doing it. I know personally my fiance and soon to be husband who is a farmer wouldn’t want me to consume anything that was going to potentially hurt me. And as an certified agronomist, he is always keeping himself current with the research, both from universities as well as the companies themselves, and what that research shows. And he has yet to come across any peer-reviewed, scientific studies that have claimed that GM foods cause risks in health. And nobody has ever been shown as dying from GM foods. He works hard both as a farmer and an agronomist to provide for me and our family and in no way would he engage in something that would be potentially dangerous for us. So you can understand why I feel very passionately about these issues and when people do make fear mongering claims about biotechnology because it’s the life I am living. Please feel free to share with me any more questions, concerns, studies, etc. And I will do my best to respond! And again, thank you for your comment! I write because of people like you, I am always hoping to make connections with a larger audience and it makes me so happy to know that my words are making a difference in someone else’s life! So thank you! Hope you are having a fantastic memorial weekend!

  • Reply
    gregsarmas
    May 27, 2013 at 9:12 am

    They have choices for now but what about down the road? There may be a time very soon when you can’t find corn anywhere in the world that has not been contaminated by the round up ready and bt genes. It’s already happening in remote areas of Mexico where monsanto’s creations haven’t been bought by the locals. If this isn’t intentional, it certainly is incredibly irresponsible and there is no fix. I hope that these idiots don’t get control of any more of the food supply, marching just isn’t going to accomplish anything. I did like your article, just very sad to hear that farmers think that some situations think that there is any situation appropriate for genetic tampering.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 27, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Thanks for reading as well as for your comment. When it comes to having no choices down the road, as long as our economy continues to work as a free market, supply and demand will generate what will be sold whether it be conventional seed or gm seed. I am not entirely sure where you are going with your comment about Mexico. They can’t find conventional corn but they haven’t bought up GM corn either?

      I don’t believe that blaming a company and vilifying them does anything to work towards a solution. Monsanto isn’t the only company out there who researches and supplies GM seed. I believe that all types of agriculture are needing as we are faced with the reality of feeding an ever growing population.

      • Reply
        gregsarmas
        May 29, 2013 at 11:16 pm

        The comment I made about Mexico stems from the occurrence of farmers in remote areas having their native corn’s genes contaminated by monsanto even though they have never purchased their seeds. Corn is wind pollinated and the wind makes things travel far (i.e. cat dander being found at the North Pole.) The genome is therefore contaminated, and irrevocable changed. Oh and by the way the farmers who unknowingly plant this corn are on the hook for being sued for theft. Monsanto’s inventions, along with all other companies responsible for this irresponsibility have changed entire region’s ability to farm in very successful, traditional ways.

        In areas where BT Cotton has been being grown, Monsanto now holds a virtual monopoly on seed sales and it has had some unforeseen consequences. In parts of India there are more farmers going bankrupt than every before leading to more suicides than ever before, all caused by a weakness to a native fungal disease that attacks the BT cotton more easily. Seems that tampering with one thing leads to alteration of some things that were better off left alone. This is a cause and effect relationship that has been well documented. As far as feeding an ever growing population, well that’s an entirely different problem that this company’s marketing division claims to be trying to solve.

        The reality that they, and all others in the government offices they lobby are aware of is that there will be no growing population very soon. We need to reduce numbers not grow them forever! How do you expect our already taxed earth to have a human population that grows forever on a finite amount of resources? It is an impossibility that will not be dealt with until it’s too late because the powers that be have done an excellent job of convincing people that this is a real goal of theirs that is achievable. If you look a little further you’ll see that this company was a chemical company that slowly bought up the seed industry. The “free” market is not free, and is controlled by big players that do what they want unabated. The vilifying is appropriate, you are obviously still buying into the infinite growth paradigm. Take a look and see for yourself if you think I’m just another confused hippie, I’m anything but.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6_DbVdVo-k

  • Reply
    The Rider
    May 27, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Thanks, also in South Africa the resistance against GMO seed and Monsanto is rising… Thanks for sharing and congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  • Reply
    Ashana M
    May 27, 2013 at 11:15 am

    What I wonder is whether the profit margin is so thin and the realities of both the market and nature are so harsh that what seems like a choice is really not a choice. If GMO seed allows you to raise your crop for less money, is there a choice, when what you really need to do is make a living? I’m just wondering here. If I can choose to work in an unethical way and make a living or work in an ethical and risk bankruptcy, what are my real choices? When economic survival is on the line, ethics becomes a secondary consideration.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 27, 2013 at 11:23 am

      Ashana- Thank you for reading and for your comment. Because I say that using GM seed allows farmers to spend less on chemical because they apply less does not mean that GM seed allows you to raise your overall crop for less money than say a conventional farmer. In fact, in many cases, the GM seed can be MORE expensive than conventional seed and then you are paying for chemical, fertilizer, etc. on top of all that. No matter what type of production method you choose, farming is an expensive venture. Farmers in no way believe they are FORCED to do unethical work because GM seed allows them to create a profit. But instead they choose to use GM seed believe that they are choosing to work in an ethical way.

      • Reply
        Ashana M
        May 27, 2013 at 11:28 am

        I do understand that farmers don’t feel forced. I was simply wondering whether certain realities make some choices no-brainers, which makes a choice that may feel freely chosen not be a real choice at all. It sounds like that isn’t the case. Thank you for clarifying.

        • Reply
          jenniferdewey
          May 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

          Ashana- there are many different companies out there who produce MANY different varieties and types of seeds. When it comes to their seed and where they buy it from, farmers DO have free choice. They can choose to do business with whoever they please and just because they buy seed from one company one year does not lock them into buying that particular seed next year. Much like the rest of our system of buying/selling, seeds too are a free market. And demand drives what seeds are offered. Much like the man who owns a seed company who I interviewed, he said if farmers demanded conventional seed, they would be more than willing to supply that demand. Thanks for the reply!

  • Reply
    Dakota
    May 27, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I strongly, strongly recommend extending your research. If things are how you presented them to be everywhere, would farmers in multiple countries be protesting the Monsanto? No.

    The capital-T Truth is that Monsanto is attempting to create a global monopoly with our food. Which is terrifying. Not to mention that we still don’t know how safe their products are for us or our livestock.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Dakota- Thanks for reading and for your comment. I have researched plenty of global issues that Monsanto has been involved in. And they aren’t the only GM producing company who has joined the table when it comes to biotechnology on a global spectrum. I think it’s pretty clear cut to me that products like fortified rice can supply a starving individual in another country the vitamins and supplements needed to survive as well as nourishment. How can you be against that? I am all for a solution to hunger on a global hunger that doesn’t involve biotechnology but so far, I haven’t seen an answer.

      As I said in my article, only in places where food is abundant can we have discussions about Monsanto and their business practices. Many others in this world simply struggle to find food, let alone have a discussion about HOW their food is produced and by WHO.

      If you have some research you’d like to share, feel free to do so!

      • Reply
        bhuwanchand
        May 28, 2013 at 6:53 am

        Dear Jenny,

        The opposition to GM crop is more in those places on earth where the ‘food is not abundant’ and people do die of hunger if the crop fails because of any natural or man made calamity.

        The solution to world hunger also doesn’t necessarily the one which results in monopolization of power in the hands of few people/ corporations.

        Please believe me, I am not at all left-liberals against the corporations or labeling all business ventures are evil. I am all for free market, free choice and equal opportunity for everyone. GM crops are a part of free market and do seems to propagate free choice as you have tried to explain in your article above, But how ‘free’ is this free choice, that we should be careful about.

        The answer to the question of providing sufficient food for all the citizens of this world may not lie in GM crops but in sustainable development. It is not for a few years of decades that we are talking about, we have to leave this earth for our coming generation in a way that they can also have a free choice.

        I am afraid the issue is much more complex. I have no ready made solution, but as I read this Dante’s quote on the Dan Brown’s latest Inferno “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” So if I have to make a choice, with the limited knowledge and awareness that I have, I would choose sustainable development over monopoly of few corporations on the seeds. Seeds are just a product or commodity, they represent the future generation. No one can claim to have patent on future generation. This whole argument gets very silly actually because we get away from the real issues and getting into rhetoric, slogan shouting and banner raising.

        As someone right said, the farmer should have the right over the produce from her/his farm – unconditionally.
        Its not about the morality of GM crops, it more about Farmer’s having the free ownership of the produce grown in the farms, freedom to use it as they deem it fit without the fear of persecution.

        There was a case where a US based firm has patented the medicinal values coming from the tree (Azadirachta indica) http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/pir-ch.htm http://www1.american.edu/TED/neemtree.htm A tree which is native to Indian subcontinent and is being used for its medicinal value from 1000s of years and W.R.Grace patented it in US and started threatening Indian company not to use it without paying them royalty.

        • Reply
          jenniferdewey
          May 28, 2013 at 8:43 am

          “The opposition to GM crop is more in those places on earth where the ‘food is not abundant’ and people do die of hunger if the crop fails because of any natural or man made calamity.”

          Not sure I agree with this statement. If someone was met with starvation or biotech food, are you really trying to say that people would choose starvation over biotechnology…?

          And yes, you are correct in that it is a much more complex topic. But I haven’t seen sufficient and conclusive evidence to show that non-GM crops will feed and sustain the ever growing population. As I said in the article, I believe ALL types of agriculture are needed and that we should strive towards more and more people having choices in our food system. Whether that be ensuring that organic farmers maintain their integrity or whether it be allowing biotechnology to continue making advances in its own field.

          • bhuwanchand
            May 29, 2013 at 12:10 am

            Dear Jennifer,

            Why do people choose to die struggling for freedom over a comfortable life under occupation. I do not fault you for not agreeing my statement, you need to see the other side to understand the full. You need to understand why there were so many freedom struggles in the history of our world generally led by the less privileged masses against the foreign occupation. About America’s own movement of freedom and why there is such a big stress of word “Freedom” in american constitution. Do you think animal/birds in cages who are provided with healthy food are happier than those are living their natural life struggling everyday for food and shelter.

            Sorry for such rhetoric but it is silly to dumb down the question to the level of offering genetically modified food or death because o hunger. That was not my argument, it was at a much broader level, I was referring to the fact that compare to some of the developed countries where GM food has received at least some level of acceptance among both Farmers as well as consumers, in developing countries like India, which still struggle with food shortages, both Farmers and consumers have raised their voice against it. That’s about it.

            Its good that a general write-up from you have generated so much curiosity and interest and you deserve a thumbs up for picking up such a burning issue, and writing about it. Well done and keep it up.

          • bhuwanchand
            May 29, 2013 at 4:04 am

            Oh and by the way, hunger exist on our planet not because we do not produce enough, but because we waste more than what we consume. Not pointing fingers at anyone, we all are equally guilty of it. http://wp.me/pnx59-VB

            Sustainability is the key, whether we like it or just leave it for the next generations to fight an even more gruesome battle.

  • Reply
    Fourat J
    May 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Absolutely brilliant post. As Brian Scott (above) and another plant geneticist, Kevin Folta both alluded to me earlier, it seems that the tide and trend against GMOs are changing. As you say, and as the farmers who know the most about making food, GMOs are a tool to be used. They don’t solve everything, but they sure solve a lot! I’m glad the conversation and tide is changing. Congrats on being freshly pressed and brilliant post. 🙂

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 27, 2013 at 11:51 am

      Thank you so much! It is my hope that the more farmers talk about their practices and how GM seed or even conventional seed works for them that eventually the tides will change! I have personally experienced through this post that the more we share, the more audiences we can read, and the more we reach that silent majority sitting on the fence. Sometimes though the extremists on both sides are the ones who are heard because they are the loudest 😉

      • Reply
        Fourat J
        May 29, 2013 at 7:01 am

        Indeed, keep at it with your moderate, evidence-based approach. 🙂

  • Reply
    butcheringsaint
    May 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

    so, no pressure. No pressure to use or not use gmo. It worries me thought that gmo has become so commonplace and easy to get that we rely heavily on that. Sometimes the easy solution is not a good one. Great post. Enjoyed it and congrats on being pressed.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 27, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Thank you for reading and for commenting! As the one farmer commented above… she believes that nothing about her seed selection choice is “easy”. Farming is tough, it’s unpredictable. There are so many things out of their control. I’ve said in a previous blogpost, farmers can do everything right. They can plant the right seed for the soil, they can ensure the nutrients in the soil are correct for the type of crop they are planting, they can ensure it remains free of weeds and insects… And it can still fail. Many farmers experienced this last year when their crops literally burned up due to the drought. Some couldn’t even salvage what was left because their crops didn’t even grow. With all that said, why do we fault farmers for making ONE choice that makes one part of ALL of those variables a little more simple…? I don’t know!

      • Reply
        butcheringsaint
        May 27, 2013 at 3:01 pm

        I agree, they got their work cut out for them!! wholeheartedly. they don’t have it as easy as people would like to imagine. anything dealing with animals, people, nature or the elements has an unpredictable future but it does matter that we are concerned with side effects of certain things. Great thoughts!!!

  • Reply
    Greed is Green | The Farmer's Life
    May 27, 2013 at 11:58 am

    […] Do Farmers Have Choices? […]

  • Reply
    Longhorn Web Design
    May 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Longhorn Web Consulting.

  • Reply
    barefootbeekeeper
    May 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Wow! I bet Monsanto are pleased with you! You managed to write an article with no criticism of their ruthless policy of taking farmers to court when their field become contaminated with Monsanto’s GM seed; no mention of the thousands of Indian farmers who have committed suicide as a direct result of Monsanto preventing them from keeping their own seed; no mention of Monsanto patenting plant varieties that belonged to centuries-old farming cultures; no mention of people’s wishes to have GM food labelled being trampled; no mention of the cancers caused by GM maize on lab rats. It’s almost as if you were sponsored by them.

    • Reply
      oregongreen
      May 27, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      Interesting comment. Jenny mentions Monsanto one more time than you do in your brief paragraph. Five times total. I think you are missing the point of the post, that there are more companies than Monsanto out there. There are more factors than seed that goes into what farmers plant.

      Farmers get sued because they knowingly have violated a patent on seed.

      Indian farmers were committing suicide long before biotech was in there and country and I don’t believe there has been any increase: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2013/03/11/the-real-seeds-of-deception/#.UaPXFmQ6XDI

      Lots of plants are patented. GMO, organic or conventional. I know a fruit farmer who has to pay royalties on certain trees because they are patented. Some fruit can’t be planted in the US because of patents.

      This post has to do with farmers because often times we are told “We are too stupid to know what we are doing” Labeling is not our issue that is the higher ups in the “food chain”

      As for the rat study you mentioned, completely debunked. http://www.vegangmo.com/?p=711

      • Reply
        bhuwanchand
        May 28, 2013 at 6:23 am

        Yes farmer’s suicide used to happen earlier also in India, but it was never in such large numbers. To be more specific the highest number of farmer’s suicide has happened in the areas where adoption of GM cotton seeds was high (Maharashtra).

        No one can talk down to farmers in India, they are the majority of the population here and they are themselves protesting against it in the rural area. They do no like to give up the rights on the produce of their own farm and how they would want to use it in the future. They do not like be bounded to few brands for life.

        If you are happy with it, I am happy for you, but do look at the issue dispassionately, beyond all the hubris of propaganda and counter propaganda. Make an informed choice after looking at all sides of the story. An instant increase in farm revenue is a big incentive, but look at the long term impacts and sustainability.

  • Reply
    artfaceted
    May 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    This article is extremely informative, I really learned a lot especially about what goes into the choices farmers make. I live in France where GM labeling is obligatory on food products making me feel empowered about what choices I make as a consumer. I’d like to point out that the negative press Monsanto has been getting seems to be targeted more at their herbicide product, Roundup. Not only has Roundup been apparently responsible for killing off of huge bee populations but the health threats to humans and livestock are only just beginning to be understood. Those risks include grave harm to intestines and human fetuses. Although Monsanto is by no means the only GM producer, it has much lobbying power in the US government and seems to be in the good graces of the EPA, thus making it an easy target for activists.

    • Reply
      Adam Spelhaug (@pfsagronomyguy)
      May 31, 2013 at 8:08 am

      Glyphosate (Roundup) is not in question with the bee population, it is the use of neonicotinoid insecticides that the EU is worried about. (Still not proven by scientists and only being pushed by some European politicians) We have used this chemistry of insecticides on our corn seed for 8 years now, planting next to a bee keepers operation with no negative effects. We have visited with him before and after planting and he has no worries.

  • Reply
    gliderpilotlee
    May 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Good research. Information spilling out. Great variety of opinions. You choosing to farm, good lady. I heard a story recently about how they (city folk) could rarely understand country life – this is a good thing to do.

  • Reply
    bandgeekbella
    May 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    I love this article! Thank you so much for bringing light to this topic!

  • Reply
    nsuharsono
    May 27, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Reblogged this on NSUHARSONO and commented:
    very thoughtful article. Sadly, it is the same in Indonesia.

  • Reply
    darleenw
    May 27, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    All good points made. The argument with the farmers and Monsanto has not been addressed however. That being if gross hybrid conditions happen and Monsanto tests their crops they can be charged.
    Other point is there is no scientific evidence that GMO is bad for humans. No proof that organic is better.

  • Reply
    mom of 5 ladies
    May 28, 2013 at 2:06 am

    Reblogged this on Mom of 5 Ladies.

  • Reply
    dancemom97501
    May 28, 2013 at 2:40 am

    Great article. Thank you for doing this. The pictures are great, btw.

  • Reply
    bhuwanchand
    May 28, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Just a question – when you say 100% of the farmers – how are they actually. To be more precise how many farmers did you talked to and from what all areas – how the sample plan designed and logic behind selecting the sample. This will help understand what is getting represented in your here.

    I agree that yes, it is the choice of the farmer which seeds he wants to plant. But it is not such a simple choice, its not just a question free will, the issue is a bit more complicated.

    I too have also met many farmers in India, specifically in Gujarat who talk about their success story with BT cotton seeds, how it has helped them increase their productivity and revenue. But it is still one side of the story. Like everything else in life, there is another side of this story. And I would urge you to please increase your sample and include the other voices if you want to make a persuasive point.

    I am simply amazed at the innocence of it all. I would urge you to please dig a little deeper. In order to do so you may need to meet and talk to those farmers whose life has been ruined by the GM seeds. I am sure it will not be very hard to find them. Do have a look at these links as well Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser in Canada http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/25/percy-schmeiser-farmer-who-beat-monsanto.aspx, or Monsanto vs Bowman in the US http://www.dailyfinance.com/on/monsanto-gmo-roundup-ready-seeds-patents-food-prices/, to farmers in Brazil suing Monsanto for $2.2 billion for unfair collection of royalty http://rt.com/news/monsanto-brazil-seed-soy-908/

    Of course the farmers have a choice – but at times the choices is between devil and the deep sea.

    The major differentiation between the various type seeds – organic, hybrid or GM is also the price of the seed, the intellectual rights on the seed.

    The GM seeds are sold at a much higher rate along with the a number of sweet dreams and they are patented, They are required to be purchased every time afresh from the corporation selling them. The farmer can not use a part of the crop as seed for the next time. It is also not such as easy choice to pick different type of seed from one cropping cycle to another. The soil conditions changes, one need to apply different kind of fertilizers and pesticide for each option, and they also have long term impact on the soil.

    If you try just try to widen the horizon you would also find out that through patents on seeds, Monsanto has become the “Life Lord” on the planet, collecting rents from life’s renewal and from farmers, the original breeders.

    There are people on this planet who believe that patents on seed are illegitimate because putting a toxic gene into a plant cell is not the “creation” or invention of the plant. They are seeds of deception – the deception of Monsanto being the creator of seeds and life, the deception that while it sues farmers and traps them in debt, it is working for farmers’ welfare and ”improving farmers lives” – the deception that GMOs feed the world.

    The expenditure on pesticides seems less on GM seeds in comparison to organic seeds, because only the Monsanto produced GM seeds lead to the emergence of super pests and super weeds, against which their newer seeds would be immune but any other seed wont stand a chance.

    Like any other business organization Monsanto’s aim is also profit maximization, and I have no issues with that, its fair as long as their business practices are fair. But do you know Monsanto’s monopoly on seeds in India are the root cause behind the sharp increase in suicides in some regions where the farmers are unable to pay-back the debts they have taken to buy expensive seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. in the hope of better income but if the crop fails, their finance, family/ social life, everything goes for a toss and they are left with no other option but to kill themselves.

    Let me share a story with you, the story of Monsanto in India.

    1. In 1995 , Monsanto introduced its BT technology in India through a joint venture with the Indian company Mahyco.
    2. In 1997-98, Monsanto started open field trials of its propriety GMO BT cotton illegally, and had announced it would be selling the seeds commercially the following year.
    3. India has had rules for regulating GMOs since 1989 under the Environment Protection Act. Under these rules, it is mandatory to get approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the Ministry of Environment for GMO trials.
    4. When people found out that Monsanto had not applied for approval, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology sued Monsanto in the Supreme Court of India. As a result, Monsanto could not start commercial sales of its BT cotton seeds until 2002. But it had started to change Indian agriculture before that.
    ‘Seeds of suicide’ :
    The entry of Monsanto in the Indian seed sector was made possible with a 1988 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank, requiring the government of India to deregulate the seed sector. and then things changed drastically in India.
    First, Indian companies were locked into joint ventures and licensing arrangements, and concentration over the seed sector increased. In the case of cotton, Monsanto now controls 95% of the cotton seed market through its GMOs.
    Second, seed which had been the farmers’ common resource became the “intellectual property” of Monsanto, for which it started collecting royalties thus raising the costs of seed.
    Third, open-pollinated cotton seeds were displaced by hybrids, including GMO hybrids. A renewable resource became a non-renewable patented commodity.
    Fourth, cotton which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops now had to be grown as a monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure.
    Finally, Monsanto started to subvert India’s regulatory processes, and in fact started to use public resources to push its non-renewable hybrids and GMOs through so-called public private partnerships (PPP).

    The creation of seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of super profits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides, and agrarian distress.

    It is this system that Monsanto has created of seed monopoly, crop monocultures and a context of debt, dependency and distress – which is driving the farmers’ suicide epidemic in India. This systemic control has been intensified with BT cotton.

    That is why most suicides are in the cotton belt. The highest acreage of BT cotton is Maharashtra, and this is also where the highest farm suicides are. According to Indian journalist P Sainath, who has covered farmer suicides extensively: “The total number of farmers who have taken their own lives in Maharashtra since 1995 is closing in on 54,000. Of these, 33,752 have occurred in nine years since 2003, at an annual average of 3,750. The figure for 1995-2002 was 20,066 at an average of 2,508.” Suicides have increased after BT cotton was introduced. The price of seed jumped 8,000 percent; Monsanto’s royalty extraction and the high costs of purchased seed and chemicals have created a debt trap.
    According to data from the Indian government, nearly 75% rural debt is due to purchased inputs. Farmers’ debt grows as Monsanto profits grow.

    It is in this systemic sense that Monsanto’s seeds are those of suicide. An internal advisory by the agricultural ministry of India in January 2012 had this to say to the cotton growing states in India:
    Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to BT cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among BT cotton farmers.

    Monsanto India’s website has all the pictures of smiling prosperous farmers from the state of Maharashtra. However, we see that the reality on the ground is completely different. Farmers are in debt and in deep distress, and have become dependent on Monsanto’s seed monopoly. Most of the farmers who have committed suicide in India did so due to being trapped in debt and are in the cotton belt – which has become a suicide belt now: The highest suicides are in Maharashtra. Monsanto’s talk of “technology” tries to hide its real objectives of ownership, where genetic engineering is just a means to control seeds and the food system through patents and intellectual property rights.

    Life is hard for the thousands of organic cotton farmers in India, but it’s much harder for the millions of genetically engineered (GE) cotton farmers in the country. These farmers in India continue to amount huge debts in order to afford the expensive GE seeds and the chemicals that come with them.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 28, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Thank you for reading and for commenting. First of all, I do not claim that this post is a representation of farmer’s on a global scale. Or even that it is a representation of farmer’s as a whole. Indeed there are varying viewpoints and that was clearly seen in my findings of the handful of farmers that I surveyed. I love that this post is bringing up some very complex and deep issues within GM seeds, but at the same time I feel like a few people are missing the point of this article entirely. When I sat down to write it, my intent was not to make it deep, emotional, and complex. It was to simply shed light on some of the decision making process that farmers here in the United States go through when it comes to choosing their seed. When writing about GM and biotechnology, it stirs up all sorts of issues because well, quite frankly, everyone has their own qualms with them. And I don’t care to take on each individual issue in my posts because it’s exhausting. For some people it’s about technology rights, for some people it’s the dangers of GMOs, for some people it’s more on a global scale, for some people it’s about labeling. So yes, you are correct in my intent was for this post to be a light hearted, extremely simple, and informative blog about how farmers here in the U.S. make choices. And my findings were to never speak about farmers on a broad, global spectrum. I didn’t expect to get farmers across the nation’s responses because quite frankly my audience doesn’t reach that far. But now thanks to being featured on Freshly Pressed, my audience is growing. I hope to take the opportunity given to me and continue to use my blog to foster conversations about agriculture. Again, thanks for commenting. And if you have any contacts of farmers in your area, I’d love to ask them the same questions!

      • Reply
        barefootbeekeeper
        May 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm

        If you want a more balanced view of US farmers’ opinions of GM, watch this video – http://youtu.be/jEX654gN3c4

        • Reply
          jenniferdewey
          May 28, 2013 at 1:34 pm

          I never claimed that this post was reflective of every farmer in the U.S…. As you can see, this isn’t a blog about GMOs, it’s a blog about seed choice.

          • barefootbeekeeper
            May 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

            Thaen why do you censor my comments that are directly related to seed choice? This article is nothing but propaganda.

          • jenniferdewey
            May 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

            This is an article about FARMER’S CHOICES. It’s an article that is taking the farmer’s words straight from their mouths… It’s farmers talking about WHAT they do, WHY they do it, and HOW they do it… Not sure how you turn that into me promoting propoganda for Monsanto… Again, if you continue to accuse me or my post, your comments will not stand here. Like I said, I welcome conversation not agendas.

      • Reply
        bhuwanchand
        May 28, 2013 at 11:01 pm

        This issue is highly polarizing and you would never be able to satisfy everyone. But at the same time it is important to take a position rather than keep the mask of neutrality. I am happy that you have taken a position based on your understanding and interactions with farmers in your area. Please do not take it personally, the question on sample representation are just an habit, being in research and consumer insight field for a long time.

        🙂 I keep interacting with farmers across India almost continuous basis and you are most welcome to be part of this communication.

        Regards,

    • Reply
      ephesians413
      May 31, 2013 at 7:41 am

      Thank you for posting India’s experience. Very interesting.

  • Reply
    tanushukla
    May 28, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Its a grt read 🙂

  • Reply
    Exception à la règle
    May 28, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Love it, great!

  • Reply
    Michael Boulter
    May 28, 2013 at 9:17 am

    If nature and natural selection have anything to say about it, then choose any opportunistic adventure that’s available: it will either fail or help you adapt.

  • Reply
    Michael Boulter
    May 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Imagine you’re an insect on a carrot flower (today’s post on scienceandartblog.com) wondering about choice!

  • Reply
    denachocolata
    May 28, 2013 at 9:30 am

    this is lovely and insightful! wouldn’t settle for GM seeds anyways; GM always has a way of paying back for tampering with nature. Maybe it isn’t just on the surface yet. But i agree on many of your standpoints!

  • Reply
    Marsha in the D
    May 28, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Great information…..

  • Reply
    Obaid Akhlaq
    May 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Catchy title and a great piece of writing. Love the photos they blend in very well.

  • Reply
    segmation
    May 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Farmers have lots of choices. They do though need lots of rain and sun! http://www.segmation.com

  • Reply
    Detroit Health
    May 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Regarding your line: “If pollen drift into your field occurs and that wasn’t your intentions, you aren’t going to be held accountable for that.”

    Does the responsibility and liability work both ways? Is the GMO farmer or seed producer responsible if their GMO corn pollen blows across the road onto an organic farmer’s field? Would the organic corn still be certifiable? Thank you for doing original research. I, for one, found your article fascinating and very well written.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      From my understanding pollen is something that is considered natural and drift is something that just happens. There’s no possible way to put up borders or control the way the wind blows. Organic farmers can however, like I mentioned in my article, plant a buffer to ensure that their crop stays free from drift and plant at a different time to ensure that pollination doesn’t occur at the same time that way their crop maintains it’s certified organic status.

      But basically, either way, neither farmer is held accountable for something natural like pollen drift. There has to be proof of intent in order for either party to prosecute. Thank you for reading and for your comment! Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • Reply
        barefootbeekeeper
        May 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm

        I see you are now censoring my comments instead of answering them.

        • Reply
          jenniferdewey
          May 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm

          I appreciate you sharing your opinions on this blog, however, this blog is meant to foster conversation as well as forum for people have discussions about issues. Not for people who already have their minds made up to share their opinions or push their own agendas. Also accusing me of working for Monsanto continually is not something I will stand for on my own blog. I would love it if Monsanto would pay me to write, but unfortunately, they do not. If you would like to join our conversation, feel free to do so. But if you are going to continually make accusations to me, you will find your comments will be deleted and I will not give you any more of my time. Thank you.

      • Reply
        barefootbeekeeper
        May 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm

        If you are setting yourself up as an authority, you should at least get your facts right. Monsanto routinely sue farmers for growing their patented seed as a result of ‘accidental’ cross-pollination.

        • Reply
          jenniferdewey
          May 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm

          If you really want to get some information about Certified Organic and what is considered grounds to prosecute, check out the USDA’s Organic 101 blog. I never claimed to be an authority, I said from my understanding. Playing Devil’s advocate… how are you of any authority?

    • Reply
      barefootbeekeeper
      May 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      The organic farmer is expected to bear the cost of such pollution: their crop would no longer be certified organic. This is one of the main objections to the unfettered spread of GM crops: they make organic farming impossible.

  • Reply
    Ajay Kaul
    May 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Thank you for the education here. I was looking for the farmers’ viewpoint on this and you just provided that. Thx for the post – very informative and great to see that the information was collected first hand!!

  • Reply
    jleecute
    May 28, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Nice photos with a micro focus lens.

  • Reply
    servitechinc
    May 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Reblogged this on From Field to Field and commented:
    Some excellent input on the choices that farmers are given.

  • Reply
    One-in-Mind
    May 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Hmmm very interesting piece. I am curious, are all the farmers that you asked based within the U.S? I think the level of choice between third world farmers would be quite different.

  • Reply
    ArbPlan
    May 29, 2013 at 1:39 am

    Reblogged this on Your Daily Greens and commented:
    An interesting article. Glad this blogger had the foresight to ask the farmers themselves.

  • Reply
    ajpcross
    May 29, 2013 at 2:08 am

    I appreciate how well researched this article is. As a broke college student I often want to eat better, but it is hard when companies make healthier foods have an almost unbearable price. I am aware that farmers want to use the best seeds that produce the most crops for their area and have good monetary return–but I also know that if we funnelled some money into the agriculture industry we could get some great seeds that didn’t possibly have lots of side-effects. We have to think about what we are putting into our body, it is possible to have good seeds at a good price, we just have to research it more. I shouldn’t have to chose between mediocre and great in the produce section. All products in the produce section should be equally amazing.

  • Reply
    kellyscott57
    May 29, 2013 at 7:36 am

    As A relative of an uncle and a aunt who are farmers? YES Id rather Think they have a million choices to make.
    My aunt and and uncle have a farm just outside Salem ,Oregon , they are grads from Oregon state university . and they work very hard both, mind you , I know I’ve been there.

  • Reply
    twclark66
    May 29, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Good post. What interests me about Monsanto is how they have an almost 100% media blackout on the Monsanto protests nationally. That jumps out to me the most as Fascism. That catches my attention and any company that can do that is not one that I want to do business with in the future.

  • Reply
    Farming America
    May 29, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Reblogged this on Farmingamerica's Blog and commented:
    I’ve never re-blogged someone else’s blog but with the march against Monsanto in the books I felt it necessary to share this post written by my friend Jenny Dewey. This project Jenny worked on interviewing various farmers throughout North Dakota is very interesting. Great job in providing feedback from both organic and conventional farmers Jenny.

    What are your thought on GMO’s and Monsanto? Share them below!

  • Reply
    ChangeTheWorld
    May 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

    This is really interesting! It is good that you are including farmer’s voices in this dialogue. Thanks for sharing!
    http://stepstochangetheworld.wordpress.com/

  • Reply
    bbrunophotography
    May 29, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    This post is really a contrast to the info put out via the Food,Inc. movie. Goes to show you, we need to research ourselves and not depend on others to hand-feed us our info. So much hysteria happens online, it’s refreshing to see a well-planned piece like yours. Thank you, Jenney.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 29, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      THANK YOU! I try my best to be honest, search for the truth, and not rely on fear as a technique to share with people about where our food comes from. I’ve always been weary of “fear based” or “undercover” campaigns… And so far in my conversations and interactions with food growers and people who process and handle our food at all levels, I’ve learned that there is nothing to be afraid of… In fact there are many hard working, wonderful people behind the scenes making our food safe, abundant, and constantly striving to ensure us as customers and consumers have choices.

  • Reply
    redgoldenchild
    May 30, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Yes farmers have a choice but many choose profit over ethics! We need more community farming.

  • Reply
    nanuschka
    May 30, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Very informative article, thank you!

  • Reply
    dazzlingsplendour
    May 30, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Coincidentally, we were covering this issue on farmers and patented seeds in class this week. May I know the demographics of the farmers which you have surveyed? Your work has offered a fresh perspective from the one we covered in class. My students were pretty disheartened when they saw this video of a farmer being interviewed regarding the issues he has with Mosanto.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 30, 2013 at 9:49 am

      All the farmer’s surveyed were from North America… Most from the United States, a few from Canada. And as far as the crops they grow, they were really across the board. Anything from cotton and sugar cane in the South (Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama) to corn and soybeans in the Midwest, to canola and wheat in Canada, and even some guys that plant crops for cattle. Large and small farmers, some partly organic, some conventional, one farm was full organic, and I had one regional seed retailer. I understand the sample size is small and this isn’t meant to be a direct reflection of EVERY farmer’s opinions or views here in the U.S. BUT it says something that you can take a diverse group of farmers from across the nation and they ALL agree that yes, they have choices when it comes to their seed. I don’t think that one single video, article, etc. can sum up a nation of farmer’s opinions and dealings with a large company like Monsanto. Some people don’t do business with them for ethical reasons, some people continually do business with them because they enjoy their products, and some people occasionally do business with them. Much like people choose what kind of car they want to buy and one single video can’t possibly deal with the reasons why people buy Ford or Chevy versus Honda or Toyota… Seed is much of the same way. Like I said in the many of the comments, I get leery whenever people or even groups try to vilify ONE company. Monsanto isn’t the only company out there researching, producing, and selling GM seed or even upholding their technology rights. Thanks for your comment! And glad to hear your class was learning about this topic!

  • Reply
    rollergiraffe
    May 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Although I am naturally suspicious of GMOs etc, I do appreciate the farmer’s perspective because I think that is something that is lacking in the conversation about our food supply. I am totally guilty of generalizing about what is happening with the food industry, and I think many people are. But before we can even have a meaningful conversation about it, we have to understand why farmers choose crops as they do, and understand that they’re less at the mercy of Big Ag than we perceive them to be.

  • Reply
    Rashid Faridi
    May 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Reblogged this on Rashid's Blog.

  • Reply
    Rails Warner
    May 30, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Do the farmers who have GMO wheat growing in their fields in Oregon have a choice?

    They never bought GMO seed but some how its growing in their fields.

  • Reply
    Rails Warner
    May 30, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Did the farmers who planted GMO rice by accident have a choice? That cost Bayer 750 million

    here is the settlement
    http://gmricesettlement.com/

  • Reply
    vievagal
    May 31, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Love this article! It is the same for farmers here in Australia too. Although I think that there is a general weariness about farmers planting GMO seeds, it is hard not to choose GMO for their properties which ultimately increase yields, decrease the cost of production and increase profits for farmers. That’s not to say that farmers are getting rich, but they can combat the effect of supermarket price wars which are reducing the sale price of produce. Great Work Jennifer on offering a fresh perspective!

  • Reply
    ephesians413
    May 31, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Your survey sounds as if it is very objective. However, you only asked them about choice. Many of them choose the GM seeds because of convenience and not having to use so many pesticides and herbicides. That sounds so nice. I understand that they are continuing a tradition that they grew up with – growing large amounts of grain on huge tracts of land, thinking of how to reap the highest yield at the cheapest price. However – this kind of agriculture cannot continue to produce high yields without destroying the land (and the health) that belongs to our future generations. Farmers everywhere ought to be concerned with how they can produce healthy crops and at the same time replenish the bountiful earth instead of stripping it and then having to fill it with chemical fertilizers. There are ways to grow food for ourselves that will help restore our earth and keep it from killing us. It is possible.
    It is understandable that the farmers have to make a living. They need also to understand that they MUST upgrade their view of the land that they care for. Widening their view and looking into new ways of producing healthy food with an eye on replenishing the land through natural methods of ammending the soil would help future generations of both consumers and producers of food. GMO’s are NOT the solution. Neither are massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides that end up in our waterways and kill off the living creatures that are a part of that essential ecosystem.

    • Reply
      jenniferdewey
      May 31, 2013 at 7:51 am

      “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” -Dwight Eisenhower

      It’s easy to tell farmers how to farm when you aren’t the one doing it. Like I said in my article, it’s up to each farmer to decide what is best for their land, their soils, and their crops. Farmers have to be good stewards for the land because crops wont grow otherwise. No amount of “chemical fertilizers” will change bad soil biology. This post was a reflection of how and why farmers do what they do, not sure how you can argue with that. But people keep finding ways. Thanks for commenting.

    • Reply
      Adam Spelhaug (@pfsagronomyguy)
      May 31, 2013 at 8:16 am

      I believe our soils are much more healthy now than when my grandfather or great-grandfather was planting his crops. Minimum tillage and the increased use of conservation practices have increased our soil tilth and organic matter over the past 20 years. We produce more now by feeding our crops with the same minerals that are naturally occurring in the soil, just not to the level to produce the amount of bushels we receive today. US farmers feed close to 120 people each, most other countries are subsistence growers. The world would starve if everyone became subsistence farmers, we need to continue to push our yields even higher in order to feed the growing world. Nobody cares more for the land than a farmer that is working on it. People need to believe this.

  • Reply
    What Type of Equipment Do Farmers Use to Plant? | [ j. l. d. ] Photograph Blog
    May 31, 2013 at 10:46 am

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  • Reply
    frustratedreader
    May 31, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Being a NoDak farm kid, I was scared that this post would offend me in some way. Nope, wasn’t offended. Well done!

  • Reply
    Jake
    May 31, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    As a farmer in the Canadian Prairies, I was surprised and impressed by the quality of this article. It is well-written, well-informed and objectively written. Excellent work!

    We grow genetically modified canola and soybeans on our farm in addition to many other crops, including wheat, barley, peas, lentils, and so on. I am tired of seeing so many unsubstantiated articles that claim that we farmers are destroying our land, farming in an unsustainable manner. In the 1930’s, dust storms were a common and horrifying sight across the Prairies due to the farming methods at that time.

    Today, thanks to pesticides, fertilizers, and GMO’s, our soil quality has improved drastically- and this is something we can measure by soil testing. You cannot harvest seeds from a plant without removing nutrients from the soil. Fertilizers return this to restore the balance. Organic farming, which does not include synthetic fertilizer, strips nutrients from the soil. Without pesticides, tillage is a requirement to control weeds, which causes soil erosion. If we want to prevent the horrifying topsoil destruction that occurred in the 30’s, we must not resort to organic farming. It is a flawed method that cannot feed the world’s population.

    Never take farmer’s choices away by limiting us to non-GMO crops. It is a mistake that would be regretted for generations.

    • Reply
      Y-Love (@ylove)
      June 4, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Do you foresee farmers standing up for their rights to plant GMO/GE crops the same way that there are marches against Monsanto today? It sounds like GMO labeling laws, etc., aren’t in farmers’ best interest in your opinion.

      • Reply
        jenniferdewey
        June 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm

        @Y-Love-
        I personally do believe that farmers are standing up for their rights to plant GMO & GE crops, but in a much different way. Farmer’s aren’t working as activists are to voice their opinion, instead they are voting with their dollar and essentially putting their money where their mouth is by purchasing and growing those seeds. Many farmers, much like myself, are essentially trying to tell their own story and give people an understanding of their choices and how/why they make decisions. But unfortunately, their messages aren’t getting heard and the small minority of people who oppose GMOs and biotechnology have become the loudest. I think the March on Monsanto proved that. Many of the marches didn’t have the turn outs that they expected or hoped. And I think the vast majority of people, just regular customers, are left in the middle unsure of what to think. I understand that GMOs and biotechnology is a really tough subject to talk about because people have opposition to it on SO MANY different levels whether it be cost, health, corporations, whatever. But it has taken me fostering conversations with all types of farmers and the general public to make an informed decision about choices like using GM seed or not. I see what my farmer and his family goes through and the factors that go into that selection, and as I mentioned above, it’s no easy task. Through all of that, I begin to understand more the role GM plays on our farm. And that yes, we will stand up for growing the GM crops we do by ensuring that a demand is created for them so the supply will follow.

        I am not at all against a GM label. But I just haven’t seen a campaign that isn’t agenda drive or fear based. And a label with a skull and cross bones saying the product contains GMOs is not the way to address the issue. I believe that education is essential when it comes to biotechnology and GMOs and I strive for that and will support campaigns that do that. And I don’t think that if we put a label on GM products that all of a sudden farmers wouldn’t have the option to buy GM seed. In fact, I am not sure if you know but the seed is labeled GMO from the time we get it until the time we sell it. It is when the product enters the food system that it loses the GM label. Again, thank you for the wonderful conversation! I really appreciate when people are able to have a civil conversation about complex and emotional issues!

  • Reply
    Mary (Love & Absurdity)
    June 1, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Reblogged this on Love & Absurdity.

  • Reply
    Y-Love (@ylove)
    June 2, 2013 at 1:44 am

    I’m learning SO MUCH from this! Thank you so much for this blog!

  • Reply
    Bart Doorneweert
    June 2, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Great insights brought to the debate! Agriculture is such an engineering dominated field, that we forget to ask the people in the system: the farmer. We need more exploratory research to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This is a great step!
    Thank you!

    Bart

  • Reply
    Selden Vos VIII
    June 2, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Lavander Honey.

  • Reply
    foxxyt
    June 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Reblogged this on vividlyfoxxy.

  • Reply
    wholefoodplantlife
    June 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Great article, in a free market demand creates supply, farmers have a choice for the most part. If consumers had an informed choice on the products they purchase then their demand would create what is supplied. As of now the good ol’ US of A does not require GM labeling due to Gov’t being controlled by lobbyist and big Agro manipulation, put the label on the product and lets see what seed the farmer chooses!

  • Reply
    OneWeekToCrazy
    June 3, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I love the new trend of uncovering farming and food practices. Not only does it glorify the farmers, whose industry was somewhat ignored after the TV dinner craze, but it also brings respect to a critical industry that fuels humanity.

    Cheers!
    Courtney Hosny

  • Reply
    painspeaks
    June 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Reblogged this on The Daily Advocate By Painspeaks.

  • Reply
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    The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
    June 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    […] Jenny Dewey, South Dakota, takes a look at several of the factors farmers take into account when choosing the seed varieties for their next crop. Read more in Do Farmers Have Choices? […]

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    Ann
    June 23, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Reblogged this on Care of the elderly? and commented:
    This is a good blog to show Farmer’s perspectives on seed growing choices, and their viewpoints regarding same.

  • Reply
    Cathy Johnson
    June 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Jennifer, I so enjoyed your post. I also very much enjoyed the comments that came after, as I desire to understand the GMO controversy in a balanced manner. (I want GMO labeling, but am unhappy with scientifically unsupported health accusations that prevent that movement going more mainstream.) Thank you for permitting even those posts that frustrated you.

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  • Reply
    Kevin Karsten
    November 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    HI jennifer very good and interesting article farmers do have so many choices and decisions to make. What it really comes down to is maximizing yield with the least amount of input costs.The farmer can then look at precision agriculture to help with those decisions and use precision ag to plant, fertilize, and apply herbicides more precisely. I have been involved in agriculture my whole life from the family farm raising crops and cattle alot has changed in agriculture in a short period of time. I also work for a precision ag company and have been heavily involved with greenseeker over the last year with very good results. We mainly worked with it on wheat the weather didn’t cooperate for the corn with late corn planting and then late wheat harvest there just wasn’t enough time. We plan on using it on corn next year. I was just wandering if you have heard of the greenseeker or seen any research on it.

    • Reply
      Jennifer Dewey Rohrich
      November 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      Hey Kevin, Thanks so much for the comment! I have not heard of greenseeker or seen anything on it! If you want to email me some info, I’d love to read more about it!

      jenlynndewey@gmail.com

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    City Girl to Cotton Loving Agvocate & Agnerd: Meet Janice Person #WomenInAg
    November 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    […] There is a lot of hate in the world. I have seen it in social media for Monsanto Company and from some of my friends. So before I dive into this blog feature, I have a few things to share. I love much of the work Monsanto does in biotechnology as well as their outreach work, like the rural grants they give area schools or this video that features my friend Debbie, her family and ranch. My parents do use some Monsanto products on our family farm but all farmers have choices in what they choose to grow and purchase. Read my friend Jenny’s blog to learn more about farmers and their choices. […]

  • Reply
    Deneese
    December 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Wow! Great article. Well written. Easy to understand. Huge problem. Kind of scary. Empathy for the farmer. My opinion – Need a control area in the U.S. Would be good to limit GMOs to a certain, very limited, region.

  • Reply
    Kris Mahoney
    December 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Sorry, but your comments about “a LOT of regional seed companies” as evidence of choice is laughable when you consider the bigger picture: http://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/seedindustry.jpg

  • Reply
    Steve Ford
    December 20, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Jenny,
    I’m glad you wrote this piece, but I have to disagree with you in one respect. Farmers have much choice among seeds and not all of the seed comes from Monsanto, but the vast majority of corn, soybean, and cotton seed has Monsanto’s genes in it and farmers have little choice but to plant it. For example, in cotton it is next to impossible to plant cotton without Monsanto’s Roundup Flex gene, although there is some Bayer Liberty Link cotton available (about 10%). Monsanto’s Bt genes added to that means that 95% of the cotton planted will result in a check being sent directly from the farmer to Monsanto. So, if you’re a cotton farmer trying to avoid Monsanto, it is nearly impossible. Personally as a farmer, I don’t care one way or another, but I’m also an economist and I have a better understanding than most about how Monsanto is abusing its market power through pricing. Those are the choices in the Southeast. There is a variety or two that will grow well in the SE that does not have a herbicide tolerant gene, but the underlying germplasm is inferior meaning you will have to sacrifice yield in order to avoid herbicide tolerant genes. This is especially troublesome because cotton farmers pay about $30 per acre for the technology that no longer has any value because of herbicide resistant weeds.

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