Fact: Our current agricultural system uses taxpayer money to subsidize the planting of GMOs, while organic farmers are required to pay fees for ‘certification’ (March Against Monsanto)
Quotes like these, that do not provide reference to credible source material, are merely being used to get people revved up and excited. Perhaps the quotes are true, but without source data, how can we confirm and understand these claims for ourselves?
What relevant information could be left out by not listing supporting source material?
I’ve noticed a lot of discussion lately about genetically modified (GMO) food regarding disclaimer labeling, farm subsidies, and health and nutrition.
In this post, I wish to point out the challenges and misconceptions about switching to growing non-GMO crops.
Let’s deconstruct the earlier quote about GMO subsidies.
What are subsidies anyway? The word has such a negative connotation.
Essentially, subsidies are various forms of insurance or guarantees to protect farmers against significant losses in crop yield or revenue or both to ensure farmers do not go bankrupt and discontinue farming. Because if enough farmers left the farming business, many of us would eventually starve.
You have home insurance so that if your house burns down or is burglarized, you are given some money by your insurance company to rebuild or replace what was damaged or taken from you.
You pay premiums for house insurance; farmers pay premiums for crop insurance.
The above quote about GMO subsidies suggests that farmers are given special subsidies for growing GMO crops. As a farmer, I know that subsidies are granted to both GMO and non-GMO farmers. In fact, they are the same subsidies! What’s more is that subsidies have been around since the early 20th century, long before GMO technology.
In addition, information I reviewed from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not seem to deny organic farmers from receiving these same subsidies as GMO and non-GMO farmers. Although, I cannot confirm this with certainty. However, I did confirm that organic farmers are eligible for specific organic subsidies (most likely in addition to general farm subsidies).
I do think certain subsidy programs could be updated or changed to be more effective for both farmers and taxpayers. However, I must explore this in a later post.
2. Location from Non-GMO Processing Plants and Distributors
Some farmers in my area grow non-GMO crops; many grow GMO crops. We all haul our crops to the local grain elevator that mixes the GMO and non-GMO corn together, and mixes the GMO and non-GMO soybeans together.
The grain elevator then ships these commodities off to processing plants. As GMO-food labeling becomes increasingly popular, all of that non-GMO grain that was mixed in with the GMO grain will be labeled as GMO by the processing plants.
In preparing to write this post, I discovered that the closest non-GMO processing plant or distributor is 35 miles away.
Some farmers travel this far to grow or transport crops, but many are accustomed to selling their crops within 10 miles of their farms or find it is more profitable for their operation to sell crops at the local elevator rather than transport crops 35 miles or more to a non-GMO distributor.
Currently, the criticism is that GMO food is bad, but isn’t the carbon footprint from hauling non-GMO crops an extra 50 miles roundtrip, hundreds of times, by semi trucks also bad?
Possible solutions: entrepreneurs build more non-GMO processing plants or distributors to farmers, or demand for non-GMO crops increases to the point where local grain elevators store and transport GMO and non-GMO crops separately.
3. Ease of “Cure-All” Chemical Application
In an earlier post “The Great Divide: GMO vs. Organic Food,” I explain that GMO technology enables farmers to use a chemical “cure-all” to protect crops against disease, pests, and weeds rather than having to diagnose various problems in different fields, then select and apply a specific chemical for each problem.
Although GMO technology makes some things easier for farmers, the “tech fees” paid to companies like Monsanto for this technology is costly. And before GMO technology, farmers would set aside some of their harvested crop to plant next year’s crop. Now, with GMO patent laws, farmers are forbidden from replanting GMO crops; instead, they must buy and plant new seed from companies like Monsanto each spring.
4. Cross Pollination Issues
Non-GMO crops grown near GMO crops are at risk for cross pollination, eventually making non-GMO crops genetically modified. What kind of regulation will there be for this?
5. Farming is a Business
Farming is a business, and as a business, most farmers will practice the most profitable options.
If there are “loose” regulations for a subsidy program, it will be taken for advantage! If people want non-GMO food, growing non-GMO crops must be made more profitable than growing GMO crops.
I’m all for getting people excited about supporting a good cause, but it must be done transparently and at the same time, empowering people to educate themselves about the issues. It’s impossible for one attention-grabbing quote to articulate such complex issues.