Monsanto. Illustrated as an evil among many consumers, Monsanto forces farmers to plant genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and somehow the government influences farmers to comply. So how does this happen? Quite simply, it doesn’t happen. Farmers are not forced to plant GMOs and farmers certainly have no obligation to buy seeds from Monsanto. But farmers do choose to buy the seeds, and here’s why.
I recently spoke with two Illinois farmers, Paul Jeschke and Jeff Miller. Jeschke is a corn and soybean farmer from Grundy County, as well as Illinois Corn Marketing Board’s District 5 representative. Miller is a fifth generation farmer from Fulton County, who raises corn, soybeans, and beef cattle.
“There’s two main reasons that I like to use GMOs and do use GMOs, opposed to non-GMOs. Number one, they work a lot better. With GMOs, you’ll typically get 90-95% control of the insects you’re after. Whereas typical pesticides are weather-dependent, and maybe 50-75% control. Number two, I can avoid handling and applying pesticides with GMOs. I just as soon not use pesticides if I can stay away from them,” explained Jeschke.
Miller also added, “Though GMOs dominate the marketplace in both corn and soybeans, farmers sometimes plant non-GMOs, particularly if a premium may be involved. It is a free market system, and farmers will choose what is profitable and works in their system.”
So how does Monsanto relate to the negativism surrounding the use of GMOs? Monsanto is a sustainable agriculture company that has developed patented seeds, in which farmers must sign an agreement upon purchasing the seeds. In this agreement, Monsanto states that farmers are not allowed to save and replant the seeds from year to year.
Monsanto explains the concept of seed patenting by stating, “When a new edition of Microsoft Office hits the market, it’s copyrighted. You can’t buy a copy, burn it and sell it to your friends—or else it’s called piracy. It’s the same with Monsanto’s patented seeds. Patents, like copyrights, are a form of intellectual property protection that legally prohibits unauthorized duplication of a product.”
In our interview, Jeschke discusses how seed patents influence seed purchases saying, “We are absolutely free to buy whatever seed we want to buy, from any company. I choose to buy the majority of my seed from Monsanto, because in my area, they are the best performing seeds I can purchase. Across the country, Monsanto provides the top yielding variety, which is why they are the best-selling company. If other companies get better varieties than what Monsanto currently has, then that will change.”
“There are 3 to 4 major companies to buy seed from, and many regional type companies for corn and soybeans. Personal relationships with companies that have quality products are just as important in farming, as they are in other businesses,” Miller expressed.
As you can see, farmers study several options and take every factor into careful consideration when choosing which seeds to plant in order to harvest a safe, efficient, high-yielding crop for the market. If GMOs most suitably fit their farming operation preferences, farmers can choose GMOs. The bottom line is, farmers do control which seeds go in the ground, and which seeds don’t.
University of Illinois