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How are GMOs affecting farmers money wise?

How are GMOs affecting farmers money wise?

Submitted by: Abigail Lewis


Expert response from Amanda Zaluckyj

Farmer, Lawyer, Blogger,

Thursday, 01/11/2018 17:29

Overall, the adoption of GM crops has benefited farmers financially.

But that’s a very simplistic answer to a very complicated farm economy. There are now several GM crops on the market, and each one impacts a farm differently. Not to mention that farms aren’t one-size-fits-all, so each farmer considers the benefits and downsides to any crop to his individual farm. So, let me flush out my answer a bit.

Generally, GM seed varieties tend to cost significantly more than their non-GM counterparts. That cost is usually offset by much higher yields. So, while farmers might pay more for GM seeds, they tend to see larger yields at harvest. Generally, higher yields offset the higher seed costs.

And the reason for those higher yields usually comes with other cost benefits. For example, Bt corn has its own built-in resistance to common pests. So, farmers don’t have to spray insecticides on the corn, which can be pretty costly itself. Pesticides are expensive, and applying them costs fuel, time, and wear and tear on equipment. Our family farm hasn’t used insecticide on corn since the early 1990’s when we first adopted corn with the Bt protein trait. That has been a huge financial benefit!

I’ll give another example. We grow Round-Up Ready corn and soybeans. That means we can apply the herbicide Round-Up to the field and our crops won’t be harmed; only the weeds will die. Because Round-Up is an extremely effective herbicide, we generally only have to spray once a season, instead of several times. Again, that saves costly trips-across-the-field. And because weeds consume important nutrients, removing them saves those nutrients for the corn and soybeans resulting in better yields.

For farmers outside the United States these financial benefits are usually magnified. In some places, the pest pressure for staple crops like eggplant require several heavy applications of pesticides in one growing season. And still a large part of the potential crop is destroyed before harvest. By adopting GMO technology, farmers are able to cut down on crop losses and the amount of pesticide applications.

So if GMOs benefit farmers financially, why is the farm economy doing so poorly right now?

The answer is complicated. Just like the rest of the economy, the farm economy sees growth and contraction over time. Recently, agriculture seems to contradict the rest of the national economy. That is, while everyone else is doing bad, we’re doing really well. The same is true right now while we’re doing bad and everyone else is doing really well.

The issues impacting agriculture are varied. Some things are more obvious, like the surplus of corn we’ve had in recent years. Others are less direct, like immigration policy and consumption of goods in other countries. National politics also plays a role, such as the trade disagreements taking place with China. So the answer isn’t always straightforward.

But in general GMOs have a positive effect on farmers financially, which is why we’ve seen such widespread adoption of these crops.