GENTECH archive


Re: US GM crop acreage not justified by its agronomic performance

Biotech Activists wrote:

> ================================
> >From List: Biotech Activists (
> Date Posted: 12/04/1999
> Posted by:
> ================================
> From: "NLP Wessex" <>
> To:
> Subject: US GM crop acreage not justified by its agronomic performance
> Date: Sat, 4 Dec 1999 13:35:59 -0000
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> There has been a huge rush to grow transgenic (GM) varieties in the US. But
> is this rush based on rational and informed economic decision making by US
> farmers? Some US agronomists are not happy that it is, as these comments
> from Dr Will McCarty, University of Missippi Extension Service Cotton
> specialist, demonstrate (October 5, 1999 Agronomy Notes):
> "Before you plant transgenic varieties, be sure you need the value-added
> trait. Also evaluate the yields of varieties with the transgenic trait you
> desire, and study the risk and benefit ratio, if any. In other words, if you
> feel you need to plant Bt and the variety does not or has not yielded well
> for you or in your area, consider the risk of not using it and the potential
> cost of additional insect control versus potential yield loss to planting
> it. The same can be said for a transgenic variety for herbicide tolerance.
> Before you pay extra for the convenience of using a particular herbicide
> over-the-top, be sure the variety fits your farm and will yield well. Also,
> consider if you really need that particular program. ...... Plant the bulk
> of your acreage in proven performers and try limited acreage of new
> varieties. Also, transgenic varieties may not perform as well as did their
> parents. Just because you have had good experience with a particular variety
> does not mean you will have the same results with a transgenic version.
> Variety selection is critical."
> After several years and millions of acres of experience with transgenic
> crops in the US these comments are particularly interesting as GM Bt cotton
> in particular is claimed by its proponents to be highly advantageous to
> farmers.
> There is growing evidence of differences of opinion between US agronomists
> as to the effective agronomic performance of GM crops .  If these experts
> can't agree amongst themselves then it is clear that the claimed benefits
> for this technology are not definitive and have been grossly exaggerated by
> the biotechnology industry and its supporters.
> Given the risks to human health and the environment posed by this technology
> (see ) what can
> be the justification for its introduction if the benefits are non-existent,
> or marginal at best?
> The following additional advice to Mississippi growers by Dr McCarty's soya
> bean specialist colleague , Dr Alan Blaine, is a current reflection on how
> this situation is continuing (Agronomy Notes November 5, 1999):
> "Avoid getting caught up in selecting varieties because they are new. I am
> not discouraging you from trying new varieties, just reminding you to plant
> the bulk of your acreage in proven performers; don't experiment on a large
> scale. If a new variety is that promising, it will be around next year and
> furthermore, there will not be enough seed available the first year to meet
> everyone's needs.
> The vast majority of the problems soybean growers have encountered over the
> last couple of years have been on relatively new varieties. Instead of
> taking 6 to 8 generations for a variety to reach the market, we are seeing
> varieties blown up and put on the market in probably 3 to 4 generations. It
> is this trend that has caused many of you to experience poor performance
> from many new varieties.
> Steer away from planting a variety just because someone tells you how good
> it is. Prove it to yourself and this should be done with no less than 2
> years of yield test data. Variations in growing conditions cause varietal
> differences to be expressed, and 1999 really exposed some potential weakness
> in several varieties."
> It is typically the transgenic varieties which are being rushed to market
> without the proper testing that Dr Blaine refers to.  (For more information
> on this and why many US farmers have rushed to grow GM crops without proper
> economic justification see
> ).
> It is therefore especially ironic that certain elements within the
> agriculture industry in Europe and elsewhere in the world are pressing for
> GM crops to be quickly introduced because they mistakenly believe these
> crops are giving US farmers a clear competitive advantage (ignoring for a
> moment the 'minor' additional factor that these crops are unsaleable in many
> world markets in the first place!).  Those calling for such introduction are
> often prominent scientists who themselves are at best misinformed on the
> 'merits' of this technology (see
> ).
> As if to emphasise the point the University of Mississippi has recently
> issued the following guidelines to its own Extension Scientists on new
> variety selection advice so that farmers can make informed (at last!!)
> decisions:
> 1) to recommend that crop producers combine MAFES variety trial information
> with on-farm personal experience to select varieties that will perform well
> on their farms.
> 2) to recommend that crop producers try new varieties only on a very limited
> acreage.
> 3) to recommend that crop producers plant the bulk of their commercial
> acreage in proven performers.
> 4) to recommend that crop producers critically evaluate the need for value
> added traits in transgenic varieties.
> Do you get their drift?
> For more information on the poor agronomic performance of GM crops visit:
> Watch the WTO Ministerial Live at
> Mark Ritchie, President
> Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
> 2105 First Ave. South
> Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404  USA
> 612-870-3400 (phone) 612-870-4846 (fax)
> cell phone 612-385-7921
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