March 17, 2016 | FarmAid |
“Twenty years ago, the first GMO seeds hit the market. In the decades that followed – as more GMO varieties were adopted and the seed sector rapidly consolidated – ethical, political, legal, environmental, economic and social concerns for the technology have emerged. While many farmers say they are pleased with GMO varieties, many others are disappointed, finding mixed results or facing new problems in the extremely concentrated and corporate-dominated seed sector. These problematic trends affect all farmers, whether or not they plant GMO seeds.
CONCENTRATION & CORPORATE POWER
Since the commercial introduction of GMOs, the seed industry has rapidly consolidated. Today, just four companies control almost 60% of the seed market. For certain crops, the market is even more concentrated. The “big four” seed companies – Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow – own 80% of the corn and 70% of the soybean market.
This concentration has made a huge dent in farmers’ pockets. USDA data show that the per-acre cost of soybean and corn seed spiked dramatically between 1995 and 2014, by 351% and 321%, respectively. Those costs far outpaced the market price farmers received for corn and soy, leaving them tighter margins on which to run their farms.
CONTAMINATION & ECONOMIC LOSS
GMO contamination is well documented. According to the International Journal of Food Contamination, almost 400 cases of GMO contamination occurred between 1997 and 2013 in 63 countries. Part of the problem is the very nature of nature. Many plants are pollinated by insects, birds or wind, allowing pollen from a GMO plant to move to neighboring fields or into the wild. This “genetic drift” illustrates the enormous difficulty in containing GMO technology. Not only is genetic drift impossible to prevent, inadequate regulation also fails to hold seed companies accountable for any resulting damages and ultimately puts the onus on farmers who have been the victims of contamination.
For farmers, the consequences have been severe. Contamination can spark dramatic economic losses for farmers who face rejection from export markets that ban GMOs. Organic farmers suffering contamination can lose their organic certification and the premium they earn for their organic crop.
As consumer demand for non-GMO products expands, farmers are looking for opportunities to diversify into non-GMO markets that pay higher prices. But the inability of companies to properly segregate GMOs from conventional varieties continues to threaten these options for farmers.”