As always, a very thought-provoking and sensible article, thank you!
Willi Kampmann

Although I don’t quite understand the argument about GMOs/EFs taking away the ability for normal people to grow seeds themselves: It seems to me this would only be true if there were only GMO seeds left. It seems more likely to me that in the future, there are generic non-GMO seeds for sale at a lower price, and GMO “superseeds” at a higher price.

We are dangerously close to there being no non-GMO seeds available for some crops.

In 1903 there were 307 commercially grown varieties of corn. By 1983 that had been reduced to 12.

90% of corn grown today is produced from GMO seeds.

The classic farm routine was to grow a crop (and I’ll stick with corn for now) and collect a portion of that crop to use as your seed for the following season. So if you grew 100 acres of corn, 1 acre of it would be next year’s seed. But you had to store it properly to make sure rodents didn’t eat it all or that it would spoil due to mold/mildew. If you messed up, you had to spend money to buy seed from someone else. If you wanted to grow a new/different crop, you have to buy to starter seed for that first year.

Now if you go to the seed store, 90% of what is being sold (commercially) is GMO seed. And those GMO seeds are MUCH cheaper than their non-GMO counterparts. I can buy 100,000 Bt GMO corn seeds for under $800. The non-GMO equal would be about $2,400. 100,000 seeds the average seed count to plant 5 acres so if I’m planting 100 acres, it would cost me about $32,000 more to buy non-GMO seed.

But the GMO corn comes with a legal “hitch” that prohibits me from setting aside some of the crop I produce to use as seed for next year. If I go that route I get trapped into being forced to buy seed every year. That might seem like it would make buying the non-GMO seed cheaper in the long run but the GMO corn promises high yields and less pesticide/herbicide use and I don’t have to deal with storing it for next year’s use. That means I get more corn per acre with lower costs to produce it. In theory, my long term increased seed cost is offset by lower pesticide/herbicide costs and lower labor costs.

As a result of all of this, non-GMO seeds are becoming a niche market for a few small-scale growers. If people don’t intentionally go out and buy those non-GMO seeds, the people that currently produce them won’t be able to afford to do so. They’ll get out of that business entirely. As they do that, one by one, the availability of non-GMO seeds decreases. So there is a bit of a death spiral going on with non-GMO seed. The question is whether it can hang on or not.

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