GM seed costs soar

New evidence shows huge price rises for GM seed – a stark warning to UK farmers

3 December 2009

Against a background of continuing calls from the GM lobby for the Government to back the growing of GM crops in the UK, a new report published today (3 Dec) shows that GM seed prices in America have increased dramatically, compared to non-GM and organic seeds, cutting average farm incomes for US farmers growing GM crops. [1]

The report is being launched at a public meeting at Westminster Central Hall (from 10am, 3 Dec), by Dr Charles Benbrook, Chief Scientist at the US Organic Center. The launch includes a panel discussion with National Farmers’ Union Acting Director General Martin Haworth, Dominic Dyer of the Crop Protection Association and Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth, and will be attended by Monsanto.

In the 25 years from 1975 to 2000, non-GM soybean seed prices rose a modest 63%. Since 2000, as GM soybeans came to dominate the market, the price rose by a massive 230%.

Farmers buying Monsanto’s new Roundup Ready 2 soybean seed in 2010 will pay 42% more per bag than they paid in 2009.

Maize (corn) growers planting the new GM variety ‘SmartStax’, will pay more than twice as much as farmers planting conventional non-GM seeds. This is almost four times more than conventional farmers paid just ten years earlier.

Today, GM cotton seed costs $700, a staggering six times the price of non-GM cotton seed. From 1975 to 1996, the price of cotton seed only doubled, but in the GM cotton era, it has risen from $73 to $589. [2]

In a recent speech Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said the company’s goal was to double gross profits in 2012, from 2007 levels. He said that increases in the price of new GM RR 2 soybeans and GM ‘SmartStax’ maize hybrids will create about one-third of the company’s gross profit growth in 2012.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said:
“This new data on the massive rises in the costs of GM seeds for those US farmers who now have no alternatives, coupled with steep increases in pesticide use, should serve as a stark warning to UK farmers. If GM crops are allowed here, UK farmers could find themselves contributing to another doubling of Monsanto’s profits.”

The Organic Center’s report concludes:
“At the present time there is a massive disconnect between the sometimes lofty rhetoric from those championing biotechnology as the proven path toward global food security and what is actually happening on farms in the U.S. that have grown dependent on GM seeds and are now dealing with the consequences.”

The huge increases in GM seed prices only make economic sense if farmers are able to make big savings by reducing pesticide use, but recent research by The Organic Center in America found that GM crops are actually pushing pesticide use up at a rapidly accelerating pace. Farmers applied 318 million more pounds in weight of pesticides over the last 13 years as a result of planting GM seeds. In 2008, overall GM crops required over 26% more pounds of pesticides per acre than non-GM varieties. [3]

The cost of GM seed is cutting into US farmers’ average net income:

    · From 1975 to 1997 soybean farmers spent 4% – 8% of their income from the crop on buying seed. In 2009, for farmers planting GM soybean seeds, this rose to 16.4% – over twice the historic average. For farmers planting RR2 soybeans in 2010, a projected 22.5% of their gross income per acre will go on buying these GM seeds.
    · In 2009, GM maize seed accounted for 19% of gross income and 34% of operating costs per acre, about twice historic norms.
    · The cost of GM cotton seed has helped drive net farm income on cotton farms into the red since 2008. In the GM era, average net returns on cotton farms have dropped by roughly $200 per acre and the cost of GM cotton seed has increased by almost $100 per acre. [4]

The report states that if these GM seed price and income trends continue the consequences will be of historic significance, as dollars once earned and retained by farmers are transferred to the biotech seed industry.

Ends

For more information please contact press@soilassociation.org or call
Clio Turton, press office coordinator: 0117 914 2448
Jack Hunter, press and e-communications officer: 0117 314 5170

Notes for Editors:

[1] ‘The Magnitude and Impacts of the Biotech and Organic Seed Price Premium’; by Dr Charles Benbrook, Chief Scientist at the US Organic Center – the full report can be downloaded from http://www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/Seeds_Final_11-30-09.pdf

[2]

[3] ‘Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen years’ – the full report can be downloaded from http://www.organic-center.org/science.pest.php?action=view&report_id=159

[4]

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