QoD: "GE is a product that's trying to find a necessity." -Bill Christison, president of the National Family Farming Coalition
US farmers battle GE problems
The Press (Christchurch) February 22, 2001
Genetically engineered crops cost more and produce less, says an American farming leader. Bill Christison, president of the National Family Farming Coalition, recently gave a submission to the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering, and is visiting farming groups in New Zealand. Mr Christison grows soy beans, corn, wheat, and cattle on 800ha at Chillicothe, Missouri. "I have never planted GE crops, but many of my neighbours have. The experience in the US has created a lot of problems."
The coalition, he said, consisted of small to medium-sized farms in 35 states, with a membership of between 12,000 and 30,000 in each state. "We are primarily concerned with farm and rural issues."
These have included changing farm credit legislation, fighting for better farm legislation, reducing farm subsidies, and genetic engineering. Mr Christison, who has been brought to New Zealand by Greenpeace, said contamination during processing was impossible to prevent, and it was virtually impossible for genetically engineered, conventional, and organic production to co-exist. "The infrastructure is not set up for it, it's impossible to keep seeds apart."
He said it was also difficult to stop pollen contamination between GE crops and non-GE crops, and there were big problems with the economics of GE production. "I believe economics will really drive these issues. "The consumers of the world are not interested in buying a lot of these products. In 1995 the US share of (global) soybean exports was 72.3 per cent. In 2000 that had shrunk to 58 per cent. We think that has a great deal to do with GE."
"The consumer's always right. You are not going to be financially successful ramming things people don't want down their throats. GE is a product that's trying to find a necessity. So far it hasn't found that."
Mr Christison said US farmers increasingly saw their way of life threatened by corporate control. Genetic engineering increased farmers' dependence on biotechnology companies that controlled seeds and other inputs. "You just rent the seeds, you don't buy them, and can't plant them again. He said genetically engineered Roundup Ready seeds cost six to seven times as much as conventional seeds, and they could not be used again. Herbicide-resistant weeds had developed, and it had recently been discovered that Roundup had caused a fungus to develop on soybean roots causing a sudden- death syndrome. He said farmers who planted GE crops were taking the risk of being sued by neighbours if the neighbour was adversely affected. He said New Zealand was the first country in the world to go through an appropriate process to decide whether GE crops could be grown. "I believe the future of New Zealand can best be served by remaining GE-free. You have the ability to become the source of good clean seed once we get past GE. "Really, New Zealand is viewed as in a very favourable position in the world."
"The promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield. But let me tell you none of this is true." Bill Christison, President of the US National Family Farm Coalition
"The agribusiness strategy on GMOs... is threatening our export markets at a time when we can't afford any further downward pressure on price." Presentation: Dan McGuire, American Corn Growers Association, Annual Convention, February 4, 2000
"I've been a seed dealer for Monsanto for 18 years and this is the year we are going to have to part ways. They've forgotten that they have to serve farmers. I don't think they care who we've got to grow for. They're just concerned with making a fast buck." Steve Mattis, an Illinois farmer and seed dealer, February 18, 2000
"We could be coming back to a situation like the Middle Ages where producers have to depend on a single, powerful company for their livelihood." Quebec Agriculture Minister, Remy Trudel, July 7, 2000
"After reviewing Monsanto's 2001 Technology Agreement, I would discourage any farmer from signing this document." Oklahoma's Secretary of Agriculture, Dennis Howard, December 1 2000
"Farmers are really starting to question the profit-enhancing ability of products that seem to be shutting them out of markets worldwide" Cory Ollikka, Canada's National Farmers Union president calling for a moratorium on GM crops, December 2000
"The only farmers making any money off GMOs have been those who are growing non-GMO stuff and can prove it." Linda Edwards, a Canadian farmer, November 27, 2000
"The only truly safe seed selection will be seed corn free of any genetic modification" A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co. in a letter to 1,200 of its corn suppliers, November 2000
"....you guys [US Government] created this monster; you clean it up. I have learned my lesson. No more GMO crops on this farm ”” ever." US farmer and GM seed salesman, Nebraska, Dec 2000
"GM organisms have become the albatross around the neck of farmers" Gary Goldberg, American Corn Growers Association