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Date:

August 10, 2000

Subject:

A Farmer's experience with GM

 

Jean-Benard Bonastre's assertion that Roundup Ready Soybeans and BT Corn
will allow a single farmer to handle more acres highlights one of the
major issues in the debate on transgenic crops. The work load associated
with Roundup Ready soybeans is no lighter than the work load of
"conventional" crops. The land either must be sprayed or tilled prior to
planting in both cases and a post-emergent treatment of herbicide is
almost guaranteed, sometimes two treatments. I am a farmer in
Southwestern Illinois (22 miles east of St. Louis Mo) and planted both
Roundup Ready and conventional soybeans this year. They each require the
same amount of management. The basic difference is that Roundup Ready
soybeans use different weed control chemistry than conventional. That is
all. Also by using Roundup for weed control, I am able to do all of my
chemical applications over the top of the growing crop and therefore the
potential of herbicide getting into the ground water or surface water is
greatly reduced. This is an environmental benefit that cannot be ignored.

In the case of BT corn and harvestabiltiy, over the last fifteen years
standability in corn has not been an issue. Only once have I had a
problem and that was with a single variety and was on only fifteen acres
of land. Conventional breeding has virtually removed fallen corn as a
problem in the U.S. BT corn only removes the need to spray for Corn Borer
as a treatment for that damaging pest. BT corn also allows me to harvest
all of the ears of corn as the corn borer damages the shank that holds the
ear to the plant and in conventional varities ear loss is a problem with
borer damage.

When I visited with some EU folks over here, they tried to apply their
world view to US agriculture. They consider the fence rows between fields
to be "open space" In fact I maintain over ten percent of the land I
manage as "open space". They also expressed a concern with the
"bio-diversity" of weeds within my fields. I asked them what made them
think that I tolerated ANY weeds in my fields in the first place? Roundup
ready only makes that control easier and is less stressful on the soybeans.

I got long again didn't I? If you have any questions about US agriculture
please email me and I will try to answer them as time permits. Harvest is
coming and I still have many meetings to attend and lots of work around
here to get done.

In my view, Organic Farming is producing food for the elitist and the only
reason that it is possible at all is because of farmers like me that are
using Intensive management and all of the available production practices
that enable high yielding agriculture to provide affordable food for the
rest of society. In the U.S. consumers spend less than ten percent of
their income on food and enjoy the safest cheapest and most diverse food
supply in the world. As a farmer I take intense pride in that.

> Date: Aug 09 2000 17:06:56 EDT
> From: "JEAN-BERNARD.BONASTRE"
> Subject: Biotechnology and Impact on the Structure of Agriculture --
> Megafarm units
>
> As a comment and answer to Dennis Keeney message , I think there is an
> impact of herbicide resistant soybean varieties on agricultural
structures
> at least in developped agriculture like USA. The use of glyphosate
> resistant varieties allows no tillage practices ( or low tillage) and a
> simplification of labour ( pre emergence spray, sowing, eventual post
> emergence spray, harvest ). Labour resource is a limiting factor, as
well
> as time window with acceptable weather for sowing.
>
> With transgenic ( herbicide resistance varieties ), one single farmer is
> able to manage an acreage lets say 25% to 30% wider than classical
> varieties. Harvest length remains a bottleneck, although with time
conflict
> with harvest of other crops ( corn); however increase of size of
harvester
> is a reponse to that problem. I remember interviewing several farmers in
> Illinois , indiana who confirmed me thos assertions.
>
> As far as Bt corn is concerned , the better standability of corn at
> harvest time may suggest a faster harvest ( the harvest velocity can
vary
> from one to two depending of the standability of the plants at
maturity),
> therefore a single person is able to improve productivity of his labour
> measured in harvester acres per hour when other factors unchanged ( size
> of the harvester for instance).
>
> Jean Bernard Bonastre