Monsanto is Causing a Decrease in the Diversity of Corn Crops
Throughout the years the country and the world have been hearing about
the company Monsanto and how the researchers there are developing new strains
of corn. These new strains are commonly known as a genetically modified
organism (GMO) and Monsanto has developed many new strains of genetically
modified corn to market to the countries’ corn producers. Granted these
modifications or stacking of genes increase yields they also create a demand
for that one particular variety which causes monocultures, GMOs are creating
public uneasiness, also GMOs cause a reduction in profits for producers that
aren’t using genetically modified corn.
States that produce corn to make a living are increasingly using more
and more of Monsanto’s corn seed. For example Illinois has increased the
percentage of Insect-resistant corn from 13% of the total corn planted in
2000 to 19% of the total corn planted in 2007. Furthermore Minnesota has
incorporated the Stacked gene varieties into their corn production, starting
with 2% in 2000 to planting 28% of their corn crop with the Stacked gene
variety in 2007 (USDA Data Sets). The reason that these percentages are
rising is because these types of genetically modified corn produce higher
yields generating more revenue for the producer. The increasing percentages
of genetically modified corn shows that more corn producers are using the
same product within the same area which could cause some potentially
dangerous effects. Using the same variety of corn in an area increases the
potential for diseases to infest and demolish the entire crop of corn for
that year. The devastation that would come form the loss of all corn crops
would cause a lot of the producers to suffer financially because their income
for the year would be destroyed. Monocultures of any type increase the
possibility of disease to overtake a crop in any area.
Along with creating genetically modified corn and promoting one product
within an area, Monsanto is teaming up with the Dow Company and will produce
an eight-gene stacked corn variety called “SmartStack” (Chemical Week). The
variety of corn will contain belowground insect-resistant and yield
increasing technologies (Chemical Week). This pairing of the two companies
will undoubtedly increase revenues for both companies while putting a strain
on corn producers who can’t afford to purchase Monsanto’s corn seed.
American corn producers are split between those who use genetically modified
corn and those who can’t afford to transport their crops to elevators that
allow genetically altered corn. Producers who ship corn gluten to Europe are
encountering restrictions like the corn gluten has to contain less than 0.9%
of approved GMOs and less than 0.5% of unapproved GMOs in order for that
producer to sell in the European market (Farm Journal). The reason that
producers selling in the European market have these restrictions placed upon
them comes from the fact that the European Union (EU) hasn’t approved the use
of GMOs within their boundaries because they are concerned that the seed
companies aren’t testing the GMOs as in depth as the companies should be to
ensure public safety.
The EU has tried to vote nine times on the allowance of GMOs into their
countries and eight out of nine times the vote has resulted without an
agreement for the issue and the ninth time the vote was a tie (Food
Navigator). One of the reasons that the public and the EU are uneasy about
GMOs is because they aren’t provided with enough information to support their
curiosity. And the reports that they do hear about GMOs aren’t promising.
News Target came out with and article on how Monsanto’s GM Corn MON863 could
cause liver toxicity and kidney failure, granted this corn variety was
approved for human consumption. Another article supports the findings of the
News Target article saying “feeding the rats on diets containing significant
amounts of MON863 corn can potentially be detrimental to the health of these
animals” (The Independent Science Panel). However the Food and Chemical
Toxicology Journal says, “reanalysis does not advance any new scientific data
to indicate MON863 corn caused adverse effects in the 90-day rat study.” So
which article does the public believe about Monsanto and which article is
actually true are factors that affect how the public views not only Monsanto
but the other companies who are producing genetically modified organisms.
Another factor that causes public to be cautious of companies like Monsanto
comes from a money aspect. Monsanto announced earlier this year that they
would be building a new processing plant so they can double the corn seed
production (Ackerman). Money influences people to do a lot of things and
money also shows the public just how far a company is willing to go to get
ahead of their competitors. Furthermore when this new production plant is
built the producers who can’t switch to genetically modified corn seed will
have more problems with keeping their corn crops from becoming contaminated.
Producers who are using the genetically modified corn can also afford to
transport their crop harvest to elevators who approve the GMOs. Not only are
the producers who are using the GMOs generating higher yields they are
increasing the chance of pollen drift to producers’ fields that do not have
GMOs planted. Some producers like Bill Leischner from Illinois have bordered
their genetically modified corn crops with traditional corn to help prevent
the contamination to his neighbors’ cornfields (Farm Journal). If American
producers who are trading with the EU fail to meet the requirements for how
much genetically modified material can be in the corn gluten then the
producer won’t generate as much income as need to cover costs for that
season. The corn gluten market is a 400 million dollar market for American
corn producers and the result of losing this market would cause corn prices
to decrease costing producers about 1 billion dollars (IFB Pres. Ron Warfield
in Farm Journal). This loss of monetary income for the traditional producers
will have a negative effect on all of the markets within the agricultural
Monsanto’s genetically modified corn seeds will continue to gain
popularity within American agriculture because we are a country driven by
higher yields and higher incomes. However, if Monsanto doesn’t come up with
a rotation plan or a multi-species distribution plan, then American producers
will be encountering a devastating crop loss due to the fact that the pests
have evolved to takeover the trait that the corn seed was modified for.
American corn production will continue to evolve and new technologies will
always be influencing how a producer looks at their next crop, but companies
like Monsanto can help by creating diversity in corn seeds that won’t
decrease the corn prices and raise production costs.
United States. Dept. of Agriculture. Adoption of Genetically Engineered
Crops in the U.S. 5 July 2007.
Bryner, Michelle. “Dow and Monsanto Team Up for Eight-Gene Stacked
Corn.” Chemical Week 169.31 (2007)
“Biotech Divide Widens.” Farm Journal Oct. 2003.
“EU: GM Monsanto Corn Vote Delayed.” Food 27 Jan. 2005.
Gutierrez, David. “Monsanto’s GM Corn MON863 Shows Kidney, Liver
Toxicity in Animal Studies.” News Target. 10 April 2007.
“MON88017 Another MON863.” The Independent Science Panel.
Doull,J, Gaylor,D. “Report on an Expert Panel on the Reanalysis of a 90-
Day Study Conducted by Monsanto in Support of the Safety of a Genetically
Modified Corn Variety (MON 863).” Food and Chemical Toxicology 45.11 Nov.
Ackerman Ruthie, “Monsanto’s Corn Crazy.” Forbes Magazine 9 Oct 2007