ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

23 July 2002


Recently a US National Centre for Food and Agriculture Policy study, part funded by BIO and Monsanto, set out to refute the research findings of independent agronomist Dr Charles Benbrook. Chuck Benbrook had shown there was no commercial benefit from growing genetically engineered Bt corn and RR soya, and a yield drag in the case of RR soya. The author of the study is reported to have been able to tap into a multi-million dollar research budget. Nobody is funding Chuck Benbrook to produce a response.

for more on farming issues including the Benbrook studies:


SOURCE: The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, USA
DATE:   July 15, 2002

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Two years ago, I reported the results of a study that showed crops in Iowa planted with genetically modified seeds provided no significant difference in economic returns to farmers based on the 1998 crop year (see Fall 1999 Leopold Letter). I repeated the study this year using    information from 2000, and found the same results: use of genetically modified seed did not appear to impact a farmer's bottom line for either corn or soybean production.
Michael Duffy, Associate Director
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture



AMES, Iowa-The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture has suspended its annual request for new research project ideas and will not be supporting educational events or conferences this year, dealing a severe blow to sustainable agriculture efforts in Iowa.

The program changes are the result of a $1 million transfer of funds earmarked for Leopold Center work from the Groundwater Protection Fund (GWPF). The groundwater account was established in 1987 and is supported by fees charged on the sale of nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides to Iowa farmers. Iowa legislators approved the transfer, representing an 86 percent reduction in what the Leopold Center would have received from that fund, during a May 28, 2002 special session to help balance the state's 2003 budget.

"This will be the first year in the Center's 14-year history that we haven't issued a call for new proposals," said Leopold Center director Fred Kirschenmann. "Given our budget restrictions we have few choices other than to drastically scale back programs, including funds for new research."

Kirschenmann added that the Center has maintained a financial reserve to complete research projects already underway at the time of the budget cuts.

"This will allow researchers time to finish the projects or to find alternatives for their valuable work," he said. "Many of our funded projects involve two or more years to collect data from field experiments or develop networks or partnerships."

Since 1988, the Leopold Center has funded more than 250 competitive grants totaling more than $10 million. The research and education projects covered a variety of topics including water quality, forages and livestock systems, pest management, marketing and community linkages to agriculture. The research program has involved hundreds of scientists, educators and farmer- cooperators, who were informed of the program suspension in a July 8 letter from the Center.

The Leopold Center's educational and outreach efforts also are severely affected by budget cuts. Eliminated are the Center's pilot educational program and its educational events program, which offered mini-grants to  other groups planning workshops, camps, conferences and meetings about sustainable agriculture issues.

"Education is one of the Center's mandated missions, and our presence at  these events has been an important way to reach Iowans throughout the state," Kirschenmann said. From 1993 to 2002, the Leopold Center provided funds for more than 150 regional conferences, workshops, tours, and youth camps that involved more than 21,000 people.

This is the second year that the Leopold Center has dealt with significant cuts. To make up for a $250,000 transfer in 2001, the Center eliminated support of four long-standing multi-disciplinary issue teams and issued a scaled-back request for proposals (RFP). The Center also receives a direct educational appropriation through Iowa State University, and has experienced a 16 percent cut over the past two years.

"Slashing the Leopold Center's budget does far more damage than simply crippling the Center's ability to fund projects to support midsize farms," Kirschenmann said. "It sends a message that Iowa has given up on the long- term vision of an agriculture that is economically and environmentally sound."

"We do not believe that the demise of midsize family farms is inevitable, " he added. "We believe in another future for Iowa agriculture, and are working within the university community and with organizations outside that community to secure funds to keep the Leopold Center in operation." ##

For more information, contact Fred Kirschenmann, (515) 294-3711; Michael

Duffy, (515) 294-6160; or Laura Miller, (515) 294-5272.


TITLE:  Study shows no economic advantage for Iowa farmers to plant GMO         crops
SOURCE: The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, USA
DATE:   April 2001

Study shows no economic advantage for Iowa farmers to plant GMO crops
By Michael Duffy
Associate Director

Two years ago, I reported the results of a study that showed crops in Iowa planted with genetically modified seeds provided no significant difference in economic returns to farmers based on the 1998 crop year (see Fall 1999 Leopold Letter
<>). I repeated the study this year using information from 2000, and found the same results: use of genetically modified seed did not appear to impact a farmer's bottom line for either corn or soybean production.

The information that I analyzed was collected by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service as part of its annual Cost and Return survey. It was gathered in the late fall and early winter during personal interviews with approximately 350 Iowa farmers. They were asked what crops they grew, and whether the seed they planted contained a genetically modified organism (GMO). The survey covered all aspects of crop production including yields, pesticide and fertilizer use, seeding rates and the type and nature of machinery operations performed.

My analysis used information from a random selection of 172 soybean fields and 174 corn fields from the USDA survey. These numbers and the selection methods employed provide statistically reliable estimates at the state level. Although this analysis is only a cross-sectional survey and not a side-by-side comparison of GMO and non-GMO crops, it represents a picture of what Iowa farmers experienced, under varying conditions and situations, during the 2000 crop year.

Following is a summary of my analysis. I recently presented more details at the American Seed Trade Association meeting in Chicago. My speech, and accompanying charts
< biotech.html>, are posted on the Leopold Center web site. Copies also are available by contacting the Leopold Center.

Herbicide tolerant soybeans

Approximately 63 percent of the Iowa acres planted to soybeans in 2000 were varieties that had been genetically modified to tolerate herbicides used in weed control. In 1998, just over 40 percent was grown from GMO seed. Use of herbicide-tolerant varieties resulted in lower herbicide and weed management costs. However, they also had higher seed costs and slightly lower yields.

The herbicide-tolerant soybeans averaged 43.4 bushels per acre while the  non-tolerant soybeans averaged 45.0 bushels per acre. The percentage difference in yields is identical to the difference found in the 1998 crop year. In 1998, the yields were 49.2 and 51.2 bushels per acre for herbicide- tolerant and non-tolerant soybeans, respectively.

Seed costs.
The seed cost for herbicide-tolerant soybeans averaged $5.69 per acre more than the non-tolerant fields. In 1998, the difference was $7.53 per acre. The expense for non-tolerant soybeans was lower in 1998 while the expense for the tolerant varieties was slightly higher.

Herbicide costs.
The non-tolerant soybeans averaged $26.15 per acre for herbicides, which was $6.17 higher than the herbicide costs for the tolerant fields. This cost difference is similar to what was found in 1998 even though the herbicide costs, in general, are higher in 2000 when compared to 1998.

Bt corn

A genetic modification used in corn production is the addition of bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to fight a major pest, the European corn borer. The study included 128 non-Bt cornfields and 46 Bt fields. Similar to herbicide- tolerant soybeans, Bt corn produced a return essentially equal to the non- Bt corn.

The average yield for Bt corn was 152 bushels per acre. The average yield for the non-BT corn was 149 bushels per acre. This yield difference is less than the difference found in the 1998 studyÑ160.4 bushels per acre for Bt corn and 147.7 bushels per acre for non-Bt corn

Fertilizer costs.
The Bt cornfields had slightly higher total fertilizer costs per acre. The Bt fertilizer cost was $53.30 versus $48.67 for the non-Bt fields, much similar to the results found in 1998. Although no production reason exists for the higher fertilizer costs, it is hypothesized that the Bt fields are managed more intensively which leads to the increased fertilizer costs.

Seed costs.
The costs for seeds vary depending on number chosen. Seed costs for the Bt corn averaged $4.31 per acre higher using the conservative assumptions employed in this study.

Other considerations.
If returns are not significantly different, why have we seen such an increase in the use of GMO technology? For herbicide-tolerant soybeans, farmers answer that question by saying they can cover more acres more quickly and that they do not have to worry about weed management as they  did in the past. For Bt corn, farmers view use of GMO seed as an insurance policy if there's an insect infestation. There are many such non- quantifiable benefits and costs associated with using GMO seeds.

"No, quality has not improved. I still believe the [GE] seed is a major, major problem and I think a lot of people agree with that."  - William Dunavant Jr., chief executive of top U.S. cotton merchant Dunavant Enterprises, January 2002

"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

   " guys [US Government] created this monster; you clean it up. I have learned my lesson. No more GMO crops on this farm ó ever." - US farmer and GM seed salesman, Nebraska

"The only truly safe seed selection will be seed corn free of any genetic modification" - A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co. in a letter to corn suppliers

 "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

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