GMO

Planting Non-GMO Soybeans: Value-Added Production

You’ve heard me talk about the benefits of genetically engineered crops before, and why farmers like us choose to use them. You have probably read about our yields we get with planting GE crops (better known as GMO to consumers), what methods of tillage we use, what chemicals we have used, etc. in some of my past posts. We’ve had a lot of people ask us since we are the first ones to stand up for allowing farmers to use GE technology and why we think GMO labeling is silly…

Why Non-GMO soybeans?

First things first, planting Non-GMO soybeans is very, very different from organic farming, and frankly, the two aren’t really alike at all in my opinion. Planting Non-GMO soybeans is more like farming with GE soybeans than most think, but with a few extra quirks and rules to follow. Our non-GMO soybeans are exported and made into tofu. I’m going to touch on a few areas (not all) of why we chose to plant non-GMO soybeans on our farm this year.

  1. Market – There is a better and bigger market for non-GMO, food grade soybeans than ever before. Creating this market has been something that farmers asked for as the need for protein options has risen in other countries. Our soybean growers association has worked hard to capitalize on this development and invest in the research to grow this specialty market over the past few years. New food-grade seed varieties continue to be developed that are higher in certain protein contents or select oils depending on what they will be used for in the end market.
  2. Price – We receive a higher premium for our soybeans because they are a specialty product. We do have to complete a few more tasks with planting non-GM soybeans like carefully cleaning out bins and trucks to avoid contamination and using only certain approved chemicals. We have to sign a contract similar to what one might sign with GE seed, except our contract revolves around identity preservation and the number of bushels we have agreed to grow. As crop prices continue to drop, farmers are looking to find an extra bushel or take off-farm jobs. The price premium on non-GMO soybeans is one of those options for farmers. Typically, the seed costs less than GE seed which means our end cost of production isn’t as high.
  3.  Tillage- I read a post that said that non-GMO farmers use more tillage than conventional farmers due to weeds. We did no more tillage than we do when we plant GE soybeans or GE corn. In fact, we did no-till in some of our fields this year. Again, planting non-GMO is not the same as organics which may rely on additional cultivation or flame weeding. We do have options chemical wise we can use for weeds. We didn’t use anymore chemical than we typically use in a given year, but we did use different kinds because we can’t use glyphosate, for example.
  4.  Bushels –This is always the main question we get. Will my bushels be on par with GE? Possibly. Possibly not. Every field is different based on soil type, nutrients, even weather patterns vary since we have fields in 3 different counties for us. We had hail damage in some fields compared to none in others. Some had standing water while others did not. All of those factors can impact bushels. However, typically we average around 50-55 bushels per field for our non-GMO soybeans, but we have had fields that have reached into the upper 70’s for bushels per acre this year.
  5. Traits – Some of the traits we look for in non-GMO soybeans are the same as what we look for in GE soybeans – resistance to certain fungus, drought tolerance, past performance on bushels per acre, etc. We also pay close attention to oleic concentration, protein concentration and even hilum color because those are the traits looked at for premiums in a food-grade, non-GMO soybean.

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It would be a shame to just say farmers are against GE soybeans, when I don’t think that is the case, and certainly not for us. Capitalizing on new opportunities and markets to create expanded profits and options for farmers is a good thing. You don’t have to plant GE and you don’t have to plant non-GMO. It isn’t for everyone, and how you choose to operate your farm versus your neighbor will be different. It works for us, but it won’t work for everyone. We certainly aren’t dismissing modern technology – in fact, I’d love if every crop was GE and we never had to worry about using a chemical ever, but that isn’t the case.

Farmers will have to continue to evolve with new market trends, new growth markets, and evaluate their current operations in order to succeed. Farmers are finding that planting value-added soybeans can be one of those pathways for their farm to succeed.

-Sara

GE Ban & Oregon – A Vote Against Farmers Everywhere

I don’t typically post about this kind of stuff because frankly, it brings out the trolls every time you even whisper the word Monsanto but….

Lately, there have been a lot of things in the news or that I have heard regarding agriculture that have me a little fired up. Today, I’m going to address one of those issues.

During  this past month, 2 counties in Oregon passed legislation, banning farmers from planting GMO’s in their counties. 

First, I want to give you a little background on the 2 counties, what sparked the ban and the voter turn-out.

Josephine and Jackson County essentially bump right up to each other at the California/Oregon border. You can see them in the lower left corner of the photo below.

oregon-county-map

Jackson County boasts around 200,000 residents. They state right on their website that agriculture is one of their principal industries. It even says “Industries that show steady growth in Jackson County include wine, film, and farming—pointing to how Jackson County is distinguished as a place where entrepreneurship thrives.” I have yet to determine how passing a GMO ban allows farming or entrepreneurship to thrive. Josephine County, was a little harder to dig up information on from their website. However, according to the U.S. Census, the population hovers around 83,000. I couldn’t find any specific data on the number of farms or industry there.

The reason this all sparked interest and regulations, is all because of sugar beets. Sugar beets are one of 8 genetically modified crops grown in the U.S. for commercial use. You hear many people, not necessarily farmers, talking cross-pollination. This was what was worried with sugar beets. However, the only crop where there is a very slim chance of a pollination issue is corn. Many crops are harvested before they even get to a pollination stage. Sugar beet fields were grown and wanted to be grown in these fields.

To give you an idea, only 52% of the total registered voters came out that night. So half really, half came out to vote. And of that, only 33% of the total of registered voters voted yes for the ban. 33% made a decision affecting the majority. If this isn’t a sign that we all need to be more active in politics and get out and vote, I’m not sure what is.

Now that we’ve established that. Let’s talk about the real issue. Banning genetically engineered plants. Let’s give you an idea of what genetic engineering is.  “Genetic engineering is the process of manually adding new DNA to an organism. The goal is to add one or more new traits that are not already found in that organism. Examples of genetically engineered (transgenic) organisms currently on the market include plants with resistance to some insects, plants that can tolerate herbicides, and crops with modified oil content.” –University of Nebraska, Ag BioSafety  Visit the link to their page for a great and simple explanation that I think everyone can understand.

But really, the fact of it being a GE crop isn’t the issue.

The issue is taking away the rights of all farmers (organic and conventional) by limiting what they can or can’t produce on their own property. The freedom to farm and to make individual farm choices based on sound practice, science and individual preferences. What works for one farm does not work for the other. Every farm business is different. Every farmer’s goal is different. Now, we have had a minority essentially, who if they wanted to, can purchase organic food already, make a decision for the majority saying that the can’t farm that way, when essentially, they have no idea what that farm or farmer does.

Now, I am not against organics. I am against false information. I am against taking away basic freedoms and property rights. I am against the idea that laws should be made based on “what ifs” without any thought to those affected.

I am for the right for every farmer to choose how they want to farm by making decisions for their own property.

The arguments of Monsanto suing those for cross contamination are mute. They haven’t. Ever. They have sued people for harvesting seed, washing that seed, saving that seed and then reselling it the next year AFTER they signed a contract saying they wouldn’t. If you don’t want to plant their crop and follow their contract rules, don’t purchase it and don’t sign the contract. Simple.

How is it that it has worked for countless other organic farmers when they follow the rules already in place? I have friends that are organic farmers and they seem to be doing just great. They follow the rules, complete the proper documentation, and they never have an issue. Farmers have the right to farm organic and they can do just that without having to ban GE seeds.

Shouldn’t all farmers have the choice to farm how they want? A farm is a business. Don’t you think the farmer should have the right to produce the kind of product they want as part of that business?  I shouldn’t have to produce orange t-shirts just because someone made a ruling I can’t produce pink ones because they had a fear of the color pink.

If you need any more convincing that organics and GE can work together and actually enhance each other, take the time to read Tomorrow’s Table by Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology at University of California, Davis. You will be pleasantly surprised I hope.

Now, I’m going to end this with words from a post that Shellie made on The Farmer’s Wifee Facebook page because it has stuck with me, and I hope it will stick with you too.

I have a hard time understanding part of the controversy over GMOs. I understand that genetically modifying things can become bad, but if it helps feed more people with less land, less water, better tolerances against insects and diseases, etc., why are people so up in arms about it? (Please no bashing me, it is an honest question.) 

If the government starts shutting down farms because of this, there will be less places that our food is grown. Which in turn will give us less food and higher prices and more hungry people. Where do people think our food comes from, grocery stores?

Sure foods were not genetically modified years ago, but if they were, could a genetically modified grain survive the drought and subsequent dust bowl of the 30s? Who knows. I do know that there are several different types of rice that are being genetically modified to withstand monsoon flooding and other types of pestilences. Which in turn will help to feel the millions of people in India and other countries that have their rice crop decimated by monsoon flooding.

Sometimes I think that the American public are like sheep. They just follow those with the loudest voices. And right now, the Non-GMOers are screaming. And the American farmers that are doing their best to produce excellent quality food, milk, and meat for American consumers are barely whispering”

 

All in all, this wasn’t a win against Monsanto (or the plenty of other companies dealing with seed genetics including all of the universities) nor was it a win for farmers. It was a complete vote against every farmer and their ability to make choices for their own farm business as well as a violation of freedom and property rights.

-Sara