A small but growing number of farmers in the U.S. are ditching genetically modified crops.
In "The Post-GMO Economy," Elizabeth Royte reports that there are a number of factors contributing to the shift away from GMOs, but that cost is a major one. Not only is there a growing demand for both GMO-free foods and animal feed, but many farmers are finding they can save money by planting conventional crops instead of genetically engineered ones:
A crop consultant, [Aaron] Bloom has been experimenting with non-GMO varieties for five years on land he works around Cherokee, Iowa. “We get the same or better yields, and we save money up front,” he says. And yet when he first suggests conventional seeds to clients, he sometimes gets pushback. “Guys think that you have to get out the cultivator” — which pierces the soil between rows of crops — “and kill your weeds by hand. No! You’re going out there with the planter anyway, just add your insecticide and your conventional herbicides.” Last year, not one of the roughly 30 farmers to whom Bloom sold non-GMO seeds had a bad harvest — despite unprecedented drought. “And I’ve got another 20 trying this year.”
Some farmers are switching to non-GMO crops in anticipation of labeling laws, and there's also been an increased interest in third-party certifications to verify that foods are free of GMOs.
While this trend is growing, it should be noted that an overwhelming majority of certain staple crops in the U.S. are GMO. According to the FDA, 88 percent of all corn planted in 2012 was GMO, as was 94 percent of all cotton and 93 percent of all soybeans.