Is Organic Cotton at Risk?

Reading this article about a deal between biotech giant Monsanto agreed to purchase Delta and Pine Land Company strikes me as a warning for all kinds of problems for organic crop production in years to come, not just cotton.

The basic risk to cotton with this merger is the increased chance that genetically modified crops will mix with regular cottonseeds. Now I understand the premise of genetically modifying crops, but I can’t help but wonder if we really understand all the risks.

Then there’s this charming quote from the article:

In response to industry concern, company officials have pledged not to introduce Terminator seeds, but say they reserve the right to reconsider.

Terminator seeds are ones which die after one season, so farmers cannot save seeds for the next year’s use. They have to buy all over again.

Of course, that’s just a problem if you’re buying the genetically altered seeds, but it’s the attitude which annoys me anyhow. Sure, they won’t introduce those seeds – promise! Well, maybe. Unless they feel like it, anyhow.

This kind of thing is one of many reasons why life is getting so hard for farmers. Go organic or make your pest control easier with genetically modified crops? Save up seeds or buy seeds whose manufacturers (for lack of a better word) require that you buy all over again every year? Risk your crops being poisoned by a neighboring farm’s choice in weed control or buy crops that are modified to resist? Just go on and go with the modified seeds or hope that your organic ones don’t get contaminated?

Not to mention the risk of even higher seed prices.

All this sounds like still more of a reason to buy organic when possible. We have to give the farmers every motivation to keep going organic.

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