Iowa organic farmer says non-GMO corn outperforms GMO

By Ken Roseboro
Published: April 1, 2011

Category: Organic/Sustainable Farming

Iowa Organic Farmer

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Jason Wells, a farmer in Milton, Iowa, who grows both non-GMO and organic corn, says that the non-GMO corn variety he grows produces higher yields than genetically modified varieties.

Other farmers prefer non-GMO

Wells has grown a Pioneer Hi-Bred non-GMO corn variety called 34YO2. In 2009, Wells says the corn produced high yields. “It was an outstanding hybrid with a yield of 257 bushels per acre.”

He says the variety was one of Pioneer’s best yielding corn varieties.

But he says the variety is not available for 2011. “They took it out of their non-GMO lineup.”

Wells says his experience is not uncommon. “It seems to me that more farmers are saying their non-GMO corn is performing as well or better than GM corn. The natural traits are out there without doing GMO stuff. The seed companies do not like that.”

Some farmers are questioning the higher cost for GM seed, Wells says.

Farms organic and non-GMO

Wells farms both non-GMO and organic crops. He has 850 certified organic acres where he grows soybeans, corn, oats, as well as pasture for 150 dairy cows.

Wells has farmed organically since 1998, and transitioned the dairy to organic in 2007.

He sells milk to Organic Valley, a leading producer of organic milk. “Organic Valley has been very good to us. They are a stable company and will be there for us,” Wells says.

He grows non-GMO corn and soybeans on 600 acres of rented land. He earns premiums of $1.25 per bushel for non-GMO soybeans and $.40 per bushel for corn.

Wells grows non-GMO corn and soybeans to earn the premiums and to avoid contaminating his organic crops. “If I can add value I will,” he says.

Increased cost for herbicides for non-GMO crops

This year Wells noticed a price spike on herbicides used with his non-GMO crops. He thinks this may be another way that farmers are being pressured to grow GM crops.

Roundup herbicide costs much less these days due to generic versions being available. As a result, Wells says it now costs farmers more to grow non-GMO corn and soybeans than GM even with the high cost for GM seed.

Weed resistance to Roundup is not widespread in his area of southern Iowa but Wells says: “Farmers are talking about the problem, and some are starting to use other herbicides.”

Upset about Roundup Ready alfalfa

Enhancing soil fertility is essential to organic farming, and like most organic farmers, Wells rotates crops each year, growing alfalfa hay for two years followed by soybeans and corn. The hay provides “green manure” for soil fertility and forage for cows, and breaks weed cycles.

Wells is concerned about the US Department of Agriculture’s decision to deregulate Roundup Ready GM alfalfa. He was disappointed by the decision. “I don't think it’s needed; everyone I know who grows alfalfa doesn’t use herbicides. There's a lot of good alfalfa without making it Roundup Ready.”

© Copyright April 2011, The Organic & Non-GMO Report