Even though deep snowdrifts cover his fields in eastern Kansas, Luke Ulrich, a corn and soybean farmer here, is thinking about spring. It's time to buy seed again, but hundreds of seed companies have gone under in the past two decades.
Ulrich remembers the days before genetically modified seeds upended the industry. Critics of the big agriculture biotech company Monsanto say its popular Roundup Ready technology is to blame for that. Roundup Ready is a line of gene-modified seeds that inoculate plants against a herbicide, Roundup, also made by Monsanto, that kills just about everything else.
"Ever since they've come out with the Roundup Ready trait and that became popular and basically took over farming, we've seen significant increases every single year," Ulrich says.
Ulrich says his seed costs shot up almost 50 percent last year. That's because farmers are contractually prohibited from saving seeds and planting them the following year.
Farmers face lawsuits if they try to save and replant the genetically modified seed because they don't own the technology. While they bristle at that, they love the Roundup Ready seed.
"There's nothing like Roundup. A monkey could farm with it," Ulrich says.
'Amazing Amount Of Leverage'
More than 9 out of 10 soybean seeds carry the Roundup Ready trait. It's about the same for cotton and just a little lower for corn.
What are the human health effects of a Nation swallowing that much Roundup Ready soy, corn and cottonseed oil? The purple pill can treat a diet that includes those plant incorporated pesticides.