Posted: October 20, 2008
It was pretty evident at last week’s World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines that European nations remain the most resistant to biotech crops. But some farmers are bucking the system.
Oliver Ransmann of Germany participated in a Truth about Trade and Technology farmer roundtable that included over 20 producers from nearly as many countries discussing the benefits and challenges of biotechnology in their parts of the world. I had a very interesting conversation with him about the lack of acceptance of biotech in his country and Europe in general. He just started using Monsanto’s corn borer resistant genetics two years ago on his 400 ha farm that grows mainly corn and rye to generate biogas. He talked about the stringent government regulations on biotech crops and the general distrust of biotech by both farmers and the general public.
He told me that farmers who choose to grow biotech crops in Germany are “branded” in a way and subject to vandalism. “This year my ground was damaged by activists - we had iron sticks in the fields and spoons and knives in the grain,” he told me. “We can’t understand why people are doing it and it’s very dangerous.”
So why does he still choose to grow biotech crops on his farm? “If I’m not using Bt maize, I have 30-40 percent less productivity and I can’t afford it,” he said. He understands that biotech varieties offer environmental benefits by allowing farmers to use less chemicals and to produce more on less land, but he says that message is being ignored in Europe.
Listen to an interview with Oliver here: