Monday, September 12, 2011

US Cotton: an endangered species?

Last year there was some uproar about the US government's decision to send $150 million to Brazil for the privilege of continuing the US's own cotton subsidy. Turns out that you and I have contributed about $50 billion to the cotton industry over the past 20 years.

Although uneconomical farming doesn't seem to have fazed them, something else finally has: superweeds. Years of use of Monsanto's Roundup Ready and other GMO cottons has bred weeds that are resistant to the herbicide Roundup, and now some of those weeds grow seven feet tall, outcompeting cotton in planted fields. Costs of production are soaring as farmers deploy extraordinary measures to assure themselves a harvest. Maybe, finally, we can take a break from farming cotton and let other parts of the world produce cotton. They might even be able to do turn a profit on their own without much direct government support! Wouldn't that be something.

EDIT: Maybe cotton isn't so endangered after all: the farm subsidy database shows that Maud farms, the location described at the "superweeds" link above, has pulled down $7 million in subsidies over the past 15 years. Even if they're losing money, they still win!

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