GMO-Free Crops Prove Lucrative for Farmers

Last spring, for the first time in 20 years, Indiana farmer Jim Benham planted his fields entirely with soybean seeds that hadn’t been genetically modified to withstand herbicides.

It wasn’t because the 63-year-old suddenly had embraced the anti-GMO movement. Instead, he was drawn to a nearly 14% per-bushel premium for non-GMO soybeans offered by a local grain terminal, which sells them to Asian feed processors.

Mr. Benham is among a small but growing number of Midwestern farmers moving away from biotech seeds developed by Monsanto Co. , DuPont Co. and other companies in response to lower crop prices over the past two years that have slashed farm profits.

More U.S. consumers are seeking out non-GMO foods, which proponents perceive as healthier and friendlier to the environment. Retail sales of GMO-free cereal, salad dressing, eggs and other food products increased 15% to $9.6 billion last year, among the fastest-growing U.S. food segments, according to market-research firm Nielsen NV. Nielsen sharply increased its non-GMO food sales estimate last year after incorporating a broader range of products and stores….

By Jacob Bunge – Wall Street Journal –

Corporations Taking USA Back to the 19th Century

[T]he growth of on-demand jobs like Uber making life less predictable and secure for workers unleashed a small barrage of criticism from some who contend that workers get what they’re worth in the market.

A Forbes Magazine contributor, for example, writes that jobs exist only “when both employer and employee are happy with the deal being made.” So if the new jobs are low-paying and irregular, too bad.

Much the same argument was voiced in the late 19th century over alleged “freedom of contract.” Any deal between employees and workers was assumed to be fine if both sides voluntarily agreed to it.

It was an era when many workers were “happy” to toil 12-hour days in sweat shops for lack of any better alternative.

It was also a time of great wealth for a few and squalor for many. And of corruption, as the lackeys of robber barons deposited sacks of cash on the desks of pliant legislators.

Finally, after decades of labor strife and political tumult, the 20th century brought an understanding that capitalism requires minimum standards of decency and fairness — workplace safety, a minimum wage, maximum hours (and time-and-a-half for overtime), and a ban on child labor.

We also learned that capitalism needs a fair balance of power between big corporations and workers.

We achieved that through antitrust laws that reduced the capacity of giant corporations to impose their will, and labor laws that allowed workers to organize and bargain collectively.

But now we seem to be heading back to 19th century.

Corporations are shifting full-time work onto temps, free-lancers, and contract workers who fall outside the labor protections established decades ago.

The nation’s biggest corporations and Wall Street banks are larger and more potent than ever.

And labor union membership has shrunk to fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers.

So it’s not surprising we’re once again hearing that workers are worth no more than what they can get in the market.

But as we should have learned a century ago, markets don’t exist in nature. They’re created by human beings. The real question is how they’re organized and for whose benefit.

In the late 19th century they were organized for the benefit of a few at the top.

But by the middle of the 20th century they were organized for the vast majority.

During the 30 years after the end of World War II, as the economy doubled in size, so did the wages of most Americans — along with improved hours and working conditions.

Yet since around 1980, even though the economy has doubled once again (the Great Recession notwithstanding), the wages most Americans have stagnated. And their benefits and working conditions have deteriorated.

This isn’t because most Americans are worth less. In fact, worker productivity is higher than ever.

It’s because big corporations, Wall Street, and some enormously rich individuals have gained political power to organize the market in ways that have enhanced their wealth while leaving most Americans behind….

By Robert Reich – Op Ed News –