Foreign markets seek non-GMO crops

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WASHINGTON – Canadian inspectors are checking U.S. corn at the border for StarLink contamination and the European Union has implemented a traceability program for genetically modified crops and products.

In this country, as processors and exporters announce premiums for non-GMO corn and soybeans, the American Corn Growers Association urges farmers to meet the demands of foreign markets.

Alienate importers. “The preferences of foreign buyers cannot be ignored by U.S. farmers when they decide what crop varieties to plant, unless they are willing to continue alienating importers and handing over import markets to competitor exporting countries,” said Dan McGuire, director of the association’s Farmer Choice-Customer First program.

“Instead of bemoaning the fact that the European Union is going to require traceability, labeling and a 1 percent tolerance on GMOs, U.S. farm and commodity groups should be encouraging and helping farmers meet the needs of foreign customers.”

Premiums offered. McGuire said multinational processor and exporter Archer Daniels Midland recently announced it would offer a 20-cent per-bushel premium for non-GMO beans delivered to its Decatur, Ill., processing plant and premiums in other locations of 6-12 cents per bushel for proven non-GMO corn and 10 cents for non-GMO soybeans.

Market loss. According to corn growers association, the European Union continues to import about 2.5 million metric tons of corn annually, but not from the United States, from our competitors. The EU has steadily decreased its purchases of U.S. corn from about 2.8 million metric tons in 1995/96 to the equivalent of only one hold of one ship (6,300 MT) in the just-ended 2000/2001 marketing year.

Japan reduced its U.S. corn purchases last year by over 50 million bushels. The farm group estimates that the U.S. has foregone about 350 million bushels of corn exports to those two markets combined since 1997/98.

“If the U.S. has to expand its identity-preserved (IP) marketing system then let’s not pretend otherwise,” McGuire said. “Biotech companies should also help absorb the costs.”

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