U.S. Grains Council

In a major biotechnology breakthrough in Japan, the U.S. Grains Council has learned that the country’s corn wet milling industry will no longer make a distinction between non-biotech corn and approved biotech varieties.

The Japan Starch and Sweeteners Industry Association (JSSIA) recently informed Japanese soft drink manufacturers, beer producers and other food companies that, because of costs and logistical considerations, it will no longer supply identity preserved, non-biotech corn to its customers.

"This change in purchasing policy by JSSIA is a major step in the right direction for the largest U.S. corn export market," says Council President and CEO Kenneth Hobbie. "The Council has worked continually over the last several years on biotech education in Japan and has kept Japanese corn importers, especially JSSIA, apprised of the biotech situation in the U.S.

"JSSIA’s move is a clear indication that we’ve succeeded in our efforts to educate the industry about the safety and quality of all corn supplied by the U.S., whether conventional or genetically enhanced," he adds.

Japan’s starch and sweetener industry uses nearly 4 million metric tons (close to 160 million bushels) of corn per year. The industry began using identity preserved, non-biotech corn last year after StarLink, a biotech variety that was not approved by Japanese regulatory agencies, made its way into U.S. export supplies. As a result, U.S. corn’s share of the Japanese starch and sweetener market declined from more than 90% in 2000 to about 50% in 2001. However, U.S. market share has rebounded in 2002, according to Cary Sifferath, director of the Council’s Tokyo office.

"JSSIA has assured us that it plans to return to predominantly U.S. sources now," Sifferath says. "And there are clear indications that this is already taking place. Japanese imports of U.S. corn for starch and sweetener production have increased incrementally over the past several months are now close to pre-StarLink levels."