All the more reason for U.S. farmers to meet the demands of foreign markets, suggests the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA).

"The preferences of foreign buyers and the consumers they serve 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," says Dan McGuire, director of the ACGA Farmer Choice-Customer First program. "Instead of bemoaning the fact that the European Union is going to require traceability, labeling and a 1% tolerance on GMOs, U.S. farm and commodity groups should be encouraging and helping farmers meet the needs of foreign customers."

Multinational processor and exporter Archer Daniels Midland recently announced it would offer a 20¢/bu premium for non-GMO beans delivered to its Decatur, IL, processing plant. ADM is also offering premiums in other locations of 6-12¢/bu for proven non-GMO corn and 10¢ for non-GMO soybeans. Other U.S. grain companies and exporters are also paying premiums for non-GMO commodities.

"Some in the U.S. grain industry have apparently been operating under the naive notion that the European Union could be forced to cave in to U.S. pressure and be told that it had to buy what some in the U.S. ‘insist’ it buy. It’s time to let go of that illusion and put grain-buyer demands well above biotech company, GMO seed and chemical sales agendas," adds McGuire.

According to ACGA, the European Union continues to import about 2.5 million metric tons (mmt) of corn annually – from U.S. competitors. The EU has steadily decreased its purchases of U.S. corn from about 2.8 mmt 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 ACGA estimates that the U.S. has foregone about 350 million bushels of corn exports to those two markets combined since 1997/98, the year after GMO corn was introduced in the U.S.

Brazil and China are aggressively capturing U.S. corn markets. Argentine growers recently announced a move to implement identity-preservation plans to ensure the non-biotech integrity of Flint corn, guaranteeing customers a non-biotech food product. Argentine Flint corn is already preferred by EU buyers.

"If the U.S. has to expand its identity-preserved (IP) marketing system then let’s not pretend otherwise. The first blatant reality is that European buyers and other import markets are already paying a premium for non-GMO U.S. commodities," McGuire says.

"While importers in Europe, Japan and other countries are already paying a premium to buy high-quality, non-GMO commodities, biotech companies should also help absorb the costs. Current U.S. farm policy guarantees grain buyers very low market prices for the corn they buy from farmers at the first point of delivery. Biotech companies have caused GMO marketing problems," he concludes.