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American Corn Growers Association issues warning about biotech export policy

(March 14, 2001 --Cropchoice news) -- The American Corn Growers Association warned farm and government leaders today that pushing transgenic crops onto export markets that don't want them will harm family farmers.

"Japan and South Korea are buying non-GMO corn from Brazil and China instead of buying U.S. corn," said Keith Dittrich, Association president and corn farmer from Tilden, Neb. "USDA lowered its corn export forecast by another 50 million bushels. We expect they will lower the forecast again and itís doubtful that U.S. corn exports will even reach 2 billion bushels this year. The reduction is a direct result of GMOs in general and their unacceptability with world buyers. Itís good to see that USDA and other farm groups recognize the problem with StarLink in the seed supply, but the problem is bigger than StarLink."

After Brazil's large sale of non-transgenic corn to the European Union last week, the USDA predicted that the South American agricultural powerhouse would be a net exporter of corn for the first time since 1982.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates Brazil corn production for 2000-2001 at 38.5 million tons, nearly 7 million tons more than it produced the previous year.

What's more, the USDA projected that farmers would receive an average of $1.85 per bushel for their corn, the lowest since the farm recession of the mid-1980s. At the same time, farmers are spending more money on inputs, including fertilizer, pesticides and transgenic seeds.

Foreign markets' search for corn that doesn't contain StarLink is fueling the shift away from the United States as a supplier.

Regulators had approved StarLink, which Aventis CropScience produced and marketed, only for livestock feed. Nonetheless, the corn that scientists suspect may be allergenic because of its Cry9c protein, contaminated the human food supply last year. A recall of more than 300 food products followed. Japan and South Korea, who hadn't approved StarLink for any use, reacted by cutting their corn imports.

The USDA announced last Wednesday that it would spend $15 to $20 million to buy seed contaminated with StarLink.

"U.S. farmers cannot be expected to pick up the tab for a shortsighted U.S. biotech policy that suggests foreign consumers and importers will ultimately be forced to accept GMOs," Dittrich said. "Itís time for the Administration, the U.S. Congress and the farm and commodity organizations that support current farm and GMO policies to admit that theyíre wrong on both counts. These two policies are throwing away our export markets while driving down corn prices and driving up federal farm program costs. Both policies are major failures. They need to be changed quickly before their negative impact is reflected in land values and the farm economy is thrown into a major collapse."