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Illinois Farm Bureau recommends against planting GMO corn varieties not approved in Europe

(Thursday, Nov. 28, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

Jim Dugan, AgWeb: In 2003, American corn growers are expected to have access to some new varieties of biotech corn, but the Farm Bureau in one of the nation's leading corn producing state's is against the use of any genetically modified corn that has not been approved by the European Union.

In making it's recommendation against the use of such seed, Illinois Farm Bureau's board of directors expressed "deep concern" " that a much-anticipated increase in planting EU-unapproved genetically modified corn could threaten the European import market for corn gluten, a livestock feed that is an important co-product of ethanol and corn sweeter processing. Illinois is the dominant corn processing state in the country.

IFB president Ron Warfield said Illinois acreage of genetically modified corn not approved in Europe has been relatively small, amounting to less than 5% of the total crop. This small acreage and the refusal of corn processors to buy certain varieties have kept corn products moving to the EU.

But Warfield notes that new varieties -- expected to be cleared by U.S. regulators for 2003 planting -- could dramatically increase the acreage of EU-unapproved corn. "Increasing acreage from current levels increases the difficulty of channeling unapproved varieties away from processors," said Warfield.

Bioseed firms suggest that the need for new biotechnology-enhanced varieties could double the US corn acreage planted to genetically modified corn by 2006. "Keeping much larger quantities of EU-unapproved corn out of export market channels will be virtually impossible, given the zero-tolerance attitudes in the EU," said Warfield.

"Farmers are very frustrated by this situation. Our 20-member board is supportive of biotechnology and the benefits it offers to both farmers and consumers. But until the EU changes its negative policies on acceptance, we feel Illinois farmers have no choice but to protect themselves by reducing the odds that the market for US corn gluten will be lost," said Warfield.

"Planting EU-unapproved corn varieties is a potential problem for all corn producers, not just those close to ethanol plants," said Warfield. "If the $400 million gluten market is lost, this high-quality feed must be absorbed by the US livestock industry, displacing whole corn in feed rations. The resulting drop in US corn prices will cost corn producers approximately $1 billion."

"In the IFB board's view, a gamble of that size with our export market is not worth the benefit derived from these new corn varieties," he added. Warfield noted IFB's long-standing concern with the marketing of genetically modified seeds not approved in major export markets. Prior to the 2000, 2001 and 2002 growing seasons IFB joined the Illinois Corn Growers Association in a farmer information campaign dubbed "Know Before You Grow." This effort, to be repeated this season, tells Illinois farmers prior to planting what varieties would be accepted by grain elevators at harvest.

Last December, 366 farmer delegates at the IFB annual policy-setting session voted to require bioseed companies to "first have approval for all major uses and markets, domestic and international" before commercializing their products in the US

"The bioseed companies and federal regulators did not adequately respond to farmer concerns about our export markets," said Warfield.

"Now we are asking our farmers to protect their foreign markets by not planting unapproved varieties of corn next spring. Export markets are our markets. Farmers need to defend these markets to keep prices from dropping. We will take this job seriously and spread the word, protecting these markets as well as we are able," Warfield said.