If American corn growers want to keep corn supplies moving to Japan, producers will have to segregate their genetically modified (GMO) crop from non-GMOs.

That message was delivered by the largest Japanese corn buyer to those attending the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) workshop on GMOs, held in Spokane, WA.

Fugi Seyama, department manager of Feed Grain Department for Marubeni America Corporation, told the gathering of farmers that Japan buys over 16 million tons of corn a year, of which 95%, or around 15,891 million tons, comes from the United States. Because Japanese consumers continue to grow increasingly concerned about genetically modified food products, Japan demands that portions of their non-GMO corn imports, earmarked for human food consumption, be kept separate from those that are GMO. These imports that must be non-GMO amounted to 1.2 million metric tons last year with the numbers growing dramatically this year and in the future.

To meet the new labeling requirements of Japan, identity preserved handling will be necessary in order to label products as "identity preserved non-GMO product." And processed foods made from GMOs will have to be labeled as "genetically modified" or "not segregated from GM product."

To meet strict segregation requirements and to receive a premium from American elevators, U.S. farmers must sign a certificate that states they have grown, harvested, segregated and delivered in an identity preserved manner production varieties of non-GMO corn. In addition, the certificate will state that farmers did not knowingly co-mingle or mix in GMO crops and that if they did, any premiums being offered for non-GMOs would be lost.

"The demands of Japan and mandatory segregation are additional burdens falling on U.S. farmers over the issue of genetically modified crops," said Gary Goldberg, chief executive officer of the American Corn Growers Association. "With Japan being the largest single buyer of American corn, any requirements to meet this important and vital market will have to be met."

The segregation and labeling requirements by the Japanese government and the continued rejection of GMO exports to Europe, have made it difficult for U.S. farmers to keep planting GMO crops. Recent surveys conducted by the ACGA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows a sizable reduction in GMO planted acres for 2000, compared to 1999.

"The ACGA is concerned that the responsibility for segregation of GMO from non-GMO crops will fall squarely on the shoulders of U.S. farmers. Since most grain elevators are not physically equipped to handle segregation, farmers will have to achieve that requirement on their farms. This will add substantially higher costs for segregation, testing and certification. Costs that American farmers will have to pay themselves," added Goldberg.

"Many farmers would like to have GMOs as part of their planting options for the future. However, the questions of marketability, the additional burdens and costs of segregation, testing and certification and the concerns over legal liability are making farmers take a second look at this technology, as evidenced by the increase in conventional seed planting for this growing season," concluded Goldberg.

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