Looking Out for #1

A couple of articles today highlight the use of biotech crops, and the general international resistance to buying, feeding, or consuming them. Genetically modified seeds have proven enormously popular in the United States, but proof of the beneficial effects of such crops to actual farmers -and society as a whole- often seems to be lacking. Usually, it seems the beneficiaries are seed companies, not farmers.

Not only do biotech crops have questionable usefulness for farmers, they well and truly upset our European friends, who sometimes like to buy some of our products. But not when it's biotech, that's for sure:

While US and European Union leaders were hailing a new era of regulatory co-operation at the White House yesterday, reality was intervening across the Atlantic at the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Genetically modified US corn was found in a shipment. Such corn may be inescapable in Iowa, but it is illegal in Europe. The European Commission ordered it to be sent home while Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group that detected it, called for all US corn imports to be banned. [Full Article Here]

Meanwhile, here in the US, Syngenta is selling corn seed that has not been approved for consumption in Japan, worrying many farmers that contamination in the distribution chain could shut down vital export markets:

Washington, D.C. - A new biotech corn variety that is being planted this spring has raised concerns among farmers, grain companies and even ethanol producers because the grain is not yet approved for sale to Japan, the No. 1 export market for U.S. corn.

They fear the kernels could get mixed with other grain and snarl trade in corn and dried distillers' grains, a byproduct of the ethanol industry that is used for animal feed.

Syngenta Seeds Inc. of Golden Valley, Minn., started selling the seed over the objections of the National Corn Growers Association and trade groups representing U.S. grain processors.

This week, the Renewable Fuels Association asked Syngenta to take steps to make sure that the corn variety is not sold to ethanol producers, which sometimes exports distillers' grains. [Full Article Here]

Somehow, it isn't surprising that Syngenta would ignore the concerns of actual farmers and willingly jeopardize one of the most promising markets for ethanol byproducts. Again, the beneficiaries of these seeds isn't the farmers who plant them, but the companies who sell the seeds to farmers. Until we start approving biotech crops on the basis of an actual societal need combined with a true evaluation of the environmental risks involved, we're going to continue to have these problems. By the way, the Syngenta seed is most beneficial to farmers planting corn-on-corn, instead of a corn-soybean rotation. An environmentally offensive practice, to be sure, and not one we should be encouraging.

As a general aside, many of the articles I reference on this blog I find on Keith Good's excellent website, updated daily: FarmPolicy.com

In other news, Dupont, owners of Pioneer Hi-Bred, saw their corporate earnings increase 16% on the basis of strong seed sales.

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