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Food processors and grocery manufacturers confirm corn grower concerns about use of genetically modified crops to make drugs and chemicals

(Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- Reports last week of a fight breaking out between the U.S. food and biotechnology sectors over the use of genetically modified (GMO) corn varieties to produce drugs, medicines and chemicals are no surprise. This development clearly confirms that the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) has been absolutely on target with the cautionary approach to GMOs that we've promoted all along," says Dan McGuire, Director of the ACGA Farmer Choice - Customer First program. "We understand the concerns of food processors and grocery manufacturers and we share those concerns. The last thing we need is to have a lack of food processor confidence or erosion of consumer faith over the safety of corn, the nation's largest agricultural crop. Corn growers can't afford to see some of our domestic corn market disappear, just like export demand has been diminished by GMOs."

So-called bio-pharming, or using corn and other crops to produce vaccines, enzymes, antibodies and special proteins, has been touted by the biotechnology industry as having great potential for farmers. However, the impact from pollen drift raises obvious and serious questions about food safety and crop liability. Moreover, there are other tough questions farmers need to ask about this new gee-wiz technology. For instance, just how many acres of these crops will be needed to saturate the demand for the related bio-products? If it's only a few hundred or even a few thousand acres, then let's not pretend that 'bio-pharming' is going to be an economic windfall for a bunch of farmers. It might benefit a few in the beginning but then it could go the way of other higher value commodity production, such as high oil corn or white food grade corn, where the premiums drop and disappear when more than a few farmers produce those crops.

"The history of the agribusiness sector is to exploit farmers, capturing the lion's share of commodity value by holding down raw commodity prices paid at the farm level and then raising processed product prices to consumers. Why would bio-pharming and bio-products be any different?" asks McGuire.

"Farmers need to continue to seriously evaluate the overall impact that genetically engineered crops will have on their own economic independence and the ability of the U.S. to compete in world export trade," says Larry Mitchell, CEO of the ACGA. "The seed patents, technology agreements and production contracts that go hand-in-hand with these GMOs appear to be leading grain farmers down the same road that the poultry, swine and cattle feeding industries have gone, where a few giant multi-national agribusiness corporations control production inputs, crop marketing opportunities and the price farmers get for these commodities from the market. We've seen what's happened to hog producers and the pork sector when a few giant integrators took control of that market through corporate concentration and we don't want that to happen in the grain sector."

For more information please visit the ACGA website at http://www.acga.org