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American Corn Growers concerned trade legislation will backfire

(Jan. 18, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) is concerned that an anti-customer strategy, aimed at forcing importers and consumers in Japan, Europe and other countries to accept genetically engineered commodities, will backfire. "Those valuable customers have clearly expressed a preference for conventional corn, soybean and wheat varieties," explained Keith Dittrich, a corn farmer from Tilden, Neb., and president of the ACGA.

In a letter to Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, ACGA explained their concern with Section 333 of S. 1731, The Agriculture, Conservation, and Rural Enhancement Act of 2001. "We feel this legislation will be used as a means to force foreign grain buyers and consumers into accepting genetically modified organisms/crops (GMOs)," warned Dittrich.

In the letter, Dittrich explained, "European buyers have described genetically modified wheat as a 'market destructor' for U.S. producers. U.S. wheat that can't find a home in the export market will compete with corn in the U.S. feed market, further depressing grain prices. Biotech (GMO) corn has already proven to be a market destructor for U.S. corn farmers. U.S. corn exports to the EU have dropped from 2.8 million metric tons in marketing year 1995/96 to a miniscule 6,300 MT last marketing year and 0 MT as of January 4th in this current marketing year, while the EU still imports about 2.5 MMT (100 mil.bu.) from competitor corn exporting countries that export non-GMO corn. Japan imported 52 million bushels less U.S. corn in the 2000/01 marketing year than the prior year specifically because of U.S. GMO StarLink corn.

"The issue is not pro-biotechnology vs. anti-biotechnology," said Larry Mitchell, ACGA's CEO. "It's a question of giving our foreign customers the choice to buy whatever products they prefer. American farmers need to know that we can sell what we grow. And we should have the right to buy, plant, grow, harvest and sell the varieties of crops we choose. That requires true competition in the seed industry, not monopoly-style patents on seeds. Like our foreign and domestic customers, farmers also deserve choices in what we produce, market and consume."

"I am also concerned about what this means to American's corn farmers and the prices they will receive from the market," added Mitchell. "American farmers raise and deliver clean grain, only to have our exporters adulterate the final product with dirt and other foreign matter which forces American farmers to accept lower prices to be 'competitive' in overseas markets. American farmers sell their crops for U.S. dollars, only to have other countries devalue their currency which forces American farmers to accept lower prices to be 'competitive' in overseas markets. And now agribusiness wants to force our overseas customers to accept products which they clearly do not want, and I can only wonder how much lower will prices American farmers be forced to accept just to remain 'competitive' in overseas markets. American farmers raise the quality crops our customers demand, and we should receive fair compensation for the fruits of our labor."

The American Corn Growers Association represents 14,000 members in 35 states. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.acga.org.