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Corn Growers welcome USDA biotech traceability program

(Aug. 15, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- The American Corn Growers Association earlier this week endorsed a new federal program, 'USDA Process-Verified' to ensure that grains, oilseeds, rice and seed products are not inadvertently exposed to genetically modified (GMO) crops.

"As market reports confirm that the U.S. has lost more corn export sales because of GMO corn varieties -- in this case China is exporting 107,000 metric tons of non-GMO corn to South Korea in direct competition with U.S. exports -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) announcement last week that it is proposing its new program titled 'USDA Process-Verified', is welcome news and a step in the right direction," said Dan McGuire, Director of the Farmer Choice - Customer First program of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA). "We encourage Secretary Veneman and USDA to move closer to the customer-oriented policies that ACGA has promoted for years regarding GMOs.

Larry Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer of the ACGA stated, "Current drought-driven, higher corn prices should not divert the attention of American corn growers from the need to address the quality and consumer-driven concerns of both foreign buyers and our domestic market. It only takes a year of normal crops to drive prices right back down, so it is critical that we don't allow foreign export competitors to make further inroads into our traditional markets. We need USDA working with us to export exactly the variety, grade and class of corn that world buyers want and this new program may well help. This new traceability program is a positive trade tool for U.S. farmers."

"Last year's U.S. corn exports ended up one million metric tons below the prior year even with the low corn prices that farmers were receiving and prices have been low throughout the current year, yet exports are likely to be lower again, confirming that ACGA has been right on target with our GMO market concerns," said Mitchell.

"It is now essential that any new USDA 'traceability' program and the subsequent rules acknowledge the fact that conventional corn varieties represent the vast majority of the U.S. corn crop. Demand for conventional non-GMO varieties should not be described as a 'niche' market. Buyers have expected they were buying conventional corn varieties. The 'niche' corn market should be the market that is requesting GMO corn and I don't know of one buyer that is, so it might be the smallest 'niche' market ever, " concluded McGuire. "Since neither the market nor the marketing system asked for GMOs, the burden of segregation, identity-preservation, inadvertent contamination and the related liability and other costs should be assigned to the biotech companies that introduced and sell GMO varieties. The new USDA program should be designed with

this in mind."