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Some bad luck in store for GMO corn?

(June 10, 2002 CropChoice news) -- The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) warned today that the future marketing of genetically modified (GMO) grains has taken a major set back due to the recent announcement by General Mills, the second largest cereal maker, that it plans to introduce a new line of organic cereals. "Food items must be free of GMO materials in order to be labeled organic," says Larry Mitchell, CEO of the ACGA. "That means that the issue of raising pure organic grains, uncontaminated from genetically modified crops, must be addressed."

"Since ACGA introduced its Farmer Choice - Customer First educational program, we have consistently cautioned that American farmers should seriously consider growing the crops that the market dictates. The growth in demand for organic and natural foods suggests positive market opportunities for non-GMO commodities will grow into the future," said Mitchell.

"While the growth trend in demand for organic foods presents exciting potential for American farmers, it also presents some major challenges regarding issues of pollen contamination, commodity segregation, and identity-preservation on the marketing side and compliance with tighter traceability, labeling, and liability regulations on the legal side," says Dan McGuire, ACGA Program Director. "Recent action by the European Parliament calling for the labeling of food and fodder processed from GMOs and for keeping GMO-derived food and fodder separate from non-GMO varieties, along with a reduction from 1 percent to 0.5 percent in the threshold for accidental contamination and the level at which mandatory labeling would kick in, is just one example of the more restrictive trend."

General Mills is not the only major food company getting into organics. Other companies including Kraft, Kellogg, H.J. Heinz, Coca-Cola and Adolph Coors, are becoming players in the organic market. PepsiCo recognized this consumer-driven market potential by announcing two years ago that Frito-Lay snacks would be non-GMO.

"Market prices for corn and other U.S. commodities remain near historic lows while U.S. grain export markets have suffered severely since the introduction of GMOs. The recent growth in demand for organic products offers positive news for American agricultural producers, but only if farmers are able to meet market and customer demand. The biotechnology industry seems unconcerned about what pollen drift from its GMO varieties will do to consumer choice and market demand, either for organic or for non-GMO commodities (about 80 percent of the U.S. corn crop is non-GMO varieties) and products It also appears to lack concern for the loss of U.S. export sales, not to mention the various liability issues that could develop. Add in the fact that the loss of export markets increases domestic grain inventories, lowers grain prices, and raises the cost of the farm program, U.S. farm program expenditures move closer to being non-compliant with World Trade Organization (WTO) spending limitations, potentially causing U.S. farmers even more public relations problems well into the future," concluded McGuire.

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