Thursday, September 18, 2014


USA, considered the capital of GM foods, seems to be nurturing many farmers within their borders who make money by raising non-GM crops mainly for export. Of course these farmers are not wedded to natural crops, not tampered with by man but opportunities from abroad to buy non-GM crops at higher prices are too tempting for them to get into this area. Many Asian countries, especially Japan, are apprehensive of GM crops and are scrupulously avoiding cultivation and consumption of such crops by their citizens. Probably they are expecting that GMO technology will go through the safety and hazard analysis by impartial scientists to give a verdict regarding their absolute harmlessness. Though this may or may not happen in the near future, American farmers engaged in growing non-GM crops are reaping bounties by sending them to Asia. Here is a take on this interesting subject.

"When GMOs came on the scene about 20 years ago, it turned out that his Japanese customers didn't want them. Japanese food companies were suspicious of the new technology and didn't want to risk a hostile consumer reaction. So Clarkson tweaked his supply chain to deliver what the Japanese wanted. He made sure his farmers grew varieties that weren't genetically engineered. The non-GMO niche was born. He wasn't the only one doing this. Clarkson shows me, on a wall map, the concentration of farmers who supply the Japanese market. Many are along the Illinois and Ohio rivers, with easy access to ships heading toward Asia. There are thousands of them, and they're now happy to supply customers in the U.S., too. "U.S. buyers often think that we're starting from scratch" with non-GMO grain, Clarkson says. "Well, we're not. We're starting from millions of bushels of demand that are in place and being satisfied on a regular basis for Asian clients." Most of these farmers don't have any philosophical objection to genetic engineering. In fact, most of them grow both GMO and non-GMO crops. Allen Williams, who grows grain for Lynn Clarkson, says the choice to grow non-GMO grain simply comes down to money. "You're just trying to improve your profit," he says. "There's not a lot of ways to do that, if you're growing commodities. This is one way to do that." He'll sell his non-GMO grain for 10 percent or 15 percent more than the standard market price. But there are complications. Some of the extra income gets eaten up by extra costs. He'll spend more money on pesticides, for instance, for his non-GMO soybean fields. He also has to make sure the grain he sends to Clarkson Grain doesn't contain any traces of his GMO crops. So when he finishes harvesting one of his GMO fields, he has to spend hours cleaning out his combine. "You know, time is of the essence during harvest," he says. "So to take time during harvest to clean out equipment and storage locations and transportation equipment is very expensive for a farmer."

What is intriguing is the logistics involved in growing GM and non-GM crops together without the latter getting contaminated with GMO traces. It appears these farmers are taking extreme precautions to prevent cross contamination because Japanese buyers are very stringent in their specifications. In the mean time the ding-dong battle between GMO lobby and anti-GMO activists is becoming more and more acrimonious with each side marshaling data to reinforce their respective assertions. It is the consumer who is caught between the two extremes not able to decide whether to buy or shun GM foods, though there is hardly any choice in a country like USA where GM foods practically monopolized the market leaving very little choice to the citizens there.  


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