Are U.S. farmers selling less corn overseas because of their increased dependence on genetically engineered corn varieties or because of market forces?

The first part of that question is being raised by representatives of the American Corn Growers Association who have requested a study by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) on the cost of genetically modified crops to the U.S. farm sector.

“U.S. outstanding sales of corn are 40 million bushels (1 million metric tons) and 24 percent below last marketing year at the same time,” according to Dan McGuire, director of the ACGA's Farmer Choice — Customer First program, which seeks to reduce U.S. corn farmers reliance on GMOs.

“What's more, accumulated exports of corn had not gained back the 40 million bushels lost last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Weekly Export Sales report as of the week ending Aug. 22, 2002.”

McGuire's comments were in a press release in which ACGA's officials called for a new investigation of the genetically engineered corn situation by the General Accounting Office.

In June 2001, the GAO released a report, Concerns Over Biotechnology Challenge U.S. Agricultural Exports, which stated that “U.S. corn and soybean exports are most threatened by new foreign regulatory measures because of their biotech content.”

“We now have a fairly good handle on our loss of corn exports due, in large part, to the loss of international confidence in our corn supplies from our questionable experiment with Genetically Modified (GMO) corn,” said Larry Mitchell, CEO of the American Corn Growers.

“What we do not know is how much this experiment has cost the grain marketing sector and the U.S. taxpayer. We must know these costs before we can make any sort of intelligent decision as to whether to continue on our present course, or wait until the science and public acceptance of GMOs have been properly established.”

With lower exports, says Mitchell, U.S. farm families have experienced lower prices for their harvests. He points out that the U.S. taxpaying public offset some of this loss of income through the USDA Marketing Assistance Loan Program. Under the program, farmers are partially protected from lower prices through loan deficiency payments or LDPs and marketing loan gains.

“Over $5.4 billion was spent on LDPs and MLGs for last year's crops so far, with over $1 billion spent on corn. We need to know what portion of that expense was caused by our loss of export markets due to GMOs and what lower corn prices and higher seed costs meant to farm families' bottom economic line.”

“U.S. corn gluten feed and meal exports are also down significantly over the last few years,” said McGuire. “The current corn-marketing year (2001-02) export data is confirming that there is a year-over-year cumulative GMO-driven export loss continuing for both corn and corn gluten.

McGuire said foreign importers and consumers continue to have health questions along with environmental, corporate seed and patent control issues and market concentration concerns regarding GMOs. “They're choosing alternatives. GMO now seems to stand for ‘grain market outcasts.’”

ACGA says its Farmer Choice — Customer First provides unbiased, honest, and objective information to the nation's corn producers.

In its recent forecasts, USDA analysts have credited the decline in exports to the economic downturn in many overseas markets. USDA is predicting that U.S. corn exports will increase from 1.9 billion to 2 billion bushels in the 2002-03 marketing year that began May 1.


e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.