Magazine article Amber Waves

Farm Production Practices to Preserve Non-Genetically Engineered Product Markets

Magazine article Amber Waves

Farm Production Practices to Preserve Non-Genetically Engineered Product Markets

Article excerpt

U.S. farmers used genetically engineered (GE) seed varieties containing traits to tolerate herbicides used for weed control and to resist other pests on over 90 percent of corn, soybean, cotton, canola, and sugar beet acreage in 2014. GE varieties were also used to produce a smaller percentage of the U.S. alfalfa, sweet corn, squash, and papaya acreage in 2014. Breakfast cereals, chips, soy protein bars, corn syrup, vegetable oil, and many other processed food products contain ingredients made from these GE crops. However, many consumers choose to purchase foods containing ingredients made from non-GE crops. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, U.S. sales of organically grown food (which excludes GE seed) approached an estimated $37 billion in 2015, and a market for conventionally grown foods produced without GE seed has emerged.

To receive the price premiums associated with organic and conventional non-GE crops, producers must minimize the unintended presence of GE materials in their crops. Generally, organic corn and soybean prices reported by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service since 2007 have been two to three times higher than conventional corn and soybean prices. In USDA's most recent (2012) soybean survey, non-GE producers reported receiving a price premium of 18 percent above conventional soybean prices.

U.S. organic and other non-GE farmers use various avoidance practices to minimize accidental crop mixing. Recent USDA organic surveys show that producers commonly use buffer strips to minimize pesticide drift, pollen drift, or both. Another approach is to delay crop planting until after any nearby GE crops are planted. While soybeans are mostly self-pollinating and the risks of cross pollination are minimal, the risks for corn are higher because most corn pollination results from pollen dispersal by wind and gravity. …

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