In a place that has become the global capital of GMO monoculture — with 97 percent of soybeans and 95 percent of corn grown from genetically modified seeds — farmers are rediscovering the virtues of a plant variety whose most compelling “trait” is its natural purity.
Across the American heartland, “the burgeoning interest in non-GMO foods has increased how much [farmers] get paid to grow crops in fields once populated exclusively with genetically modified corns and soybeans,” reports the Des Moines Register. “The revenue hike is a welcome benefit at a time when lower commodity prices are pushing farm income down to what’s expected to be the lowest level in six years. …
“Tim Daley, an agronomist at Stonebridge Ltd., said the Cedar Falls company is getting flooded with calls from income-hungry farmers all over the Midwest looking for crops such as non-GMOs that could pay them a premium for their corn and soybeans.
“Recently, a farmer growing a non-GMO soybean crop could get as much as $2 a bushel for soybeans and $0.35 a bushel for corn over the market price. Daley estimated growers could save $150 for each bag of corn seed they buy that lacks the traits embedded in genetically modified crops, a difference that could help a farmer reach profitability.”
As one Iowa farmer told the paper: “We never really thought we would go back to [non-GMO corn]. But the consumer, in my opinion, has sent a clear message that a certain percentage of our customers are willing to pay more for the non-GMO lines. This non-GMO thing has seemed to take hold and gain a lot of traction.”
Despite greater interest among farmers, demand is outstripping supply. Earlier this month Bloomberg News reported: “A growing demand for organics, and the near-total reliance by U.S. farmers on genetically modified corn and soybeans, is driving a surge in imports from other nations where crops largely are free of bioengineering.
“Imports such as corn from Romania and soybeans from India are booming, according to an analysis of U.S. trade data released Wednesday by the Organic Trade Association and Penn State University.”
Coffee is the number one imported organic food item. “Soybeans are the second-biggest U.S. organic import, with $184 million shipped last year. India is the No. 1 source, followed by China. For corn, with overall sales of $35.7 million in 2014, Romania is the biggest seller to the U.S., followed by Turkey, the Netherlands and Canada.”
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