Biotech crop acreage continues to increase

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Iowa -- Iowa farmers are increasing the amount of genetically modified corn and soybeans they grow because they require less chemicals to fight weeds and pests.

"Economic advantages," said Tim Burrack of Arlington, who grows gene-altered and non-altered crops. "All you have to do is harvest one field that has fallen because of corn borers and you soon realize there is a benefit. It makes the management and yield better and takes a little risk out of production."

And they aren't having any problem selling their biotech crops.

"That's the attitude of the majority or we wouldn't see the rapid shift," Robert Wisner, Iowa State University agriculture economist, said last week.


If farmers follow through with their plans, 43 percent of the state's corn and 78 percent of the state's soybeans will be genetically modified. In 2001, 32 percent of Iowa's corn and 73 percent of the soybeans were genetically modified.

Nationally, 32 percent of the corn and 74 percent of the soybean acres will be planted with genetically modified crops. That's up from last year, when U.S. farmers planted 26 percent of their corn and 68 percent of their soybean acres with the high-tech seeds.

The genetically modified crops also create an opportunity for production of non-modified crops. If a farmer has the physical abilities to keep the two crops separate, he may find specialty markets and earn premiums on the non-altered crops, Burrack said. He has contracts to grow non-gene-altered corn for export.

International acceptance of gene-altered crops is yet to be determined, Wisner said. Nineteen countries require labeling of crops by type of genetic origin.

One of those countries, China, has halted grain imports from the United States. Japan's corn imports from the United States are down.

"GMO wheat is new and has created a controversy," Wisner said. "The North Dakota Legislature has barred the planting of the GMO wheat. North Dakota is the No. 2 wheat-producing state."

Burrack said foreign countries that reject gene-altered crops are doing so because of trade policies rather than information.

"They're not doing it because of their health fears, but they've been filled with fear," Burrack said. "China is the best example. You have to follow GMO rules and regulations, but even Chinese importers can't understand the rules and it slowed down trade.


"They're using what's stored, and there was a big flush into China in advance of this. They're encouraging their farmers to raise more soybeans. It's all market manipulation."

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