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US Farmers Losing Money On Gene-Modified Corn

US Farmers Losing Money
On Gene-Modified Corn

12/13/2001

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- U.S. farmers lost a net $92 million
during a five-year period by planting gene-modified corn, rather than
conventional corn, a study by the former executive director of the
National Academy of Science Board of Agriculture says.

The report is one in a series to be published by Genetically
Engineered Food Alert, a campaign promoting testing and labeling
of GM foods.

According to study author Charles Benbrook, American farmers paid at
least $659 million in price premiums to plant GM corn from 1996-2001.
In doing so, farmers boosted harvest by only 276 million bushels,
worth some $567 million in economic gain, he said.

Generally, corn farmers paid $28 per acre for conventional seed and
$37.80 per acre for GM seed, a 35% increase, he said.

"The bottom line for farmers is a net loss of $92 million, about $1.31
per acre," Benbrook wrote. "On average, yield increases due to Bt corn
have not increased farm income enough to cover the higher costs of BT
seed. The jump in per acre seed expenditures with Bt corn is by far
the biggest in history linked to a single new trait."

Genetically modified corn, also referred to as Bt corn, is genetically
engineered to resist the European Corn Borer and the Southwestern Corn
Borer.

"The economic value of using Bt corn depends largely on whether
infestation levels of ECB/SWCB impact yields," Benbrook said. He
concedes GM corn increases yields by 20% to 30%, but seed costs
outweigh those profit savings.

"Why then the uninterrupted, steady stream of positive news in the
farm community about the yield and economic benefits of Bt corn? The
preponderance of happy news stems in part from effective, well-funded
industry PR and advertising," Benbrook said.

U.S. farmers have now planted more than 70 million acres to GM corn,
he said. Overall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates farmers
have planted a total of 76 million acres of corn for the 2001-02
marketing year.

Yet some major markets, such as the European Union, are resistant to
GM foods.

"We estimate that the U.S. has foregone about 350 million bushels of
corn export sales to the European Union since 1996-97 largely because
the EU doesn't want GMOS," says Dan McGuire of the American Corn
Growers Association, a smaller alternative to the National Corn
Growers Association.

"The findings of this report are part of a triple negative for
farmers - lost corn exports, lower corn prices and less net profit
from GMO corn, which is why the ACGA cautions farmers on their
seed choices," he said.

-By Kim Archer, Dow Jones Newswires;

202-479-0853; Kim.Archer@dowjones.com

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