Farm Bureau Members Say GE Corn & Soy Acreage Will Increase

Farm Bureau Members Say GE
Corn & Soy Acreage Will Increase

Web Note: This so-called "straw" poll by Reuters is skewed by the fact that
Farmers attending the American Farm Burea national convention are true
believers in agricultural biotech and factory farming. On the other hand
it's interesting that these true believers feel that acreage of GE cotton
varieties will decrease in 2002.

USA: January 10, 2002

RENO - American farmers will shrug off European and Asian concerns about
genetically modified food and boost plantings of gene-spliced corn and
soybeans this year, according to a Reuters survey of more than 300 growers.

The straw poll, conducted at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual
meeting, found no slowdown in American agriculture's embrace of biotech corn
and soybeans despite concerns abroad about unknown risks to health and

The Reuters survey questioned 321 farmers at the annual meeting of the
United States' largest grower group. Personal interviews were conducted at
random and results do not attempt to weigh responses by state, size of farm
or other criteria.

The results provide an early indicator of 2002 plantings of genetically
modified crops. Most U.S. growers buy soybean, corn and cotton seeds at this
time for spring planting.

The Reuters poll found gene-altered corn plantings would soar in 2002 for
both major varieties.

Roundup Ready corn seeds enable growers to use a single herbicide, which
farmers say boosts crop yields and cuts spending on costly chemicals.
Another type - Bt corn - is engineered to help a growing plant resist
harmful pests.

Farmers surveyed by Reuters said they would sharply increase plantings of
Roundup Ready corn by 19.3 percent in 2002. Plantings of Bt corn will rise
by 13.8 percent.

The increase appeared to be due mostly to the end of a year-long controversy
over a variety of bio-corn, known as StarLink, which was not approved for
human food but contaminated some 430 million bushels of the U.S. corn

"We've learned a lot from StarLink, and producers have learned to ask a lot
more questions," said Bob Stallman, president of the Farm Bureau. "There's a
greater degree of comfort with biotech products and the marketing of them."


Growers also said they would boost use of the popular Roundup Ready soybeans
8.3 percent. Bt soybeans - used by a tiny number of growers surveyed - will
fall 14.6 percent.

Many U.S. farmers have already switched to engineered varieties of soybeans
during the past five years.

"When you look at corn, soybean and cotton, and you're on a significant
amount of those acres already, I can see where you'd take a step back and
say that growth has stalled," said Randy Krotz, a spokesman for biotech
giant Monsanto .

"But has the excitement and acceptance slowed in agriculture? Not at all.
It's simply finding the next market," Krotz added.

Some farmers said that while biotech plantings will rise in 2002, the
outlook is less certain further ahead due to consumer resistance in the
European Union and Japan. The EU has delayed new approvals of gene-spliced
crops since 1998, when France and others demanded tougher regulations for
biotech products.

However, gene-altered cotton plantings will shrink this year. Bt cotton
plantings will fall 8.4 percent and Roundup Ready cotton will drop 2.1
percent, according to the survey.

The decline is blamed mostly on a global glut of cotton.

Wheat, another key U.S. crop, also has a bright future for genetically
altered varieties, according to those surveyed.

The poll showed that 54 percent of farmers surveyed who already grow wheat
said they would plant a biotech variety, when one becomes commercially

Monsanto hopes to roll out the first bio-wheat seed in 2003. Development of
gene-spliced wheat has taken longer than other crops because of the plant's
trickier genetics.

Story by Christopher Doering


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