Politics, economic self-interest driving China’s GMO corn ban

For 42 years, Don Villwock has grown soybeans and corn on 4,000 acres in southwest Indiana. He has endured low prices, bad weather and trade embargoes. This year, however, he’s facing a new challenge: China.

In March, China’s authorities stopped accepting exports of corn that contained a specific, very common genetic modification intended to make the plant resistant to insects. A few months later China also began rejecting dried distillers grain – a byproduct of ethanol production – that carried the trait.

Villwock explains that, as a major market evaporated, prices tumbled, and farms across the U.S. took a financial hit.

“We’re one of them,” he says. “I got to see this movie from the front row.”

China’s recent moves raise questions about the global future of GMO crops.

Veronica Nigh, an economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), says that, in recent years, China has bought about 40 percent of the dried distillers grain produced in the U.S. But now, with Viptera unwelcome in China, many middlemen have become unwilling to buy any corn that might contain the trait, and many farmers have been left with surplus corn. In turn, the extra supply of corn in the market has driven down prices for all corn growers.

“When your number one customer starts rejecting [your crop], the price drops quickly,” Nigh says.

AFBF’s Nigh suggests that China has economic reasons for rejecting Viptera: Chinese corn farmers are experiencing significant surpluses right now, and slowing imports could help buoy prices for these growers. However, once the fear of GMOs is incited, she says, it is not easy to reverse.

“Long-term, our concern is that it slows down the abilities of U.S. farmers to adopt the newest and best technology available to them,” she says.

Read the full, original article: Is China’s GMO corn ban protecting consumers or protecting markets?

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