For the first time in 15 years, Illinois farmer Steve Ruh will plant only old-school soybean seeds to boost profit in a premium niche market, abandoning the popular genetically modified varieties.
“Margins are so tight you are looking for anything you can to generate more dollars per acre,” Ruh, 50, said in a telephone interview from Sugar Grove, Illinois. Soybean futures in Chicago have slumped as much as 25 percent from a peak in March as China, embroiled in a trade war with the U.S., opted for Brazilian supplies following bumper crops in the Americas.
The median price of a bag of soybean seeds with no genetic modification is $39, compared with the priciest GMO variety at $54, Kevin McNew, the chief economist at Farmers Business Network, said in a telephone interview, citing his firm’s study.
Signs are emerging that demand for food made with non-GMO ingredients in the U.S. is increasing. In 2018, 35 percent of consumers between 18 to 34 were “aware and concerned” about genetically modified organisms, up from 25 percent in 2013, according to NPD Group, a research company.
The domestic appeal of non-GMO products and organic food is attracting farmers, said Greg Lickteig, director of specialty grains at Omaha, Nebraska-based Scoular Co., a grain handler. Previously, demand for those crops was linked to Japan, the European Union and other overseas markets.
“Farmers are taking a renewed interest in non-biotech and non-GMO varieties of soybeans,” Lickteig said in a telephone interview. “It’s not just anecdotal. It’s real.”
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