Farmers in USA are increasingly opting for traditional non-GMO soybeans over
its GM version. The crop area for Non-GMO soybean gained by one million acres in
2009 in comparison to 2008, reaching 6.97 million acres compared to 5.96 million
acres the previous year.
Overall, non-GMO soybeans accounted for 9% of a record high 77.5 million
acres of soybeans planted this year. In 2008, non-GMO soybeans accounted for 8%
of 75.5 million acres of soybeans.
The percentage of farmers growing genetically modified soybeans decreased
slightly from 92% in 2008 to 91% in 2009, the first drop in plantings of GM
soybeans since 2000.
Increased plantings of non-GMO soybeans were due to several factors. Farmers
are earning higher premiums, ranging from $1.00 to $2.75 per bushel to grow non-GMO.
In addition, seed costs for GM Roundup Ready soybeans were nearly double that
"This year, we had farmers buying good traditional (non-GMO) soybean
seed for $17 per bag when Roundup Ready seed was going for $35 per bag,"
says Lynn Clarkson, president, Clarkson Grain, a buyer of non-GMO soybeans.
The cost for Roundup herbicide, which is used with Roundup Ready seed, also
increased from $15 to $50 per gallon.
"A few farmers told me they haven't grown non-GMO soybeans in seven or
eight years but this year they say the economics favor non-GMO," says Mark
Albertson, director of marketing at the Illinois Soybean Association.
GM farmers also face increasing problems with weeds becoming resistant to
Roundup, forcing them to use more herbicides to kill the resistant weeds.
"The benefit to reduced pesticide cost (with Roundup Ready soybeans)
seems to be decreasing due to weeds developing immunity to Roundup,"
In Ohio, non-GMO soybean acreage increased 6%, the largest increase in any
state. "We saw more growers switching to non-GMO production for 2009
planting," says Joe Hanusik, manager at Harmony Agricultural Products In
Ohio (HAPI Ohio), which produces non-GMO soybeans for food use.
HAPI Ohio is owned by the Honda Motor Company, based in Japan. Honda ships
containers to the US filled with automobile parts, and HAPI Ohio ships them back
to Japan filled with non-GMO soybeans. The infield of a Honda test track in
Marysville, Ohio, is even planted with non-GMO soybeans.
Hanusik said he contracted with a record number of farmers to plant non-GMO
soybeans. "This year we are producing roughly 45,000 acres of non GMO
soybeans. Last year we were right around 25,000."
Steve Waddell, a farmer near Columbus, Ohio, switched to non-GMO production
because of the higher premiums. Waddell says he will earn a $2.00 premium for
non-GMO soybeans this year.
John Suber, owner of Ebberts Field Seeds in western Ohio, sold out of non-GMO
soybean seed early and has doubled non-GMO seed production acreage for next
year. "We anticipate that demand will continue to grow," Suber says.
Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, echoes that
assessment. "There are a number of markets, both stateside and
internationally, that want non-GMO varieties and they are willing to pay the
premiums for it."
© The Organic & Non-GMO Report July/August 2009