More than 20 farmers from around the globe met this week around a table in Des Moines to discuss ways to increase acceptance of biotechnology. The European Union, for example, allows Roundup Ready soybeans to be imported, but doesn’t let European farmers plant them.
That’s frustrating for Lucian Buzdugan – who farms about 150-thousand acres in Romania and who may be Europe’s largest farmer. When Romania gained E-U membership last year, Buzdugan says he had to stop planting Roundup Ready beans and that hit him right in the pocketbook.
"This year I don’t have Roundup Ready…and the profit, it’s a minus," he says. Minus about $57.50 an acre, he calculates. He isn’t the only European farmer frustrated by the E-U’s opposition to biotechnology. Jim McCarthy farms 18-hundred acres in County Kildare in Ireland. McCarthy says the inability to use "genetically modified" seeds literally drove him out of the European Union.
"Because of the frustration in Europe of non-acceptance of (genetically modified) crops, we’ve gone off and invested in Argentina," he says. "Along with our own money, we’ve brought in quite a bit of money and we’ve raised $60 million and bought 30,000 of cropping land in Argentina."
But the real benefits of genetically modified seeds may be greatest for some of the world’s smallest farmers according to Rosalie Ellasus from the Phillipines – who farms about 15 acres. She says growing pest-resistant biotech corn improved yields and improved profit levels for small producers like herself throughout the Philippines.
"We are having so much rejection…from the feedmillers because of the quality of our corn so we realized that the biotechnology corn will help improve our products," she says. The three international farmers spoke at a roundtable discussion during World Food Prize festivities in Des Moines.