Non-GMO soybean acreage increased by 1 million in 2009

US farmers planted one million more acres of non-GMO soybeans in 2009 than 2008, increasing to 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.

Higher premiums, lower input costs
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 for non-GMO.

“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,” Clarkson says.

More non-GMO soybeans grown in Ohio
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.”

Sources: (WCPN-NPR {Cleveland}, Farm and Dairy USA)

© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report July/August 2009