Trading for non-GMO soybean meal soars in Europe

Grows from zero to 25% in one year: suppliers receiving requests from other regions

Europe's growing appetite for meat products from animals fed non-GMO feed has created a rapid demand for non-GMO soybean meal. According to AgJournal, the current demand for certified non-GMO soymeal has grown from nearly zero to nearly 25% of the European soymeal market in just one year. Further increases are expected in the coming year.

The demand has resulted from major European retailers' decision to sell meat products made from animals fed non-GMO feed. In a domino-like effect, U.K. retailers including Iceland Foods, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer's, Safeway, Tesco, and ASDA, have asked their meat suppliers to source non-GMO ingredients for feed. Tesco and ASDA alone control 42% of the U.K. market. Other European retailers committed to selling non-GMO meat products include France's Carrefour, Superquinn in Ireland, Danish Crown in Denmark, Coop Italia, and SPAR in Austria, to name a few.

"Tesco is doing this because our customers ask for it," says Martin Cooke, Tesco's manager of technical and strategic development. "If our customers want non-GMO, then that is what we'll provide."

Requests worldwide

The bulk of the EU's non-GMO soymeal comes from Brazil where plantings of genetically modified crops are currently prohibited. A group of Brazilian soy suppliers, including IMCOPA, Cotrimao, Braswey, BREJEIRO, and Caramuru are a few companies meeting the EU's demand. U.S. agribusiness giant, Cargill, will establish a river port terminal at Sanatarem in the state of Para to handle non-GMO soybeans from Mato Grosso state.

However, Brazil's non-GMO status may change. Monsanto aims to introduce its GM Roundup Ready soybeans there if the government decides to allow commercial production, which could happen this year. Consumer and environmental groups aim to prevent this. Introduction of GM soy may increase the price for non-GMO soy due to extra costs needed for segregation and identity preservation.

European feed groups are contacting North America sources also. A delegation from the European Feed Manufacturers recently visited soybean growers in Minnesota to determine whether they can meet their needs for non-GMO. The group also visited Clarkson Grain, in Cerro Gordo, IL, a supplier of non-GMO and organic grains. Lynn Clarkson, president, says Greenpeace is focusing its efforts on removing GMOs from feed in Europe and will have an impact. "They are a credible market force in Europe, and consumers pay attention to them," he says.

Other U.S. non-GMO suppliers are getting calls from the EU and other countries. "We're getting requests from big retailers in the U.K. and Europe," says Amy Nankivil, export manager for Northland Foods, based in St.Paul, Minnesota. "They are looking for large quantities." Nankivil says Northland has also received requests for non-GMO soy meal and corn gluten from companies in Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, and Israel. Jim Skiff, president of US Soy, LLC, says he has received calls from China, Hong Kong, and the Middle East, including Iran, about non-GMO feed. "The feed issue is spreading beyond Europe," he says.

Other non-GMO soy exporters

India's Soybean Processors Association recently sent a delegation to meet trade officials in several EU nations and discuss purchasing non-GMO soymeal. Canada also exports non-GMO soymeal to Europe. According to Feedstuffs, Australia's Industrial Supplies Office is considering ways to capitalize on its non-GMO soy crop.

It remains to be seen whether non-GMO soy exporters, such as Brazil and India, will impact U.S. soy exports containing GM varieties, to Europe. William George, of U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service, told AgJournal that U.S. soy exports are unaffected by the European demand for non-GMO, but could have a negative impact if the demand continues to grow.

The USDA's attache in London recently issued a report predicting that if more supermarkets in Europe commit to selling non-GMO based meat products, the demand could outstrip the supply and force Brazil to raise its prices for soymeal. With the burden of higher costs, retailers could be forced to allow their meet suppliers to source soybeans and soymeal of "any origin" including GM, according to the report.

Want "hard IP"

Another development that may spur the demand for non-GMO soy meal is proposed EU labeling regulations on animal feed containing GM ingredients. The proposal requires traceability of feed at all stages of production.

If implemented, the labeling regulations may require non-GMO suppliers to implement "hard IP" systems in order to comply. Gerald Fowler, president of Manna International, a Canadian traceability firm, says the trend is for European retailers, such as Tesco and ASDA to require hard IP systems with full traceability and tight tolerances, such as 0.1%, for non-GMO soymeal. A "soft IP" system relies on the fact that a crop is grown in an area free of GM crops and requires little or no GMO testing. Fowler says the growing European market for non-GMO soymeal will belong to the countries and suppliers that can effectively provide hard IP systems.
(July 2001)