Concern surrounding GMO effects on American corn crops is not a new topic. Genetic modification of plants, animals, and even bacteria has brought controversy since its inception. The term GMO refers to anything that has had its genetic code modified for any reason, including resistance to certain chemicals or diseases, or attempts to make crops grow bigger or faster. Despite protests that this sort of tampering carries the potential for harm to humans, the vast majority of crops grown in the U.S. are from GMO seeds.
Pros and Cons of GMOs
One benefit from these crops is the reduced need for herbicides and pesticides, which carry known problems for humans. Concerns, however, include the worry that this genetic tampering may create unimagined consequences, such as the destruction of bee colonies or the development of super resistant weeds. A further concern is that, if a problem arises from GMO crops, pollination from these plants is almost impossible to stop at this stage. Part of the national debate surrounding GMOs centers around the labeling of modified foods. Several states have passed laws that require specific labels for foods made with genetically modified organisms, so that consumers can decide if they’d prefer not to ingest them.
China’s Rejection of U.S. Corn
As each new GMO crop is developed and patented, it must be approved for sale in various countries, as each country has different laws concerning GMO products. In past years China has offered little resistance to the sale of GMO crops from the U.S., having imported millions of pounds of corn, potatoes, soybeans, and cotton each year. However, Syngenta began selling its GMO corn seed, called “Agrisure Viptera,” to U.S. farmers before the modified crops were approved for sale in China. When China refused American corn, it had already been mixed into our nation’s corn exports, making it impossible to distinguish. This rendered all corn shipments from the U.S. potentially contaminated by Syngenta corn and led China to reject all American corn shipments beginning on November 2013.
The impact of this rejection on the corn market has already been huge, and will only get worse. The National Grain & Feed Association has estimated that farmers have already lost billions of dollars due to China’s refusal of U.S. corn, while exporters and others have also lost millions of dollars.