US soya growers support GM

Speakers at the 2015 Poultry Industry Education Trust conference: left to right:  Eugene Philhower, US Soybean Export Council; Stephen Turner, Hendrix Genetics; Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary DARD and Randy Borg, Cobb Vantress
Speakers at the 2015 Poultry Industry Education Trust conference: left to right: Eugene Philhower, US Soybean Export Council; Stephen Turner, Hendrix Genetics; Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary DARD and Randy Borg, Cobb Vantress

“GM technology is helping United States’ soya growers to deliver more for less,” according to Eugene Philhower, from the US Soybean Export Council.

This was the key message he delivered to the recent Poultry Industry Education Trust Conference, held at Loughry College.

“There are no food safety issues related to the use of GM technology and it is for this reason that farmers in the US cannot understand why there is such resistance to genetically modified feedstuffs in the EU.

“As far as they are concerned, GM ticks every box. Using current soil and crop management techniques, they are only required to physically travel over the land with machinery four times in the year.

“Previously this figure would have been as high as 12, when more traditional management practises were to the fore. All of this is helping to put modern soya production systems on a more sustainable footing. At one level, this is helping to improve grower margins. But it is also good news for the environment.”

Philhower confirmed that every farmer in the United States must put in place an annual conservation action plan.

“If this is not done, growers will be automatically ruled out of all relevant support programmes,” he said.

“Maintaining and improving soil structure will be at the very heart of each plan,” he said.

“This reflects the problems of soil erosion and desertification which dogged the US farming industry throughout the early part of the 20th century. But above and beyond this farmers now recognise that prioritising soil health is key to making profits.

“Minimum tillage is now the basis behind the production systems now employed on all US cropping farms.”

Philhower said that many farmers in North America become very upset when the claim is made that conservation is only taken seriously in the EU.

He added: “The reality is that GM is helping farmers deliver more from less. Currently, the US is exporting greater quantities of maize and soya, at the expense of wheat and this is because there is no GM wheat option available at the present time.”