During the last 15 years, world-transgenic (GMO) soy production has reached 80 million hectares which currently represents 80% of total acreage. The graph on the right shows the annual production figures. In 2012 in Brazil, the United States and Argentina total GMO soybean ratio were 88%, 92% and 100% respectively. These developments certainly make access to GMO-free soybean and soy additives difficult. The real problem is the difficulty in the producers’ access to conventional soybean seeds due to the various problems the non-GMO soy seed sector is experiencing especially in Brazil, the USA and Argentina. In fact, soybean seed is autogam (self pollinated) seeds can be used for many years as production material. But herbicide resistant GM soy (Roundup ready) growers, have to sign a contract, guaranteeing that they will not replant the seed second time in coming years. Why do the conventional seed users buy seed from seed companies? Because not every farm is equipped to handle seed cleaning, spraying and the packing needs/
Now let’s take a look at the situation of non-GMO seed companies:
- Their numbers are reducing, because they have been acquired by large biotech seed companies;
- Soybean breeders are not improving new non-GMO varieties due to narrowing market. From 2005 to 2010, the number of GMO-free varieties has decreased by 67% whereas number of GMO varieties increased 7% in the United States;
- Preventing from contamination of non-GMO seeds with conventional seeds need an extra effort and expense.
Indeed, non-GMO soybean producers have many advantages like cheaper seed maintenance and receiving premium for their crop. The 10% of the price difference between the two product categories in 2006 reached to 25 % in favor of non-GMO in recent years with increasing soybean prices. GM soy price in the world markets was £400/MT, where non-GMO crop was £500/MT recently. However, prices in 2006 were around £160.
Despite of their lower crop price, why do farmers prefer expensive transgenic seeds? Because:
- Disease and drought-resistant varieties are providing stable yield;
- As transgenic soybean cultivation was not allowed in Brazil before 2003, the seed was being smuggled from Argentina. This means that producers were aware of the pluses of transgenic varieties;
- Non-GMO soy cultivation needs harbicide application for both narrow and broad-leaved weeds, whereas during transgenic cultivation only one roundup spray solves the problem and reduces prime cost, time and labor;
- GMO varieties are enabling the producers two-crop harvest within one year.
In traditional soybean cultivation, farmers plows the soil particularly for weed control before planting, whereas transgenic soybean cultivation with no-till method doesn’t need any soil preparations, so that the farmers are able to save time, money and labor. Being able to sow one week earlier, facilitate farmers to grow second crop within one year. In S. America million of hectare land is now performing double cropping after transgenics are in the market. What about weed control? Because of herbicide-resistant soybean varieties are on the field, only one application of special weed killer (Roundup) solves the weed problem. Saving soil preparation and only one herbicide application cause cost reduction and that is the main reason why farmers prefer transgenic.
All of these developments are reflected in the low-cost GMO soy market and many companies are headed to cheaper feed for their livestock production and become transgenic soy importer. At the end, increased GMO-free soy prices caused troubles within organic livestock production sector, especially poultry and pork subsector of EU. Now they are looking for alternative sources.
To increase the numbers of classic soy varieties, seed industry has taken serious steps forward. In fact EMBRAPA (Brazilian Agricultural Research Organization) has launched a comprehensive breeding program for new GMO-free soy cultivars along with several other groups to provide greater competitiveness to the production chain. Similar attempt comes from a multinational biotechnology and seed company to breed non-GMO edible lines with better taste and flavor soybean varieties.
Supplying of non transgenic seeds is not only a problem for soybean. Sugar beet farmers in USA had to accept the decisions of sugar factories, who decided to sow only transgenic seeds. Another variety development story was observed for corn. In the year 2005 number of non-GMO hybrids was 3226. This number dropped in 2010 to 1062, whereas in the same period transgenic hybrid number increased.
Back to GMO-free soy seed issue, variety protection limits, namely seed patent for GMO soy (Roundup Ready Soybeans) will expire in different years, in different countries. It is, for example for Canada 2012, for USA 2013 etc. So far GMO seed won’t be so expensive and reducing the total cost of soybean production will reduced, more and more farmers will grow GM soybean. Now some questions arise:
- · Will “GMO-free SOYBEAN PRODUCTION” stop in soybean exporter countries?
- Would it be possible to grow other protein-rich fodder plants in Europe to replace the soybean imports?
- · The main producing countries Italy, France, Austria, Romania and Hungary harvest every year nearly one million tons of soybeans, just three percent of European imports. Would it be possible to increase the acreage and production?
 No-till method facilitates direct sowing with seeder without any soil preparation.