At present the United States is locked into a battle with the European Union over the marketing of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops.
The Europeans want labelling and ingredient tracking for all products containing GMO material. With all of the trouble over mad cow disease and foot and mouth disease, the Europeans are very wary when it comes to their food supply and public confidence in the integrity of that system is at a low point.
As Tony Van der Haegen, Minister-Counsellor for Agriculture, Fisheries and Consumer Affairs of the European Commission said,"Unless we restore EU consumer confidence in this new technology, genetic modification of food is dead in Europe. The Commission's July labeling and traceability proposal is intended to be a first step to increase that confidence."
From the U.S. perspective, the fear is that the Europeans are using the GMO issue as a protectionist device to lock the U.S. out of the European corn and soybean markets. The USDA has stressed its belief that the U.S. government's food regulation system is effective and assures public safety.
A similar battle has been raging over the import of soybeans into China. Again the U.S. perspective is that the Chinese concern is a strategem to give Chinese producers time to adjust before they are admitted into the World Trade Organisation.
Given the intensity of the positions on both sides, any attempt by the U.S. to force a solution to the issue will leave lingering resentments. One alternative to the head-to-head battle is for the producer, the U.S. in this case, to remember the old dictum, "The customer is king."Ultimately, in a market economy it is in the best interest of the seller to provide the buyers with what they want.
If the customer wants a GMO free corn, then maybe that is what they should try to produce. When it comes to customer preferences, it is not a matter of science or right or wrong or what might ultimately be acceptable. It's also not a matter of U.S. testing and safety certification. It simply is a matter of what the customer wants to buy. Could it cost the customer more to buy a grain that is grown to their specifications, be it non-GMO, or high lysine, or whatever, and kept segregated from commodity grade grain? Yes, of course it could. At least at the beginning. But then, consumers regularly pay more for certified organic food products than they would have to pay for no-organic products. And despite the premium they have to pay, that segment of the food trade is growing at a rapid rate.