Europe deterred by cost of certifying non-GMO meal
AMSTERDAM - European buyers are interested in soymeal free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but balk at paying higher prices for the full certification process, industry sources said yesterday.
Supermarket chains such as Britain\'s Tesco and France\'s Carrefour have been pioneers in selling meat raised without GMOs, with soymeal the biggest component of animal feed.
But many food companies are now seeking to allay European consumers\' fears about GMO foods by buying soymeal from Brazil, where GMO crops are illegal, without going through a strict and more expensive certification process.
\"We certified a lot of material which the Brazilian suppliers then offered, but surprisingly few in Europe were willing to pay the premium,\" Jochen Koester, president of certification firm Cert ID, told Reuters. \"I think understandably everybody is trying to keep their costs low.\"
Meanwhile the amount of non-GMO soymeal certified from small producer India has increased sharply, he added.
GMOs erupted as a major issue in Europe in 1998 as many consumers worried that engineered genes in crops could damage their health or the environment.
The premiums for strict certification - which documents every step of the chain from seeds through shipping - range from $12-$20 per tonne delivered in Europe, adding around five to 10 percent of the total cost, shippers said.
Premiums for supplies from Brazil marketed as non-GMO but without strict certification are much less, three to six euros per tonne ($2.83-$5.66).
More soy crushing plants and other soymeal exporters in Brazil, the second biggest soy producer after the United States, have gone through an initial certification process this season which examines the identity preservation system from the farm to the crusher, Koester said.
This has boosted the potential availability of Brazilian non-GMO soymeal certified by Cert ID by 50 percent to around six million tonnes from four million tonnes last year.
So far, there was firm demand for around 2.5 million tonnes of certified material, but this could increase later in the year if more orders emerged, he added.
MARKET IS CONFUSED
\"Europe is very undecided. It depends on which country you go to and which company. Everywhere you hear a different story. I think the market is confused on what it really wants,\" Koester said.
Brazil is the world\'s biggest source of non-GMO soybeans, with genetic crops accounting for about 70 percent of US soy production and about 95 percent in number three producer Argentina.
The harvest has recently wound up in Brazil, estimated by the US Department of Agriculture to have produced 43.5 million tonnes of soybeans this season, 24 percent of world output.
The amount of non-GMO soymeal certified by Cert ID from India has nearly doubled this year to one million tonnes, which helps fill the gap during the five months of the year when Brazilian supplies are reduced, Koester said.
A shipper who specialises in importing non-GMO soymeal said the amount of strictly certified material going into France this year is expected to remain largely steady at 300,000 to 350,000 tonnes.
\"This is still a niche market,\" said Paris-based Bernt Antonsen, who runs BMO importers.
A much larger amount, around one million tonnes - or roughly a third of the three million tonnes of soymeal annually imported by France - is Brazilian material marketed as non-GMO but without the strict certification process.
Demand is strongest in Britain, France and the Nordic countries with virtually no interest in southern countries such as Spain and Portugal.
Antonsen says his biggest clients are in Scandinavia, where he has established another import company, Tracemeal.
Big customers there include salmon farmers who want non-GMO soymeal for their fish feed, he said.
Demand for strict certification is expected to rise in coming years, since EU regulations will demand traceability of all ingredients by 2005, he said.
Story by Eric Onstad
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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