UPI Farming Today

By GREGORY TEJEDA, United Press International  |  May 29, 2003 at 1:15 AM
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Egypt backs off genetic crop challenge

Environmental activists who oppose increased use of foods made from genetically modified crops Wednesday praised Egypt for backing away from an effort to pressure European countries into accepting such foods.

The United States is leading an effort to get the World Trade Organization to rule the European Union's moratorium on imports of genetic foods as an illegal practice. Several nations had endorsed the U.S.-led challenge but Egypt withdrew its support this week, saying it now sees the need for "adequate and effective" consumer protections.

Larry Bohlen of Friends of the Earth group said Egypt's actions are recognition the United States has not developed an adequate regulatory system for genetically modified crops while David Waskow, the group's trade program director, said the withdrawal "shows that President Bush is not aware of the deep level of concern about the safety of genetically engineered crops in the United States and abroad."

Egypt's withdrawal comes at a time when the National Corn Growers Association is backing a measure in Congress that supports the U.S.-led challenge.

The corn farmers group this week endorsed identical resolutions by Sen. James Talent, R-Mo., and Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that call for the WTO to force the European Union to back away from its moratorium against genetic crops.

Corn growers President Fred Yoder was pleased the members of Congress would try to intervene on behalf of U.S. farming interests.

U.S. corn exports have declined from a record 1.56 million metric tons in 1998 to last year's level of 23,000 metric tons.

The decline is due to the European moratorium against purchasing crops where genetic modifications have been made. U.S. officials estimate U.S. farmers have lost up to $1 billion in sales due to the moratorium.

"The Bush administration made the correct decision by moving forward with a case challenging the moratorium," Yoder said. "Contesting the moratorium is even more important as the European Parliament drafts labeling and traceability regulations for products derived from biotechnology."

U.N. needs $90M for Ethiopia relief

United Nations officials said Wednesday they need $90 million in donations this year if they are to be able to feed 12.5 million people in Ethiopia who face starvation.

The U.N.'s world food program said the additional donations are needed because of an increase in the number of people facing starvation. They expect to run out of supplies by September unless more donations are received now.

"We have not had enough support to give out a complete cereal ration in Ethiopia and we have been forced to reduce it," program Director James Morris said. "Currently, we have commitments of about half of what we need for the new emergency operation."

Food program officials also are seeking another $16 million to help deliver food aid to Cote d'Ivoire where more than 500,000 people are facing food shortages caused by civil unrest in recent months.

Canada wants other countries to end cattle bans

Officials in Canada said they believe test results next week will make a "solid case" for pressuring the United States and other countries to end their ban on purchasing Canadian cattle and beef products.

Those countries enacted bans after a cow with mad cow disease was discovered in rural Alberta. No other cattle have tested positive for the disease so far and USA Today reported Wednesday officials hope DNA tests to determine the paternity of the infected cow will show the disease not to have spread any further.

During the past week, 17 herds involving 1,900 animals have been quarantined. About 400 animals have been slaughtered and tested so far.

"I think we're putting together a very solid case that will satisfy any regulatory authority around the world," veterinary officer Brian Evans said.

Iowa corn farmers could join lawsuit

Corn farmers in Iowa have until Saturday to file a claim if they believe the presence of a certain type of genetically modified corn has hurt the prices they receive for their crops.

The Iowa attorney general's office is monitoring a privately filed class action lawsuit that says corn farmers everywhere were hurt by the existence of StarLink corn, which gives off a toxin that prevents insects from ruining the crop. Although approved only for livestock feed, there have been instances where it got into human food supplies.

State Attorney General Tom Miller said he thinks all corn farmers in Iowa who harvested non-StarLink corn between 1998 and 2002 should consider joining in the lawsuit, regardless of whether their crops suffered actual contamination by the genetically modified type of corn.

Feds name 5 to emerging markets committee

The Agriculture Department has named five new members to its advisory committee on emerging markets, which helps federal officials find new markets in other countries for U.S. farmers, processors and exporters to sell their goods to.

"We appreciate these individuals for agreeing to contribute their time and expertise to serve on this committee and help identify emerging markets for American producers, processors and exporters," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said.

The five new members, who come from Virginia, Louisiana, Florida, Delaware and Illinois, will work with 15 other members already serving on the committee. All members have expertise in international agriculture, trade and development. They do not receive salaries for their work.

Grains down on CBOT

Grain futures were mostly lower at the close Wednesday on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Soybeans fell on increased planting activity and weather forecasts for damp conditions later in the week.

Corn was mixed on a lack of new information that would have moved prices in one direction.

Wheat fell on declining exports and a beliefs price gains earlier in the week were overdone.

Oats were lower.

The prices:

Soybeans: Jul 6.23 off 7 1/2, Aug 6.20 3/4 off 7, Sep 5.87 off 5 3/4, Nov 5.56 3/4 off 4 3/4.

Corn: Jul 2.41 1/4 off 3/4, Sep 2.39 1/4 off 1/2, Dec 2.40 1/2 unch, Mar 2.46 unch.

Wheat: Jul 3.19 off 8 1/2, Sep 3.24 3/4 off 7 1/2, Dec 3.34 3/4 off 7, Mar 3.40 1/2 off 6.

Oats: Jul 1.43 off 3/4, Sep 1.41 off 1, Dec 1.40 off 1, Mar 1.45 off 2 1/4.

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