crops

Farmers turn to GMO-free crops to boost income – Christopher Doering

When Justin Dammann enters his southwestern Iowa cornfield this month, the 35-year-old farmer will sow something these 2,400 acres have not seen in more than a decade — plants grown without genetically modified seeds.

The corn, which will head to a processor 20 miles down the road this fall, will likely make its way into tortilla shells, corn chips and other consumable products made by companies taking advantage of growing consumer demand for food without biotech ingredients.

For Dammann and other Midwest farmers, the burgeoning interest in non-GMO foods has increased how much they get paid to grow crops in fields once populated exclusively with genetically modified corns and soybeans. The revenue hike is a welcome benefit at a time when lower commodity prices are pushing farm income down to what’s expected to be the lowest level in six years.

“We never really thought we would go back to (non-GMO). But the consumer, in my opinion, has sent a clear message that a certain percentage of our customers are willing to pay more for the non-GMO lines,” Dammann said. “This non-GMO thing has seemed to take hold and gain a lot of traction.”

Consumers, particularly on the West and East coasts, have demanded more GMO-free products because of health and safety concerns. And a number of major food companies have responded.

• General Mills announced last year it will no longer use bioengineered cornstarch and sugar cane for its original Cheerios.

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