By Tom Collins
CHESTERVILLE — A Chesterville-area farmer earned an extra $150 an acre for non-genetically-modified (GM) corn last year thanks to fewer inputs and a pilot project from Ingredion.
Dave Chambers had no buyers when he started growing non-GM corn on 200 of his 800 corn acres last year. He said prices were too high to buy more land, so he was looking to earn more profit with what he had.
So he grew the non-GM corn with hopes of finding a market “and then Ingredion came out with its program, so it kind of fell into our laps,” Chambers said.
While Ingredion’s Cardinal location always accepted non-GM corn, they are now specifically looking to contract it. It announced last year a pilot project to accept non-GM corn while paying a $25 per metric tonne premium. It was the first Eastern Ontario location to accept non-GM corn that isn’t organic.
Unless Ingredion, formerly CASCO along the St. Lawrence River, starts accepting non-GM corn full-time, Chambers does not plan to switch all his corn just yet.
Unsure if last year’s numbers were a fluke — his yields for both GM and non-GM corn were around 200 bushels per acre — he is planning to grow non-GM corn on 35 to 40 per cent of his corn acreage this year. With a pre-emergent program, there is no change to input costs, although he did note that farmers that don’t use a pre-emergent program may have to deal with more weeds. Chambers estimated seed costs for non-GM corn are $80 to $100 less per acre than for GM corn.
Neither the Grain Farmers of Ontario nor OMAFRA have conducted studies on yield or input cost differences between non-GM and GM corn grown in Ontario. Research outside of Canada is not conclusive. Promoters have studies that show GM seeds produce higher yields and detractors have studies that show GM seeds do not give higher yields.
Challenges for growing non-GM corn include using on-farm bins to store the crop, as few elevators accept non-GM corn, and thorough washing of trucks before transporting to exclude any GM-corn seeds.
Ingredion officials made the rounds last month speaking to farmers at Grain Farmers of Ontario annual district meetings.
Kevin Hachler, Ingredion’s manager of commodity purchasing in Canada, told Farmers Forum that the pilot project is to gauge interest in the crop but declined to say how much non-GM corn would be accepted at the Cardinal location this year. Ingredion will continue to accept GM corn.
“We feel that $25 per metric tonne is a level that offers a good economic return to participating growers and also allows for healthy growth of the program,” he said. “We see growth in awareness of non-GMO products, so we’re responding to this consumer awareness.”
Ingredion has an exclusively non-GM corn plant in Indianapolis.