Japanese Biotech regulatory group gets firsthand look at the bounty and healthfulness of GM corn production on Minnesota farm

 Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

 “We need to be as efficient and consistent with our yields as we can, and get the most out of the land that we have and that’s really where it’s at,” said corn farmer Dan Erickson, who farms together with his dad, Chuck –their combines land under cultivation adds up to 1,500 acres near Alden, Minnesota. Erickson said, “Using these biotech products helps us to do that.”

 Erickson, who is also a regional representative of local corn growers groups to Minnesota Corn Growers Association, hosted a delegation of Japanese agriculture officials who are focused on the regulation of which biotech products can enter the Japanese market. The tour was part of a weeklong informational visit to the Midwest, arranged by the US Grains Council.

 Dan and his wife Jenny showed the group of ten officials around the farm, had them ride in the combine, and then he demonstrated the practical difference between corn varieties with genetic enhancements and base varieties.

 “We dug up some roots on some triple –stack and smart stack varieties we use, and then some base genetic corn, which is done as refuge for the pests,” said Erickson. “We showed them the difference. There was root feeding on the refuge corn. We talked about how insecticide is the other option and that’s not necessarily as safe for us to handle.”

 The Ericksons began using biotech corn varieties as soon as they were available, and grow them to the maximum allowable proportion—80 percent stacked trait varieties, and 20 percent base genetic corn—configured in stands throughout the operation to assure that pests will migrate to the refuges and allow the biotech corn to maximize its yield. They utilize anti-corn-borer, and corn-rootworm and increased drought tolerance traits.

 Dan and Jenny are custom heifer growers for a large local dairy, and so feed 450 cattle with silage and grain raised right on their operation.

 “I give them a lot of credit for coming out to see a farm in person,” said Erickson. “As regulators of the industry, this was the first real farm they had been too, and I think we were able to make a favorable impression—I’d really like to get feedback, say by email, to really know what they took away from it. From my point of view, it was really important to show them how biotech fits into the whole cycle of things.  They saw Jenny and me and our three kids and that we are happy and healthy, working on a farm that produces GM crops and drinking milk and eating meat raised using biotech-based feed.”

 As part of showing how biotech fits into the full circle, Erickson invited Rick Mummert, the general manager of the POET-Glenville Energy plant, a farmer-owned ethanol coop that the Ericksons are investor-members of, and Mummert showed the Japanese delegates the three feed coproducts the Glenville produces—distillers grains, bran and a pelletized feed product.”

 “They crowded around Rick and really wanted to see what he had to show them,” said Erickson. “Several of them said, “How sweet!” reacting to the pleasing aroma of the feed products.

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