Global buyers applaud innovation, technology in ag production

Biotechnology benefits farmers and consumers worldwide, and innovation in plant science is essential to meet the world’s rapidly growing demand for food, said Dr. Howard Minigh, president and chief executive officer of CropLife International, when he presented to the nearly 500 attendees of Export Exchange 2014 on Wednesday.

Minigh addressed the crowd of international buyers and domestic traders gathered in Seattle, Washington, for the biennial conference meant to help the two constituencies build relationships to facilitate grain trade in the coming years. The event is co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

Since being commercially introduced in the mid-1990s, the economic benefits of plant biotechnology at the farm level have exceeded $117 billion, according to PG Economics. In 2013, 18 million farmers in 27 countries – more than 90 percent of them lower-income farmers in the developing world – planted biotech crops.

Despite the widespread adoption of this technology, it is controversial and, in some markets, unpredictable regulatory frameworks often influenced by political forces have created challenges to global trade. The timelines for approval in large importing countries are increasing, although this trend is not confined only to those who buy grain. Even the United States, which as recently as 2008 was a global leader in biotech approvals, now trails Canada, Brazil and Argentina on this measure.

“The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the world needs to increase food production 70 percent by 2050, which means we must grow more with less,” said Ron Gray, USGC chairman. “To meet this demand, we need better technology of all types, and we also must continue to embrace trade as a path to food security. These are critical topics to discuss at meetings like Export Exchange.”

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, stated, “Too often people forget that the ethanol industry produces more than just fuel, it also produces distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) – a high protein feedstock. Last year alone, the industry created enough DDGS to produce seven hamburgers for every single person on the planet. It’s clear that the American ethanol industry is helping both fuel and feed the world.”

With more than 200 foreign attendees representing more than 40 countries and an additional 200 U.S. attendees representing every sector of the coarse grains value chain, Export Exchange is a premiere global grain trade conference.

Those participating on Tuesday and Wednesday also heard presentations on the global supply and demand situation, economic drivers affecting the global feed grains trade, and the latest developments in shipping, financing and the policy environment.

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