RR soybean growers opt for non-GM canola

COLBERT, Ga. — Russ Moon doesn’t fit the description of a farmer who grows non-genetically modified crops.

Modern John Deere tractors were parked in his farmyard, and employees loaded totes of winter wheat onto a trailer as they prepared to go seeding on a 12 C morning in mid-November.

Moon’s farm office was decorated with a variety of John Deere merchandise, including a JD clock. A rifle leaned against the wall in the corner, and Moon sported a camouflage hat with a Crop Production Services logo.

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However, despite all the signs that’s he’s a typical, conventional farmer, Moon has grown non-GM canola on his 1,300 acre farm 30 kilometres northeast of Athens for the last five years.

Moon has no philosophically objection to agricultural biotechnology. Like many farmers in the southeastern United States, he plants Roundup Ready soybeans following a crop of winter canola. He chooses to seed non-GM canola because he doesn’t want an infestation of volunteer canola in his soybean crop.

Most farmers in the southeastern U.S. have a similar outlook. They don’t want canola to cause problems in their RR beans or cotton, so almost all of the winter canola grown in the region is non-GM.

Farmers and canola processors in the southeast didn’t initially tout the uniqueness of their product, but they have differentiated their crop from GM canola in the last couple of years.

AgStrong, a canola processor in Bowersville, Georgia, buys canola from growers in Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and other southeastern states.

The company markets its own line of non-GM, expeller pressed canola oil under the Solio Family brand. Whole Foods and other health foods stores sell Solio Family canola across the U.S.

Andrew Moore, who owns Resaca Sun, an oilseed processing plant in Resaca, Ga., said he also produces expeller pressed non-GM canola oil for clients in the food industry.

“There are several different buyer groups, but it mainly goes into commercial fryers,” he said. “There is some bottling.”

Meanwhile, demand for canola meal outstrips supply in Georgia.

“We’re sitting in one of the largest poultry areas in the United States … and this area is the highest concentrated poultry area in the state,” said Moon, who has seven broiler barns. His neighbour has six more on the other side of the road.

“These poultry companies really want the canola meal…. That’s why AgStrong located in this area. They knew they could get rid of the meal.”

However, consumer awareness remains a problem in Georgia.

Moore said has had many conversations with confused consumers.

“We always get, ‘granola? So you’re growing ‘granola?’ No, no, no, it’s canola.”

There is no canola grower association in Georgia, so the industry doesn’t spend money on promotional campaigns. Farmers rely on free advertisement in spring when canola fields are blooming.

“We have some fields that are right on I-75,” Moore said.

“People come out to take photos of these big, yellow fields. We’ve had people take wedding photos.”

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