GMO test slows hay exports to China

U.S. hay exporters are watching an important growth market, China, dry up following tests that showed trace amounts of GMO alfalfa in shipments. Officials from the USDA, China and GMO developer Monsanto are meeting to discuss the issue.

Capital Press, September 25 2014

by Dan Wheat

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — U.S. hay exports to China have slowed significantly since July because of trace amounts of genetically modified alfalfa that were discovered in tests.

China uses a more sensitive test for GMOs than U.S. exporters, industry members say.

China has been a new market of rapid growth, wanting high-quality U.S. hay for its beef cattle. Some 700,000 metric tons of U.S. alfalfa were imported by China in 2013.

“China had a run-in with GMO corn and decided to check their alfalfa,” said Mike Hajny, vice president of Wesco International, an Ellensburg hay exporter.

Exporters thought they were safe with strip tests showing less than 5 percent GMO contamination, but China used a chemical DNA test with a standard of .01 percent, Hajny said.

Few exporters can find product to meet that standard and sales have slowed significantly since July, said Nick Gombos, supply chain manager of ACX Global in Bakersfield, Calif., a leading exporter that also has facilities in Ellensburg, Wash.

Producers are trying to grow non-GMO alfalfa but the “high rate of contamination leads us to believe it could be cross contaminated seed,” Hajny said.

The industry is working with USDA, GMO developer Monsanto and China to reach new protocols to address Chinese concerns, Gombos said.

Hopefully that will work or sales to China may stagnate for the foreseeable future, Hajny said.

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