Renewable Farming

Chinese avoidance of GMO bean oil offers opportunity for U.S. non-GMO soybean growers

A well-documented news report from Reuters today describes how Chinese consumers are buying non-GMO cooking oils, shunning soybean oil from imported U.S. and Brazilian soybeans.

We’ve anticipated this grassroots uprising since 2014, when a coalition of Chinese scientists and activists linked up at a “Food Safety and Sustainable Agriculture Forum” July 25-26 in Beijing.  

Today’s Reuters analysis reveals:

1. A multinational food-service suppler, Aramark, serves 60 Chinese cities and observes that “Non-GMO oi is gradually replacing soy oil.” More than half of Aramark’s clients ask for non-GMO oil.

2. Non-GMO soybean oil retails at a 20% price premium, and four in five Chinese shoppers are willing to pay more for the non-GMO oil.

3. One Chinese edible oil firm, Henan Sunshine Oils and Fats, is interested in buying about 30,000 acres in Ukraine to grow non-GMO edible oil crops including sunflowers and canola.

Chinese consumers’ wariness of GMO foods has multiplied in the face of official Chinese government assurance that GMO foods are “substantially equivalent” to non-transgenic foods.

There are many millions more Chinese using digital social networks such as Weibo and Renren than there are Americans in networks like Twitter and Facebook. China’s internet users number more than 540 million.

We’ve long maintained that the “real truth” about food safety will percolate up from concerned citizens who vote at the cash register.

In the U.S. as well as China, official doctrine about safety of transgenic crops, and toxins such as glyphosate linked with transgenic crops, is slowly emerging from a few courageous and independent individuals and consumer organizations.

The real opportunity here for American growers: Transition to non-GMO crops, substituting more on-farm management ability for the “easy” alternative of writing checks for chemicals and tech fees.