GM growth spurs price hike among soy foods

The costs of soy foods and ingredients are likely to rise as the world?s soy crop becomes almost exclusively genetically modified, according to Ignace Debryne, the Belgian-based technical marketing consultant at the American Soybean Association.

With the majority of the soy crop being GM and used for animal feed, only a small percentage is used for food purposes outside of China and select Asian markets, where soy food consumption is high.

This small percentage is predominantly derived from premium soy crops grown in the US that are identity preserved, organic or bred for specific food or ingredient purposes such as isoflavones, soy milk or tofu.

According to Debryne, as GM cropping continues to proliferate in the major growing countries such as the US, Brazil and Argentina, the premiums attached to specialised crops are set to rise as farmers find it harder to maintain the integrity of their non-GM crops or move to GM themselves.

For example, organic soy can attract premiums in excess of 100 per cent, but farmers seeking higher volumes may be tempted to switch to regulation GM, which yields more soybeans per hectare. Basic non-GM crops may gain a 10-20 per cent mark-up.

?It is an unusual situation because the speciality soy foods market is growing, even while the GM pressure mounts,? Debryne said. ?It may be that a lot more soy products that are non-GM, particularly here in Europe, end up using GM soy. Or the speciality soy farmers hold firm, but ingredients costs are likely to spiral as primary costs rise to maintain their niche status.?

The world soy crop has been growing at about 10 million tonnes per year in recent years and came in at 185 million tonnes in the past year. Mintel forecasts that the market for soy-based food and drink in the US will grow from $1.7 billion in 2002 to $3.3 billion in 2007.

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