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Rootworm may alter feed economics in EU

(Thursday, Sept. 12, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

Michael J Strauss, Dow Jones, 09/10/2002, via AgNet: Rootworm, the billion-dollar-a-year scourge of U.S. and Canadian corn crops, has appeared for the first time in Europe's main corn producer, France, and its potential to spread quickly has set off a scramble to avert a broader problem that could change the delicate economics of making animal feed throughout Europe.

France produces 16 million metric tons a year of corn, and the European feed industry is heavily reliant on it. About half of the French corn is used by domestic feed mills and the rest is sold to mills elsewhere in the European Union.

If the rootworm infestations that appeared in late August can't be stopped from spreading, three things are bound to happen: First, French corn yields would drop so output would diminish. Second, farmers would start using pesticides that target rootworm. And third, they would rotate their crops away from corn the following year, since that's a known way of driving out the insect pest.

But Europe's opposition to genetically modified crops would cloud the picture somewhat for imports, since much of the corn grown by the most obvious potential sources - the U.S., Canada and Argentina - is genetically modified.

A genetically modified version of corn has been developed to fend off rootworm, but it's not yet ready for sale in North America and it can't be sold in the E.U. as long as its member countries maintain a moratorium on approving new GMOs.