The president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), Lee Klein, recently returned home from Thailand, where he explained the views of the nation's corn growers on biotech to Thai farmers and government officials.
The NCGA was the only corn grower organization invited to participate in the 11-day speakers program trip sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Klein's presentations to farmers, university representatives and U.S. Chamber of Commerce members focused on biotechnology's numerous benefits and the need for accessibility to the technology.
Klein, a farmer from Battle Creek, Neb., explained to the Thai audiences that U.S. corn growers use biotechnology only when it provides returns. “We advocate the availability of biotechnology. Ecology and economy are the beneficiaries.”
He pointed out the field of biotechnology has the potential to create disease-free corn specifically for Thailand and other areas based on needs and environment. In fact, Klein said biotech developers are working on corn that could be completely free of mycotoxins, naturally occurring chemicals produced by fungi growing on grain, feed and food that are detrimental to the health of both animals and humans.
Klein emphasized biotech's opportunities in Thailand. “Due to the tropical climate,” he said, “insect resistance and disease control is imperative. The average farm in Thailand is approximately three acres and insects are controlled with backpack sprayers. One of the farmers I met had scars on his back from his backpack. He, and others like him, would benefit from biotechnology.
“We're trying to create worldwide understanding and acceptance of genetically-enhanced products,” said Klein.
Klein left Thailand optimistic about the opportunities for biotech. Since almost 80 percent of the Thai population farm, it really made a difference during his presentations. “We received a good reaction from the farmers,” he said. “They were able to relate to us because they understand that we have some of the same farming issues. As farmers, they were interested in the cost of biotechnology and the cost of crop production.”