Non-GM soy threatens organic poultry sector

Increasing difficulties in sourcing non-GM soy could threaten the next generation of organic egg and poultry producers, said independent compounder Martin Humphrey of Humphrey Feeds in the UK.

He expressed his concern last month at the annual organic producers' conference at Harper Adams University College.
In 2012 organic rations in the UK have to be 100% organic and in the transition period organic farmers have to feed organic rations. However they do not receive a premium for their products.

Rising premiums for GM-free soy, which would be essential for formulating organic feeds when organic rations became 100% organic in 2012, could make the conversion process to organic prohibitively costly, Humphrey told the conference.

"I'm concerned we will cut off the lifeblood of new entrants," he said. "They are in danger of going out of business before they even start. Where do we get the next generation of organic poultry producers?"

So far, supplies of organic soy were still readily available, mostly from Brazil at a premium of around £20/t ($32/t).

But the expansion of GM-soy production in Brazil meant that it was getting harder to keep the two channels apart. There have been reports of GM contamination of non-GM shipments.

Improved and more sensitive testing methods also make the situation worse, which would pick up very low GM contamination levels.

"Who pays for a positive test on a shipment? The grower, trader, shipper, compounder or producer? Someone, somewhere is going to be paying", Humphrey said.

Humphrey acknowledged that ultimately the end user would have to pay, reflected in very high premiums for non-GM soy.

"On the good side, I don't think there will be non-GM in 2012 available in the conventional feed market, it will almost have run out. And that will be a clear point of difference for organic - something that consumers will understand."

Organic wheat also in trouble

Humphrey believed the shortage of UK-grown organic wheat was likely to continue. To meet the organic ideal, raw materials should be locally sourced but at present the majority of organic wheat for UK producers was coming from the Ukraine.

Looking ahead to the 2012 requirement to formulate rations that were 100% organic, he foresaw problems meeting specifications, especially on protein values.

"In two years' time I think there are going to be nutritional compromises in most of the specifications, and I'm a little bit concerned about that. It's chiefly in the early diets, with the young birds. In the older birds you can get away with it.

"We may have to consider putting amino acids in targeted diets," he suggested.

Otherwise there could be welfare concerns, as birds tended to look to their fellows to make up the deficiencies leading to cannibalism.

Already, with rations at 95% organic since January, he was struggling to achieve the right specification on early turkey rations.

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive

Natalie Berkhout

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