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Japanese Biotech Media Team Tours Corn Farms

03 September 2010

US - On Monday, 30 August, a team of Japanese opinion leaders, sponsored by the US Grains Council and the Missouri Corn Growers Association, toured two family farms in St. Charles, Missouri, to receive a firsthand look at US corn production and learn more about how biotechnology is helping corn farmers meet the growing demand for feed, food, fuel and exports.

Visiting the farms of Missouri Corn Growers Association (MCGA) members Wayne Boschert and John Boerding were media representatives from Japan’s food and livestock industry as well as university professors and a consumer group leader. The team was also accompanied by representatives from the US Grains Council and a translator.

Part of a weeklong tour of Missouri and other Midwest states, the team started their day with a visit to a St. Louis biotechnology company. Afterwards, the Japanese delegation traveled to St. Charles to meet with Wayne and Scott Boschert and tour their family farm. During the discussion, the team was able to compare the quality of biotech corn versus non-biotech corn.

“It was important that this group understand that the science behind today’s farming is making a difference both now and in the long run,” Wayne Boschert said. “Today’s technology is helping increase our yield, which in turn increases global supplies for our customers all over the world.”

Of great interest to the Japanese team were ears of corn and corn stalks that had been harvested earlier that morning. Discussions centered around the higher stalk quality, reduced damage from pests and increased supply resulting from the use of biotechnology.

“I felt a warm reception upon my arrival,” said Hirofumi Iwata, executive director of Animal Meida Co. “I had an image of a farm run by a company and was surprised to find out it is run by a family, still interested in constantly progressing and not just maintaining the status quo in production, but in increasing their yield.”

In addition to talking about today’s modern farming practices, the Japanese team was interested in learning more about the history of the Boschert family farm. Wayne is a fifth generation corn farmer. His son, Scott, is also a partner in the farming operation. Together they farm approximately 700 acres of corn and soybeans in the St. Charles river bottom.

“Wayne Boschert is a fifth generation farmer and his son, Scott, is a sixth generation farmer, that is unheard of in Japan,” said Dr Hideaki Karaki, professor emeritus for the University of Tokyo. “The fact that he doesn’t want to retire and is happy to be farming, along with the fact that the family didn’t have to sell off the farm, especially during the Great Depression, is incredible. To hear someone in Japan say, ‘I’m so happy I don’t want to retire’ is not conceivable.”

After touring a corn plot at the Boschert Farm, the group traveled a few miles down the road to the Boerding Farm. At the second location, tour participants explored the equipment used to plant this year’s corn crop. Afterward, Japanese team members were allowed to ride in a combine and experience harvesting firsthand.

“From the time I started farming to now, we’re raising almost double the corn crop,” said John Boerding, a grain farmer from St. Charles, Missouri. “Without that growth, we’d be in trouble. You can’t feed a growing global population with the same technology we were using 50 years ago. We must continue to grow and evolve along with the rest of the world.”

After leaving St. Charles, the Japanese team was scheduled to make stops at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa as well as an ethanol plant and several other seed producers and elevators along the way. Upon returning to Japan, team members are expected to report on the use of biotechnology and its attributes as well as the agricultural experiences they encountered while visiting the United States.

“Exports play a big role in marketing our corn crop,” Mr Boerding summarised. “We want buyers to have complete confidence in our product and know that biotechnology is helping them through better quality of grain and a better supply of grain. We also want both our local and our global partners to understand that their corn comes from a family farm and we hope it stays that way.”

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