Startup Mercaris has created a venue to facilitate the sale of American-grown non-GMO and organic grain and seeds. Hundreds of thousands of bushels are sold on the wholesale auctioning platform every year.
The platform's auctions, reports the Financial Times, “have brought an element of transparency to a hazy sector.”
“Until now, the organic and non-GMO [market] in particular has been pretty opaque,” Mercaris CEO Kellee James tells the outlet. “People have been out there buying and selling, but they’re doing it on a one-to-one basis or over the phone.”
Creating a more transparent marketplace is especially important given recent reports of fraud in the organic sector. In May 2017, the Washington Post reported that a shipment of 36 million pounds of soybeans imported from Ukraine via Turkey had been labeled organic despite being grown conventionally.
The Organic Trade Association has since established a task force to combat organic label fraud and launched a pilot program in May to test-drive fraud prevention strategies in the organic marketplace.
Mercaris’s transactions currently account for less than one percent of the total organic and non-GMO market, and less than 10 percent of the American corn and soybean market is currently grown using non-GMO seeds. The American organic food market is nevertheless seeing unprecedented growth and is currently estimated at $45.2 billion. The Financial Times reports that the successful launch of the startup is indicative of "surging consumer demand" for organic, pesticide-free, and non-GMO products.
Farmers have increasingly been transitioning to the organic space in order to access premium prices for their wares, thanks in part to programs like AgriSecure or Kashi Certified Transitional, which make this change easier. The latter program has seen a 400 percent growth surge since launching two years ago.
Mercaris currently lists certified organic corn, wheat, soy, oats, rye, and barley and non-GMO corn and soy on its platform.
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