E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Transgenic segregation easier said than done

(April 23, 2001 --Cropchoice opinion) -- Segregating transgenic and non-transgenic crops, as a Purdue agricultural engineer told Rooster.com (GMOs Bring New Rules to Grain Marketing ), is easier said than done. We at Cropchoice feel that farmers bear too much of the responsibility for and cost of segregation.

Instead, the increasingly conglomerated biotechnology and seed companies should step up to the plate. After all, they have the money from all those technology fees that farmers pay to plant the patented seeds.

The problem begins even before planting time. Seed companies increasingly won't guarantee the purity of non-transgenic varieties. This leaves farmers trying to grow those crops in a difficult position if their harvest tests positive for foreign genes.

What's more, they want the farmer who has grown a non-transgenic crop to assume all of the responsibility for its genetic purity right on through the distribution process.

Indiana farmer Nick Domaschko can identify with that. He delivered a load of regular old corn -- no Bt or Roundup Ready genes -- to a local elevator in January.

Elevator staff wanted Domaschko to sign a warranty stating that the corn was fit for human consumption in all countries, including the European Union and Japan.

Unwilling to assume liability for a conventional corn crop that had just passed the test for StarLink contamination, he refused.

"I could just see someone at the port in Rotterdam calling me in six months with news that the corn is biotech positive and that they want a refund for everything, including the shipping costs," Domaschko remembered thinking. "There'd be no way to prove that the corn was mine or someone else's."

Luckily for Domaschko, the elevator relented and accepted his corn without the warranty. What really troubled him was that other farmers signed it without question.

Part of the solution to this thorny issue of keeping transgenic and conventional crops separate might be to change our frame of reference. Instead of viewing conventional, non-gmo, non-transgenic, identity-preserved (or whatever you want to call them) crops as specialty or niche, let's turn it around. Instead, we should regard transgenic varieties as special, so special that the biotechnology industry should bear most of the costs of keeping them away from their conventional counterparts.

Yes, farmers should take precautions with seed once it's on the farm and during planting and harvesting. Overall, though, they shoulder too much of the responsibility for keeping specialty transgenics away from their conventional crops.