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Fetilizer company avoids planting transgenic crops

(June 21, 2001 Ė CropChoice news) Ė The agronomists at AgriEnergy Resources Inc., in Princeton, Ill try to avoid planting transgenic corn and soybean varieties on the 300-acre company farm that they use as testing ground for biological fertilizers (e.g., compost tea, manure tea, humic and fulvic acid).

" We want to increase soil life and rely less on chemical inputs," says staff agronomist Ken Musselman.

So why the informal policy of avoiding genetically engineered seed? Musselman cites two reasons:

1. Segregation. The staff wants to be able to say that their crops, which are processed and sold, are non-transgenic. In fact, the company sometimes receives a 5- to 10-cent per bushel premium because of that. Although neighboring fields of transgenic varieties are somewhat of a concern, none of the AgriEnergy crops has tested positive for genetically modified organisms. Instead of growing seed crops, the AgriEnergy turns to seed companies, including Pioneer, for non-transgenic varieties.

2. Soil life. Itís still unknown what these crops do to soil ecosystems. Research at the University of Missouri has concluded that the fusarium, fungi that inhibits growth, is more prevalent in soil around Roundup Ready soybean plants. Monsanto engineered the variety to resist the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate).

Musselman added other reasons to question the wisdom of this technology.

" As we get further down the road with transgenic crops, it limits the production decisions made by farmers and instead puts them in the hands of the chemical and seed companies," he says.

And then there is the growing problem of genetic contamination of organic crops. Organic standards disallow farmers from using transgenic seed to grow the grains, fruits and vegetables they sell at a premium.

" If you give up a five to ten cent premium, thatís one thing, but giving up $10 per bushel is a problem," he says. " At that point, organic production is no longer an economically viable option."

Other news items:

  • More debate over labeling GM foods; http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?RecID=356
  • When choice becomes just a memory; http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,510025,00.html