Genetically Modified Organisms Continue to Be a Controversial Topic in Agriculture

Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Continue to Be a Controversial Topic in Agriculture

Publish Date: Spring 12

Two weeks ago, the USDA deregulated GMO sugar beets again amidst a contentious lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety and a group of farmers and conservation groups. As the subject of GMO crops becomes increasingly heated in political arenas, Universities are working to help GMO and non-GMO farmers take safeguards to keep GMOs isolated from organic and other non-GMO crops.

Jim Riddle, Organic Outreach Coordinator for the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center, recently published an article “GMO Contamination prevention: What Does it Take?” which details best management practices for producers of GMO and Non-GMO crops.

Visit for a link to the full article. The following provides the main points from his article.

All growers should:

  • Educate themselves about which crops are currently approved or “non-regulated” the Federal agencies. A list of approved GMO crops can be found at the Non-GMO Sourcebook: modifiedcropsmarket.php
  • Get to know your neighbors and work to develop good relationships with them.
  • Make sure that your storage areas are clean and inspected before use. Storage areas that are used for both GMO and non-GMO crops need to be carefully cleaned between uses. Cleaning activity (including using air compressors and vacuums) should be documented.
  • If you are using rented or borrowed pieces of equipment, make sure to clean them well in order to prevent contamination.
  • Keep good records and document all of your efforts to avoid GMO contamination.

GMO growers should:

  • Read seed labels and technology agreements! Find out about regulations that are specific to growing certain GMO crops. An example is that farmers growing some varieties of Bt corn must plant refuges of non-Bt corn.
  • Use a rotation of herbicides to prevent herbicide resistant varieties.
  • During subsequent years, pull any “volunteer” GMO plants in order to prevent further contamination.
  • Notify neighbors that you are planting GMO crops.
  • Know which of your neighbors are organic, using integrated pest management or other non-GMO crops.
  • Make sure that your trucks and trailers are clean and inspected

Non-GMO growers should:

  • Post signs indicating which of your fields are organic and inform your neighbors about which of your crops are at risk for GMO contamination.
  • If possible, consider not growing crops that readily out-cross with GMO crops.
  • If you are submitting crop samples for GMO testing, collect samples from areas with the highest risk of contamination separately from areas with lower risks for contamination in case only one part of your field is contaminated.

For more information on GMO contamination prevention, contact:

USDA National Organic Program

USDA/APHIS Biotech Regulatory Services (BRS) - status.shtml

Genetic ID (testing lab) -

Non-GMO Project

Center for Food Safety Non-GMO Report -

The Organic Center

National Organic Coalition