By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.
Many corn growers in the Eastern Corn Belt produce non-GMO corn attempting to capture an additional premium. Depending on the contracting elevator, standard GMO contamination allowances are typically from 0% to 1%. Producing non-GMO corn within the acceptable tolerances of GMO contamination is possible; however, there are several challenges and potential pitfalls that make production of 100% pure non-GMO corn a tremendous undertaking and can keep growers from capturing a premium for their corn. Planting non-GMO seed does not necessarily mean the harvested shelled corn will be GMO free. Tests used by elevators to determine if GMOs are present may not be 100% accurate, but they are a determining factor as to whether a load will be accepted.
If a grower plants non-GMO corn, what could cause GMO contamination?
• Contaminated planting equipment and seed tenders
• Contaminated seed
• Mistakes made in record keeping where hybrids were not correctly identified at planting and/or harvest, leading to contamination
• Adventitious pollen from GMO corn fields can cause cross-pollination of non-GMO corn
• Contaminated combines at harvest
• Contaminated grain carts, wagons, trucks, augers, grain legs, and grain bins.
What steps can be taken in an attempt to produce grain that meets GMO tolerances?
• Discuss plans for non-GMO corn with a seed sales rep, select the right hybrid together.
• Make sure planting equipment is completely and thoroughly cleaned before planting a non-GMO hybrid.
• Make sure non-GMO fields are adequately isolated from neighboring GMO fields to prevent cross-pollination.
• Vary planting dates and/or hybrid maturities to vary pollination timing between GMO and non-GMO fields.
• When harvesting non-GMO fields, completely clean combines, grain carts, wagons, trucks, dump pits, augers, grain legs, and grain bins of all corn that could be a source of contamination.
• When hauling corn to the elevator from on-farm storage, make sure all handling equipment (augers, grain legs, trucks, etc.) are completely cleaned to avoid contamination.
Seed Consultants does not guarantee or warrant 100% purity of non-GMO grain delivered to the elevator. As discussed above, there are many potential sources of contamination and it can be a challenge to eliminate them all. Seed Consultants works diligently to provide customers the purest seed that is produced with every precaution possible, in adherence to industry standards. Although the process of producing grain that is within allowed tolerances is difficult, Seed Consultants’ sales staff and agronomists are available to help growers understand and plan for the many challenges that may arise. Through careful planning and attention to detail, growers can ensure they have minimized the chance of contamination and provide the best possible conditions for capturing a non-GMO premium.