Organic corn seed tests positive for GMOs

Fedco Seeds of Maine, an organic seed supplier, has conducted random tests of its sweet corn seed for the past seven years. Results obtained from GMO testing lab Genetic ID were negative—until this fall. Two negative results came back, but a third sample showed trace amounts of contamination below the detectable threshold of 0.01%.

Fedco sent three additional lots from the same supplier for testing. One test came back negative, a second showed trace amounts of GMOs, and a third tested positive for GMO presence just above the detectable limit. The seed coop has removed all 3 contaminated lots from its inventory and removed two from its catalog entirely.

Fedco’s supplier attributes the contamination to pressure for increased corn production to make ethanol. As the market for biofuels heats up, genetically modified corn encroaches upon the fields cultivated with non-GMO and organic varieties.

For nearly a decade, Maine was the only state in the Union where the use of GM Bt corn was prohibited. However, the Maine Board of Pesticides licensed plantings of Bt corn in July of 2007.

Maine currently has nearly 100 organic dairy farmers and about 140 other organic operations. Dairy farmers depend on home-grown feed, which is hard to produce in Maine and expensive to import from other states.

Fedco’s founder, C. R. Lawn, says the problem with pollen is “you can’t fence it in.” Lawn believes that the seed industry will have to be “adamant” about protecting their seed varieties.

Maine’s organic farmers feel strongly that the responsibility to protect against contamination needs to be placed on the farmers who plant Bt corn—not on the organic growers.

An editorial in the Kennebec Journal-Morning Sentinel stated that contamination of Maine’s organic feed crops with GM varieties would have a “devastating economic effect” on Maine’s growing dairy industry.

The editorial recommended that Maine should adopt a “buffer” zone of 660 feet between transgenic and non-GMO and organic crops.

(Sources: C. R. Lawn; Kennebec Journal-Morning Sentinel)