ECHO, Minnesota, May
24, 2005, The Associated Press via CropChoice.com: At least
one organic farmer in Minnesota is worried that genetically engineered
material used by his neighbors could make its way into his crops,
harming his chances for marketing his products.
In Minnesota, less than 1 percent of the land is devoted to organic
production. But John Remmele said he believes organic crops are
the way of the future.
"I guess I'm quite convinced that organic produce in the end
is a lot better than having produce with different chemicals, different
drugs in it," said Remmele, an organic corn producer in southern
Minnesota. Most of the grain grown in Minnesota is genetically altered,
with certain genes spliced in to combat insects or make the plant
tolerant of some chemical pesticides.
Occasionally a bag of seed accidentally contains kernels which
are from a genetically altered variety. In addition, pollen from
an altered crop, often called GMO's for genetically modified organism,
can drift onto the silks of an organic field.
"I think everyone's getting concerned about the fact that
drift's probably in everyone's field. Even if it's only a few kernels
in a field it's still there," Remmele said.
Organic farmers can reduce the risk by planting genetically sensitive
crops like corn as far away as possible from neighboring fields.
About 60 percent of the corn grown in the state is genetically altered.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits genetically modified
crops from being sold as "organic." The United States
has not set a standard, but most parts of the world accept trace
amounts of GMO material in organic grain, according to a report
Monday by Minnesota Public Radio.
The European Union accepts organic grain as long as it contains
less than one percent GMO material. That standard has been adopted
by many U.S. food companies.
One of the largest organic grain buyers in Minnesota is Sunrich.
Kate Leavitt, who manages Sunrich's international sales division,
said the company checks every truckload of grain it receives for
GMO material. The company buys about 6 million bushels of organic
corn a year, and she said only a handful of trucks were rejected
"We certainly do want to be able to offer product that meets
the highest level of standards," Leavitt said. "But I
think we can certainly argue that 99-point-some percent is certainly
a very high standard."