April 11, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

When making decisions on whether to plant genetically modified grains, farmers need to determine what their buyers will accept.

Before deciding what to plant, farmers should check the policy of their buyers as they relate to genetically modified seed. Also, be aware that GM crop buying policies will change and keep GM and non-GM corn and soybeans segregated, said Dirk Maier, Extension agricultural engineer at the Post-Harvest Education and Research Center at Purdue University.

Farmers should also maintain complete, detailed records and keep a sample for every lot delivered to the buyer, he said.

"That's extremely good advice for growers," said Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension entomologist and member of UK's Biotechnology Research and Education Initiative.

Bessin said growers who are marketing non-GM grain that receives a positive GM test at market should ask for a retest. There are false positives on tests that check for genetic modification in grain, he said.

In addition to knowing a buyers' policy on GM and non-GM products, producers selling bulk cash grain need to know the buyer's policy on European approved GM products versus non-European approved GM products, Bessin said.

"Farmers need to be good stewards of this technology," he said.

Bessin and Maier said farmers are facing a backlash as a result of the Starlink corn issue where corn not approved for human consumption made it into some food products. The problem was the result of split approval given by the federal government, allowing it to be used for animal feed and some industrial uses but not human consumption, Maier said.

No one at the time of the approval said that it could cause a problem, Bessin said. "Of course, hindsight is 20-20."

Maier, who was in Henderson recently speaking at a joint UK-Purdue grain handling workshop, suggested that farmers beware of what they sign and state. Iowa State University has provided suggested wording for farmers to use if they sign anything.

Do not make statements that the crop has no GM germplasm or that no contamination has occurred from mechanical harvesting, handling, storage and hauling for the crop, or that no contamination has occurred from pollen drift.

"They cannot say it's GM-free because they don't know," Bessin said.

Instead farmers can state that no seed represented by the seed company as GM seed was planted and be sure to ask for certification from the seed dealer to that effect, Maier said. A farmer can also state that seed represented to them by the seed dealer as non-GM seed was planted and that care was taken to avoid contamination in harvesting, handling, storage and hauling equipment.

The controversy surrounding genetically modified products is not likely to dissipate in the near future, Maier said.

"If agriculture wants GM crops, we need to fight for biotechnology now," Maier said.

The recent controversy has shaken the whole industry, Bessin said. "Farmers need to understand if they are using GM grain, some markets may not accept it. You've got to give the customer what they want."


Ric Bessin, 859-257-7456