Bart Schott and Allan Miller grow corn in North Dakota. Jimmy Wedel farms in Texas. But in one respect, Miller has more in common with Wedel than with Schott. Both Miller and Wedel grow their corn using organic practices.



Miller and Wedel are just two National Corn Grower Association (NCGA) members who maintain organic cropping practices side-by-side with growers who use conventional inputs and transgenic seeds. But both say they have no difficulty maintaining their crops.



"Corn pollen can drift, so pollen movement is something we consider in planting," said Miller. "We make sure to talk with neighbors to find out what they are planting. If a neighbor is planting biotech corn, we leave a bigger barrier next to the biotech corn. In one case, we talked with a neighbor about our cropping plans, and the neighbor, who had intended to plant biotech corn, switched to conventional corn to avoid any problems with cross pollination."



Wedel agreed.



"Even though a neighbor may plant genetically modified corn within proximity of my fields (as close as 100 ft.), GM drift has not been a major problem," he said. "However, most of my corn fields are large - 60 acres or more. Thus, if I have a neighbor who has GM corn next to me, there could be a slightly higher concentration of GM drift on the field edges, but due to the size of the field, the overall co-mingling [when the corn is blended through the harvesting process] is minimal."



While some growers embrace organic practices and others prefer conventional, both sides agree that communication and cooperation with their neighbors is essential. "We talk with all of our neighbors regarding what chemicals we use and we choose chemicals that don't have characteristics which would lead to problems," said Schott, a member of NCGA's Biotechnology Working Group. "We try to work with our organic neighbors to use the best chemical to be sure that we don't have issues."



With flexibility and cooperation, most potential problems never materialize, said Wedel. "Neighbors must cooperate, but the organic farmer can plant one week later (or earlier) than the magic planting date, and the GM producer can plant one week earlier (or later), to further help reduce the likelihood of co-mingling. Yes it will require cooperation between the two," he noted.



At the Farmer to Farmer section on NCGA's web site, farmers can access materials that will allow growers in areas that may have legislation pending to restrict access to agricultural technology to offer a strong rebuttal based on sound science to the information put out by biotech opponents.



Farmer to Farmer was developed by NCGA members to help farmers ensure they continue to have wide range of technology options.



SOURCE: NCGA