From the courtroom to the negotiating table, there's more evidence that what happens off the farm can influence what happens on the farm.
For example, Europe and developing nations claimed victory over the U.S. Friday when more than 80 nations agreed to improve the labeling of genetically modified food shipments. The U.S. called the decision a rush to judgment that may disrupt global trade. The Europeans said they're pleased with the agreement, which would force U.S. companies to be more open about the GM products they export.
The divisiveness over genetically modified goods runs from the field to the grocery shelf. Indeed, the debate now has been joined by some U.S. scientists, who say there's trouble blowin' in the wind.
Tests on bags of conventional corn, soybean and canola seed found trace amounts of contamination from biotech varieties. The Union of Concerned Scientists, which commissioned the study, said the data suggest the level of cross-contamination ranges from roughly 0.05 to 1%.
The test results are not a surprise to Midwest grain producers growing non-gmo or organic crops.
Laura Krouse: Key Oct. 2003: "I told my customers what had happened and I lost about half my business that year."
As Market to Market reported last fall, organic farmers like Laura Krouse have had their crops test positive for Bt corn. The most likely culprit for the contamination was the wind, which can carry pollen for miles.
The soybean contamination found is likely from human error, from someone not removing transgenic beans from a combine before harvesting a conventional crop.
The Concerned Scientists group is calling for a government-sponsored, full-scale investigation into the extent and cause of seed contamination. They also want increased regulatory oversight, especially of the crops designed to produce pharmaceutical products.
In addition, the group wants the USDA to establish a reservoir of non-gmo seeds for major food and feed crops.
Meanwhile, some industry programs already have begun. As Market To Market reported last fall, the Iowa and Illinois Corn Growers Associations established a company to educate, train and certify farmers who want to grow identity preserved crops. They did so, in part, to capture the higher value markets.
Chet Boruff, Novecta key: Oct.2003. 00:04:26:14 "And so what we're dealing with is an industry who's learning how all these crops could conceivable grow within a region or area but maintain the value of each one of them."
It may be a difficult task. Last year, genetically engineered seed was planted on 80% of the U.S. soybean acreage and 40% of corn acreage.