As part of the agricultural biotechnology industry, we support the private property rights of farmers and believe they have the choice to plant crops that best meet their needs, whether they be organic, conventional or biotech. We advocate coexistence—the concurrent cultivation of conventional, organic and genetically engineered crops consistent with underlying consumer preferences and choices.
A broad range of production practices may be employed or accounted for in a successful coexistence scheme, and farmers regularly use several production practices and processes to achieve the desired results. These may include:
- Farmer-to-farmer (neighbor-to-neighbor) communication;
- Intimate knowledge of both neighboring crops and wild-plant communities for possible cross-pollination;
- Rotation schemes of crops that reduce pollen exposure from volunteer plants;
- Seed handling so there is no mixing during planting, harvesting and cleaning operations;
- Temporal isolation for pollen release through staged planting times;
- Field/plot selection and identification;
- Isolation distances, based largely on each crop’s reproductive system (self- or cross- pollinated) and method of cross-pollination (e.g., wind- or insect-pollinated);
- Buffer rows;
- Continuous visual inspection of all genetic stocks and removal of any off types and weeds;
- Field inspections multiple times, possibly by third parties; and
- Post-harvest risk mitigation.
More on coexistence can be found in this report, prepared by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).
Additionally, in the winter of 2013, USDA asked the public to comment on successful partnerships, how agricultural coexistence in the United States can be strengthened and what USDA can do to enhance science-based stewardship practices. To see consumers’ feedback, click here.