QWill cross-pollination effect other non-GMO crops? And if there are two fields next to each other, one GMO and one non-GMO; what is the likelihood of them cross-pollinating?

Will cross-pollination effect other non-GMO crops? And if there are two fields next to each other, one GMO and one non-GMO; what is the likelihood of them cross-pollinating?

AExpert Answer

It's a long journey between GM and non-GM plants coexisting and the potential cross-pollination you're concerned about:


  • First, a plant can only pollinate another closely related plant. So, for example, corn can pollinate corn, but not soybeans.
  • Also, pollen movement varies by crop. Corn and soybeans are the most widely planted GM crops in the United States, so we’ll focus there. Soybeans are nearly 100 percent self-pollinating, meaning there is little risk of cross-pollination or pollen flow from a field of GM soybeans to non-GM soybeans.
  • Corn pollination occurs during a short, approximately one-week period, and that period would have to overlap between two fields for there to be any potential for cross-pollination.
  • In addition, corn pollen is relatively large and heavy compared with the pollen of other crops, which limits its movement.
  • Local environmental factors, such as natural wind blocks, also may impact pollen movement.
  • And, finally, after corn pollen is shed from the tassel, the viability of that pollen declines rapidly.


Since our business began in 1926―decades before the development of GM technology―we've been studying and documenting pollen movement and flow so that we could successfully develop new corn hybrids, maintain the purity of parent seed and research plots and produce seed crops each year.


Thanks to this work, a long history of published science, firsthand farmer experience and more, there is a great deal of understanding about where, how and at what rate pollen flow occurs. That knowledge translates into best management practices, such as planting at recommended separation distances or timing the planting so that pollination of the two fields occurs at different times. 


For more information about cross-pollination, there are a number of university and extension publications that provide recommendations to farmers, including materials from Ohio State University and University of California, Davis.

Posted on March 8, 2018
GMOs will not “save the world,” however they are an important tool in the toolbox for food security and agriculture. Dr. Stuart Smyth, Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics at the University of Saskatchewan, explores this topic in depth in a similar question and response here. “No single crop or food production method is capable of feeding the world on its own, so no, GMOs by themselves will not feed the world. However, as part... Read More
Posted on March 8, 2018
GMOs are made to achieve a desired trait, such as resistance to an insect or improvement to the ripening process, in order to better meet a customer’s needs. Posted below is a five minute video that offers a great visual illustration on how GMOs are made:     In this response you will also find videos demonstrating genetic modification, showing the basic process for making GM plants. We also encourage you to check out the videos: How Are GMOs Created? and GMO... Read More
Posted on November 27, 2017
Thank you for your question. Similar questions have been answered by a variety of experts on our site. Farmer Mary Mertz answered a similar question, “What are the problems with the seeds of GMOs.” She explains how this question can be answered in a variety of ways and also speaks to this topic firsthand, as she is a farmer herself. “In my opinion, the biggest problem with the seeds is the amount of misinformation that is being circulated out there.  GMOs have a... Read More

Explore More Topics