COL Co-mingling risk looms large during harvest
Illinois corn producer Steve Pigg and many other farmers hope to avoid a train wreck this fall -- a discovery that genetically altered corn not approved for human consumption gets accidentally co-mingled with other corn.
That's exactly what happened in 2000 with StarLink, which caused marketplace disruptions and made foreign buyers queasy about purchasing U.S. corn.
There are currently seven GMO corn varieties that haven't been greenlighted for use by the European Union, though the EU is rethinking its current stance. The U.S. government has basically taken a hands-off approach with the co-mingling issue and farmers are ultimately responsible to see that contamination through co-mingling doesn't occur.
Extension and elevator associations have dispensed information about measures to prevent co-mingling. More than 2,000 elevators nationally that are willing to take GMO crops are listed in a national directory organized by the American Seed Trade Association.
However, the risk has hardly been eliminated. It may have even increased, since GMO seed is being rapidly embraced by farmers. More than 40 percent of the current corn crop is planted to GMO seed.
The busy harvest season conspires against co-mingling efforts. The rush to the elevator, rushed employees and tired farmers makes it more likely that an accident will occur. If it does, all U.S. corn producers will pay a stiff price for the mistake.
The best hope is that the EU quickly approves the seven varieties for human use. However, given the current climate that exists, optimism isn't warranted in this regard.