ST. LOUIS (B)--The American Corn Growers Association has joined with a leading genetic testing firm in urging that U.S. farmers who intend to avoid production of genetically modified crops have their corn and soybean seed double-checked for purity before planting next spring. The Fairfield, Iowa-based Genetic ID company found nearly half of all seed marketed as non-GMO actually held enough artificially restructured DNA to exceed European standards.

"Forty-five percent of the seed varieties we tested had high enough GMO content to threaten their compliance with the stringent 0.1% non-GMO requirements demanded by consumers worldwide," said Genetic ID founder John Fagan.

Fagan made his revelations Dec. 6, in a statement released during the annual Country Elevator Council meeting of the National Grain and Feed Association.

Genetic ID--which is opening a second laboratory in Yokohama, Japan, this month--tested 20

hybrid varieties from five seed firms last spring, finding that nine contained questionable GMO levels.

"Farmers who are seeking to sell to non-GMO markets must protect themselves, by getting their seeds tested," said ACGA President Gary Goldberg. "If we are to maintain our export markets and possibly gain non-GMO premiums, we have to take steps to guarantee the purity of our crops."

Although scores of Asian and European food manufacturers have responded to growing consumer concern about the new technology by committing to a removal of GMO grain from their product-line, Fagan said removing 100% of all GMO content from the food-chain is not scientifically feasible.

Most consumer groups, he said, are demanding instead that foods labeled as "non-GMO" have less than 0.1% GMO content--as did 16 Japanese associations in an open letter to U.S. agribusiness posted Oct. 16. By contrast, Fagan said food ingredients carrying more than 1% GMO DNA must carry a label reading "contains GMOs."

In addition to purity testing of non-GMO seed, the ACGA and Genetic ID are recommending that producers take the following steps to ensure adequate segregation in 2000.

(1) Clean harvest equipment and storage facilities thoroughly, so no previously harvested seed remains.

(2) Store and ship grain in separate, cleaned containers.

(3) Provide an adequate buffer between GMO and non-GMO fields, particularly in crops such as corn, where plants can cross-pollinate from some distance apart.

(4) Rotate all fields planted to GMOs in 1999 to other crops for at least two seasons, to prevent contamination from volunteer GMO plants that sprout from seeds that fell to the ground during harvest.

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