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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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The Myth of Pollen Drift Compromising Organic Farms

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The argument that pollen drift from GM crops will contaminate neighboring organic farmers’ fields, making their crop not able to be sold, is simply not true. 

The practice of farmers successfully growing and marketing crops – whether biotech, conventional or organic – in close proximity is known as coexistence. Farmers have been successfully practicing coexistence for years. 

In any working agricultural production system, incidental commingling of trace amounts of seed, grain or food product with another occurs. This is a reality of plant biology, seed production and the distribution of commodity crops, and was occurring long before the development of biotech products. Still, not one organically certified farm has lost its US Department of Agriculture certification due to the presence of commingled biotech plant material since the beginning of the federal National Organic Program (NOP). It’s important to remember that commingling is not a safety issue, as the biotech crop has already obtained full regulatory authorizations. 

Recently the USDA National Organic Program updated and clarified its policy regarding organic and biotech processes and co-existence. In short, USDA has said that the inadvertent presence of a biotech trait does not affect the status of a certified organic crop to be marketed as certified organic. 

According to USDA, the detectable presence of GE material in a crop does not constitute a violation of NOP standards and regulations, as long as a grower has not intentionally planted GE seed and has taken reasonable steps to avoid contact with GE pollen or seed or both. 

Monsanto believes farmers should have the freedom to choose the production method best suited for their needs, whether organic, conventional, or products improved through biotechnology.  All of the agricultural systems can and do work effectively side by side and contribute to the varied needs of different consumers and meeting the demands of a growing population.

10 Responses to "The Myth of Pollen Drift Compromising Organic Farms"

  1. I buy organic products specifically because I do not want to eat your “biotech traits”. In addition, your industry and particularly your company has sued farmers for your products pollen drifting into their fields. Your organization has no respect for consumers, farmers, or the environment. I call your company anti-human as that is how your organization behaves.

      • That’s not what the farmers are saying. Many of the farmers say it’s unintentional. Just because you file suit claiming it’s intentional rather than accidental doesn’t change the fact that you’re suing them for unwanted cross-pollenation with neighboring “improved” farms.

        • Bob — we sell seed to about 275,000 farmers each year. Since 1997, we have filed an average of 11 lawsuits each year — that’s 11 out of a possible number of 275,000. In that same time period, only nine cases have gone to full trial, and in every case the use of our seeds was found to be deliberate. We haven never sued any farmer for accidental or unintentional use of our seeds. Not one.

    • “Organic” and conventional seeds blow into GE fields all the time! Why are GE seeds any different?

    • Real farmers support Monsanto and appreciate them supporting us. They bring so much good to agriculture it is unbelievable.

  2. I live in Western Australia. A local farmer lost his organic certification when GM seeds blew into his farm from a neighbouring farm. The organic farmer sued but lost the court battle.

    So while I’m sure you’re right that Monsanto has not sued any farmers for accidental drift, accidental drift is still a problem and it has in fact resulted in the loss of organic certification – at least here in Australia.

    Please amend your page to be truly accurate to the facts.


  3. What about the case in Australia -Stephen Marsh vs Michael Baxter?Stephen lost his organic licence because some of his neighbour Michael’s gm Monsanto seed had inadvertently blown over to Stephens’ fields during harvesting. Michael Baxter had followed Monsanto’s guidelines in planting and harvesting so he was not at fault. Yet Stephen Baxter lost his organic licence as there were hundred’s of seeds that blew over and he reported it. He abided by Australia Certified organics’ rules because he had signed a contract with Australian Certified Organics just as Michael Baxter had signed a contract with Monsanto. Subsequently, Stephen Marsh is now unable to sell his oats as organic. Why has Monsanto not helped clean up his fields and remove their GM crops? Why has he not been compensated by Monsanto for losing his Organic license in Australia. Neither farmer is at fault in this situation. It is the responsibility of Monsanto to rid Stephen Marsh’s fields of crops that belong to Monsanto. These crops are causing his organic business harm. Why has this not occurred? Why have Monsanto neglected their ethical responsibility and duty of care in this matter?

    • The legal dispute between Steve Marsh and Michael Baxter has been difficult for the families and communities involved. It is regrettable that neighbours and friends ended up in court and it is the last thing anyone in Australian agriculture wants to see.

      The judgment handed down in this case by the Western Australian Supreme Court was that Steve Marsh’s decertification as an organic producer was the result of the ‘erroneous application’ of his certifier’s standards. You can read the Supreme Court’s Judgment Summary here: http://bit.ly/81815Aust.

      Organic, conventional and GM crops have grown side-by-side in Australia for many years which has contributed to the international competitiveness of local farmers. We expect Australia’s long history of being able to use different production systems to continue to improve the success and sustainability of local agriculture.

      We are passionate about farming and our customers, and we care about their wellbeing and we hope that representatives from all farming sectors can work together to ensure disputes like this are avoided in the future.


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