Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pollen Spread: GM and non-GM Crops

Before we have highlighted pieces on GMO vs. non-GMO products and practices. This week we look at how the two can work together and what is needed for separation to protect against pollen spread. We encourage you to look at the linked study from a scientist in Canada and utilize the discussion points to guide conversations around the globe!

New Tool Helps Estimate GM Pollen Spread

Discussion Points

  • Why is it important to have an area of separation between GM products and non-GM products?
  • What did the study find as a suitable separation space? How does this compare to what some have suggested? (You may need to convert measurements to standard if your home country does not utilize metric.)
  • Do some additional research. In your home area what is the required separation distance when planting GM next to non-GM crops? How does this distance measure up to the suggested distance in this latest research?
  • Often things can get contentious between individuals and groups when you have growers producing GM and non-GM crops close in proximity. What suggestions would you have for both sides to ensure successful experiences for all?



25 comments:

G.C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G.C said...

After doing some research, I found that is important to keep GMO crop fields and GMO free crops separate. Once non-GMO crops get infected with GMOs there is no going back. This then restricts organic or non-GMO farmers from marketing their items as GMO free. Although this seems like not a big deal to some, some farmers depend on this label. I do not think it will be long before GMOs take over most of our ¨natural"or non-GMO crops become GMOs. I also do not think this is a bad thing, after research done in my Global Ag class I was able to find all the great things that GMOs can do for our country and world. This includes helping us have the amount of food we need, less of a need for pesticides (less chemicals), and a more nutritious crop.If GMOs take over, it may not ruin non-GMO crops but instead make them better.

Unknown said...

The ideal separation between crops is between 51 to 88 meters. This distance is much longer, which means that the distance pollen can travel is much more than what was originally believed. To keep cross pollination, the distance between GMO and non-GMO crops need to be separated even further apart.

Safrancis said...

It is important to keep non-GMO and GMO crops separate due to cross pollination that can happen when they are spaced too close together. Foods like Soybeans are almost 100% self pollinating so keeping non-GMO and GMO soybeans apart shouldn't be much of a challenge. Other foods, have a greater chance of cross pollinating so keeping crops distances properly is important.

laroyer said...

It is important to keep non-GMO and GMO crops separate due to cross pollination that can happen when they are spaced too close together. For example, they have estimated that that for 0.9 percent cross pollination rate, the ideal distance of separation between two crops is between 51 and 88 meters, depending on crop size and type. Many foods have self pollinating so it is important to keep crops distant from each other.

brent said...

It's important to have an area of separation between gmo and non gmo crops to minimize cross-fertilization.

BD said...

The cross pollination is the main factor to separate GMO and non GMO crops. With cross pollination it will alter the results they get from GMO and Non GMO crops. So keeping distance between them is vital to proper success

nick said...

its very important to keep non-gmo and gmo crops far enough apart so they dont cross pollinate.

paadams said...

It is difficult to figure out how far GMO pollen will travel. Which is why GMO and non-GMO crops need to be separated, if the two are to close, they will end up cross pollinating. So when you have a tool to determine the distance GMO pollen will travel, that would be very useful to countries, especially to those who don't like the idea of GMOs.

Devon said...

I think that they shulde be keep seperit be cause it is chemical reaction with the to typ of plants

M.E.T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M.E.T said...

As a farmer, it is crucial that if they market their products as non-GM, that has to be the truth, as much controversy surrounds the use of GM crops. Although there are some who are avid activists for GMO’s, believing it will benefit the world's food supply, there are others on the other end of the spectrum who do not trust GM crops, or animals, for many different reasons. Because there is this split, it is important that people trust what they are eating, otherwise they will buy food elsewhere, possibly hurting that company or farmer, on a large or small scale. By having an area of separation, this ensures that there is no cross pollination, and the product/crop is as it is stated. The ideal distance of separation between a GM and non-GM crop is between 51 and 88 meters, converted to feet is 167.3 to 288.7 feet, depending on crop size and type. Previously, the separation was between 40 and several hundred meters (1 meter = 3.28ft). By using the new research and having a better understanding of the distance needed, farmers are better able to utilize their land more efficiently, and be more confident that there will be no cross pollination between GM crops and non-GM crops. This in turn will satisfy those who oppose the ideas/views on the use of GMO’s.

McKenna said...


By having a background with pollen allergies, I know pollen is a big contributor to a person's day. If the pollen levels are high one day, the more symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes) you’ll have and vise versa. The pollen from crops already affect us allergic humans and sometimes we cannot consume them without risking a chance of having a reaction. Reactions range from being very small to very alarming but either way the pollen will affect that person in a negative way. Pollen already pollutes the air and by moving it more and into bigger areas, it’ll make it a lot worse for us. It is important to have a separation between GM and Non-GM products because of allergies, spreading and health risks. For example, if someone is allergic to Non-GM wheat but GM and Non-GM were grown together, both of those crops could potentially have a risk of causing someone to have an allergic reaction. But if they’re separate, that creates less of a chance for an allergic reaction. I believe separating crops between 51-88 meters is still a bit too close together and we have plenty of land and farms that are further apart that can grow them. -K.P. Somonauk

AC said...

Pollen is polluting the everyday which can have health risks. I have pollen allergies which effects me every year, especially in the spring and summer months, when farmers start to grow their crops. Having a bad allergic reaction to anything can be dangerous. In my case, my eyes start to swell and it begins to get hard to breathe. Depending on the severity of the reaction, this could be life threatening. Separating GM and Non-GM products can save a life. In small towns, 51-88 meters might be a sufficient distance. I do not know much about cross pollination, but I do know that the pollen in the air is a very real thing. Therefore if there is a way to keep GM products away from Non-GM products, it needs to be done. This could be an issue for people without allergies as well. Society makes it seem like GM products are bad even though they aren't, but society is stubborn. Until society is ready to accept GM products, keeping these products away from Non-GM products may be better for the market. If people knew that there was cross pollination with GM crops, people would go elsewhere to buy their groceries and stop trusting the farmers around them. -A.C. Somonauk

Reagan Orzech said...

In 2010, Steve Marsh, an organic farmer in Western Australia, lost organic certification on approximately 70% of his property after winds carried his neighbor’s Roundup Ready canola seeds, items provided by Monsanto, onto his farm. Although seven years ago, this case speaks to the growing problem of the spread of GM organisms to non-modified crops that concerns farmers using conventional methods. While contamination may result from seed impurities, inadequate harvest and handling practices, and the major one of wind or insect-borne cross-pollination, it is important that farmers are able to provide customers with a choice between GMO and non-GMO crops and products, especially with the health craze that began to take off around 2015. With members from Generation Z to Baby Boomers willing to pay more for healthy foods, including those that are GMO-free, have no artificial coloring/flavors, and are deemed all natural, GMO-free items are in demand due to the shift in consumer mindset. If farmers are unable to provide these items due to the GM pollination, the consequences can be severe as contamination can spark economic losses for farmers that face rejection from markets that ban GMOs, cause them to lose the premium they earn for organic crops, lesson options for farmers to expand products in the non-GMO field and supply what consumers crave, and could cause them legal trouble for potential patent infringement by claiming their product is GMO-free. While I personally agree with G.C from Somonauk and am open to GMOs after discussing their potential to be more environmentally friendly, allow greater yields, and create food with better nutritional value, there still needs to be regulations to minimize cross-fertilization, starting by separating the two groups of crops. With 40 metres (131 ft) being too small and over 100 metres (328 ft) being too big, a study conducted by the University of British Columbia suggests that for a small cross-pollination rate of 0.9%, the idea separation is between 51 metres (167 ft) and 88 metres (288 ft). However, these numbers depend on the crop as the minimum buffer zone for GM Maize may be at least 164 feet, the minimum buffer zone for sugar beets may only be 30 feet, and 660 ft may be a strong distance for corn. This desired separation distance is essential as some crops like legumes are self-pollinating, making it easier to control contamination, and others are cross-pollinating, allowing for new varieties to easier appear. Overall, other precautions that should be taken to ensure success on both sides includes a line of open communication between neighboring farmers to be aware of what they are planting, creating farms on sites bordered by geographical features like forests, mountains, and other barriers, and for organic farmers to double the suggested distance between fields while testing their seeds prior to planting so they can know if their field was contaminated. -R.O, Somonauk

unknown said...

It is important to have an area of separation between GM and non-GM products to minimize or prevent cross-pollination. It says that it is very difficult to estimate how far GM pollen will travel, but I am wondering what about the pollen would change the distance that it travels? Do the genetic modifications really change the pollen that much? The suitable separation size for these crops is 51-88 meters which can vary depending on the crop. Other suggestions included 40-hundreds of meters apart which I find interesting because the previous number range is half the current max number and half of the current min number. It seems to me like a good compromise, but I don't understand how the new ranges work so much better. From my research I found that this idea is called "pollen drift". A farmer tested this with GM and non-GM crops to find that it had collected mostly within .9 meters of the other crops and pollen was found to travel as far as 182 meters. I found it interesting that with this data it said that 45 meters was a reasonable separation distance because 40 meters was found to be insufficient in other studies. This information was found by testing on corn so I am wondering if these separation distances are seen to be too much or not enough because different crops are being used to test. If all countries tested on the same crops and compared would that make a difference? -E.D. Somonauk

Brad Kinsinger said...

Great comments and thoughts! Keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

The cross-pollination between a GM crop and a non-GM crop may sound like a very minor issue, but within today's society and with the varying opinions that we see everyday, solving this problem will be very beneficial. The problem that many researchers are seeing is that the pollen from a GM crop is getting on a non-GM crop, therefore making the non-GM crop a GM crop. The problem with this is products need to be what they claim to be. If a crop undergoes unintended cross-pollination, that product can no longer be marketed as a non-GMO product. With the claim "non-GMO" becoming a popular statement that is found on many food products, it is very good news that researchers have found a way to prevent cross-pollination. What researchers are telling farmers to do, is make sure GM crops and non-GM crops are planted a substantial amount (between 51 and 88 meters) from each other. The pollen from each plant is still blown around in the air, but researchers are confident that if the crops are planted this far way from each other the two types of pollens will not land in the proximity of their opposite. This will prevent any disputes on whether a product is actually GMO free or not, and also help farmers and large-scale companies keep their good reputation.

J.P. Somonauk

R.S. said...

GMO’s tend to be a very controversial topic. Many people do not understand what they are and the unknown scares them. When it comes to pollen it is important to have an area of separation between GM products and non-GM products due to cross pollination that occurs when the crops are too close together. Cross pollination or “pollination drift” can result in the presence GMO grain in non-GMO corn fields. From a farmer’s perspective it is important to keep the two products separated in order to keep the true market of non-GM products and to produce these crops under a natural label. Seed purity is important in the line of production. Based on the study, a suitable separation space would be between 51 and 88 metres or 167.32 and 288 ft. between two crops based on the crop size and type. To ensure successful experiences for both individuals and groups growing GM and non-GM crops in close proximity, I would suggest organizing a planting schedule to plant the non-GM crops first and then GM crops last, this would help avoid cross pollination between crops and others fields. -Somonauk

Chism said...

It is important to keep GM and non-GM crops separated because they can get cross pollinated and once that happens there is no going back to the original plants. The ideal separation rate of the crops is 51 to 88 meters. Which is around 55 to 96 yards. Are these crops in different fields by each other? Maybe an idea to do with the plants is to do every other year for a plant so that there would be no cross pollination.

pencesam said...

GM and non-GM crops can effect the other to grow incorrectly or make the product itself of less quality. Many people who are against GMO's would likely cause an uproar if they found anything their use came anywhere near a GMO. It would be wise yet seemingly unrealistic to say the producers of these products should only use one of the options rather than both, to keep the issue away. Yet possibly maybe they could alternate annually rather than going side by side?

katiek said...

GMOs are a very hot and controversial topic. It is very important for GMO and non GMO crops to be spread out because of pollination. The pollen from a GMO crop can transfer and infect a non GMO crop causing that crop to no longer be considered non GMO. The non GMO title is very important to many farmers and people. Gmo croms and non GMO crops need to be kept far enough away from each other. Some believe they need to be 40 meters from each other but after research was conducted the crops need to be 51-88 meters away from each other. Some farmers heavily depend on the non GMO title to drive up the price of their crop. There has been cases where they loose this title due t GMO pollen contaminating their crop. Even though there has been tons of research done proving the GMOs are harmless and only going to help us many people are still against them. They want their crops to be GMO free, making the information discovered about how mar the crops must be apart very important.

unknown said...

In response to katiek I agree that the pollination does need to be spread out because this is now becoming a problem since the trends today are so big on non gmo, organic, and organic this causes farmers to lose produce to the cross pollination. This could also effect people with allergies and can have a domino effect if the feed is contaminated. This problem can be prevented if there are further plots and different growing seasons for each. somonauk st

M.P. said...

GM products are very controversial. It is important to have a separation between GM and non GM because of how much negativity people surround with GM's. People fear GM's because they are unknown, unnatural and they choose not to educate themselves but to stick with what they know, non GM's. Without space between GM's and non GM's the pollen can travel and make a non GM into a GM. When a farmer is planting GM's and non GM's they have to place a space of 51 to 88 meters between the two crops. Some suggestions for both sides would be to educate themselves and to stay educated on the topic. GM's are very helpful, hence why farmers plant them, and shouldn't be feared but welcomed and supported due to the added nutrients and resistance from diseases.

Cassidy Johnson said...

It is important to keep GMO and non-GMO crops separate because all across the world there are farmers who pride themselves on providing GMO free crops. If one of these farms becomes cross pollinated by a bee that is still laced with pollen from a GMO farm the non-GMO farmer can no longer make that claim. There are several countries also across the world that do not allow GMO crops in their country what so ever, having crops contaminated by cross pollination can also put a burden on imports and exports if everyone becomes worried about cross pollination that is only identifiable under a microscope. This study suggested a suitable separation space was between 51(167 ft) and 88 (288 ft) meters depending on the crop size and type. However,these numbers depend on the crop, the minimum separation space for sugar beets is only be 30 feet, and 660 ft is the desired distance for corn. Knowing the appropriate I personally have nothing against GMO crops. There has been no evidence pointing to anything negative coming from GMO crops, only positive. GMOs were created to increase crop yield, increase crop resistance to disease and harsh conditions, and increase crops vitamin and nutrient content. C.J.-Somonauk

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