Ohio farmers are more reluctant to plant genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their fields than their counterparts in other Midwestern states, planting nearly 30 percent of their fields with non-modified corn. In contrast, less than 20 percent of corn acreage in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa is planted with non-transgenic seed.
“This year in our Ohio Corn Performance Trials, we tested nearly 40 non-transgenic hybrids, which is the most we’ve tested in several years,” said Peter Thomison of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. “Many non-transgenic hybrids are still competing effectively with transgenic hybrids.”
Thomison attributes this trend primarily to economic factors, including less need for pesticides in Ohio than in neighboring states.
“Most of these growers are looking at non-GMO from an economic standpoint. It’s less costly to buy non-GMO seed,” he said. “In addition, we don’t have as much of a problem with insect pests, like the first-year rootworm variant, as states further west do. Growers also like … to take advantage of [better prices] for non-GMO grain.”
Growers across Ohio deliberately plant non-GMO seed for organic products or for other products explicitly certified as GMO-free. For example, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s only use explicitly non-GMO products for their in-store brands. Because so many Ohio growers depend upon certified non-GMO seed for their livelihood, concern is growing in the state about genetic contamination.
If pollen from GMO plants fertilizes non-GMO plants, the resulting crop will contain modified genes and may be rejected by GMO-free certifiers.
As Jeffrey M. Smith explains in his book “Seeds of Deception,” “Some foods with soy or corn products are labeled ‘Non-GMO’ because the crops were grown from non-GM seed. But non-GMO seeds and crops can be contaminated. Therefore, each manufacturer decides how much vigilance is used to support that claim.
“Some companies rely only on affidavits by farmers. Others test their products. One common test is an on-site ‘strip test.’ Like a home pregnancy test, a strip is dipped into a test tube containing a special solution mixed with the powdered crop. It will change color if there are GMOs present.”