What do corn, wheat, canola, rice, papaya and sugar beets have in common? These are all crops planted by farmers in the United States that have been negatively affected by contamination from genetically modified plants. For decades seed and chemical companies have been seeking to develop genetically modified crops that have a specific trait or traits that are either resistant to certain herbicides or otherwise increase production. Unfortunately, international markets are suspicious or fearful of GMOs and when GMO crops escape into export supplies the effect on the market for these agricultural products can be devastating.
GMO contamination can occur due to cross pollination or mechanical mixing. Many years of experience have now taught us that it is very difficult, if not impossible to prevent the mixing of non-GMO plants with the GMO versions of the same variety. It has been reported that between 1997 and 2013 there were almost four hundred cases of GMO contamination. Plants are pollinated by wind, insects or birds. Even with increasingly large buffer zones, pollen can cross from GMO fields to non-GMO fields. This is called genetic drift. It is one of the ways nature insures the continuation of the species. Unfortunately, nature does not distinguish between GMO and non-GMO plants of the same species.
This contamination has resulted in billions of dollars of economic loss to United States farmers due to rejection by the export markets. When Starlink corn was discovered in the corn supply in Japan, the European Union banned as U. S. corn exports. Similar losses have been experienced by U. S. producers of rice, papaya and other crops.