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Can Biotech and Organic Farmers Get Along?

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Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 166-169
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6026.166

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Summary

With so much of U.S. fields planted with genetically modified (GM) crops—93% for soybeans—everyone agrees it's impossible to completely exclude transgenes from organic fields, but they can be kept to minimal levels. With a defined threshold, scientists can figure out the appropriate distances between fields to minimize gene flow. In the future, computer models of pollinator behavior may help provide recommendations tailored to particular landscapes. Another approach to prevent the spread of transgenes is to breed crops that can't be fertilized by transgenic pollen; the first commercial varieties of corn with this protection should be released this fall. But the sides remain split on key issues. Organic groups demand more government oversight, that the biotech industry share the cost of preventing gene flow, and the creation of a compensation fund for damages if their crops cannot be sold as organic. The biotech industry opposes all of these goals. So far, USDA seems to continue to lean toward the industry in how it approves GM crops.