Don’t sign contracts regarding crop genetic content

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Use extreme caution before signing any contracts regarding the genetic content of crop varieties or hybrids.

“The best approach may be to have an attorney or farm adviser review a proposed contract if there are questions about provisions or language,” said Kent Thiesse, with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Crops genetically modified through biotechnology, often called GMOs, have become popular, said Thiesse. However, lack of market access for some genetically modified crops, especially corn, has become a concern for some producers. There has been resistance to buying genetically modified grain in Europe, Japan, and other markets.

“We are likely to see more contracts that call for ‘non-GMO’ grain in the future, especially for the export market,” said Thiesse. That may involve a certification process and other requirements.

“But producers need to be very cautious about signing any type of non-GMO certification or contract with a grain dealer or processor. Otherwise, producers may be responsible for meeting criteria that are beyond their control.”

Thiesse said growers can reasonably state they have not planted seed represented by the seed company as GMO. They can also said they have planted seed represented by the seed company as non-GMO. And they can say they have been careful to avoid contamination in harvest, storage, and transportation of the grain.

They should not, however, sign a contract or certification saying grain has no GMO germplasm. They should not state that no contamination occurred in harvest, storage, or transportation of the grain. And they should not say no contamination has occurred from pollen drift.

“Producers should not sign documents that may leave them liable for practices over which they have no control or that occurred after the grain left the farm,” Thiesse said.

If in doubt, seek the advice of an attorney or other professional.

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