Organic farmers often live on islands in a sea of genetically modified crops. More than 90 percent of the corn that farmers plant is genetically modified to resist pests and herbicides.
And corn pollen gets around.
“Corn pollen can travel many miles,” said Frank Kutka, a plant breeder with stories about how far corn will go to reproduce.
Pollination is vital. But when an organic field is downwind of genetically modified (or GMO) corn plants, contamination happens. Such contamination can cost farmers thousands of dollars, because organic, GMO-free corn often brings a premium price of several dollars more per bushel.
Kutka works for the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society and lives in western North Dakota. He’s been trying for several years to frustrate that traveling corn pollen. He’s created an organic corn that rejects foreign pollen, and he’s now working to grow enough seed to sell.
The genes that block foreign pollen have been around a long time. They’re found in popcorn growing in South America, and in some wild corn in Mexico. But adding the pollen-blocking gene to a high-yielding corn plant can take a plant breeder about five years of trial and error.
Read full, original article: Breeders offering corn that’s picky about pollen