GENETICALLY MODIFIED and non-GM crops can co-exist without problems, according to experiences of US farmers.

A survey of US organic farmers has also shown the vast majority (96%) have not suffered any loss of organic sales or downgrading of produce due to GM adventitious presence.

The findings come in a new report, Co-existence in North American agriculture: can GM crops be grown with conventional and organic crops?, which was part-funded by the biotech industry.

The PG Economics report studied experiences of US GM and non-GM farmers in growing and marketing their respective produce.

Although 60% of the soybean, corn and canola crop area in North America is now GM, farmers had no “significant economic or commercial problems” marketing either.

Co-existence had only been an issue of relevance in certain human food and export markets, notes the report.

“Within the context of the total markets for these crops (domestic North American and exports onto world markets), the non-GM market accounts for a small share.”

The level of non-GM demand in the EU soy market – the largest non-GM market – was about 2.6% of global soy oil use and 6.2% of global soymeal use in 2002, for example.

Farmers had also successfully been growing specialist crops, such as seed production, nexera canola and waxy corn, near to GM crops without compromising the high purity levels required, notes the report.

There is a small number (4%) of organic farmers identified in the survey who reported losses or downgrading of their produce.

“But this was due to a marketing decision taken by their certifying body or customer, rather than any requirement under national organic regulations,” says the report.

The only crop where there could be disputes about the feasibility of co-existence between GM and non GM or organic crops is canola in Canada.

The organic area of the crop has always been very low (less than 0.1% of total plantings).

“This very low level of planting essentially reflects agronomic and husbandry difficulties in growing organic canola and the limited nature of the market,” concludes the report

“It is not related to any co-existence problems with GM canola.”