Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

GMO Issue Rolls On

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

GMO Issue Rolls On

Article excerpt

Five or so years back, Farmers & Merchants State Bank of Clarkfield, Minn., adopted a stalk of wheat and the initials F&M as its logo. Wheat, once a major crop in Yellow Medicine County, Minn., had long been displaced by corn and beans, but the bank still liked the look of it. Back when wheat was big in the county, "biotech engineering" was a term that most Americans had never heard. Now many people have heard of "GMO," and some even know it stands for genetically modified organisms.

The fallout from the high-profile GMO issue could have some unintended consequences, even for F&M Bank's logo. Some recent developments:

* At the state level, Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson warned farmers in a December speech against promising non-GMO grain that they might not be able to provide. "As the debate surrounding GMOs escalates, many farmers are being asked to certify that their production is GMO free," said Hugoson. "Given what we know today, you simply cannot make that statement.

A certification can be made about the seed source, handling and combining practices, and segregation of production and storage." Hugoson's department began making available an Iowa-developed certification form along these lines.(www.mda.state.

* Nationally, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman appointed a 38-member advisory group on GMO issues that includes seed company representatives, consumer advocates, critics of GMO foods, and organic farmers. Also included is Minnesotan David J. Frederickson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union. The group's first meeting is March 29-30 in Washington. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules requiring that growers of Bt corn (a GMO strain) provide a buffer of conventional corn around their Bt plantings. And farm products giant Cargill announced that it will accept GMO crops--even those approved in the U.S. but not in Europe.

* Internationally, the European Union finalized labeling rules that would permit only 1% trace amounts of GMOs in goods described as non-GMO; Greenpeace activists tried to block shipments of corn and corn gluten feed from the U.S. to Germany and Mexico that they claimed contained GMOs; and Russia finalized a rule that will require labeling of GMO foods on July 1.

Local producer reactions

Reactions to these and other developments have been somewhat mixed, and are still a bit spotty as decisions are just now being made. …

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