Aiding in the Coexistence of Sustainable and Biotech Agriculture by Minimizing Contamination

Final Report for LNC02-211

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $99,978.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $26,000.00
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Bradley Brummond
North Dakota State University
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Project Information


Best management practices have been published in NDSU Extension Publication A-1275. Outreach meetings surrounding the best management practices for coexistence have been done. Not all objectives were met, due to the withdrawal of some of the members of the Coexistence Working Group. The greatest impact this project has had is it is being used as a starting point by other groups and states looking at the issue of coexistence and they are building off the work of this grant. The process has started in coexistence and this grant was one of the pioneering efforts.


North Dakota leads the nation in the production of certified organic cereals grains. There is also widespread production of IP and transgenic crops. The IP industry has built in tolerance levels for the presence of transgenic organisms. There are no tolerance levels in the organic industry. The major concern is how the organic, IP, and biotech industries can coexist without compromising the marketability and integrity of germplasm and seedstocks. It is also of economic value for transgenic producers to maintain the genetic integrity of their crops to realize the full benefits of the technology. As more transgenic crops are developed, best management practices (BMPs) for minimizing unwanted contamination are critical to sustaining the natural resource base and the economic viability of organic, IP and transgenic producers.

Project Objectives:

* Awareness of issues; understanding of transgenic effects and impacts of the differing production systems
* Learn listening /dialogue, conflict resolution, and joint problem solving skills
* Mutual teaching and learning
* Goodwill between participants and acknowledge mutual responsibility
* Develop individual BMPs
* Keep interested parties informed of findings and proceedings of the Transgenic Working Group
* BMPs communicated, disseminated, and promoted to working group constituents
* Develop comprehensive BMPs and curriculum
* Identify presenters: schedule and promote workshop sites and dates
* Minimizing contamination risks
* Participants from regulatory and state institutions agree to apply BMPs with their institutions and departments
* Disseminate BMPs to end users
* Implementation of BMPs to insure purity and accessibility of genetic resource base
* Implementation of BMPs to insure integrity and marketability with the food system
* Minimize contamination risk
* Continuation of joint problem solving through the Transgenic Working Group

1. Awareness of Issues

The issues surrounding coexistence were identified at the first meeting of the working group and prioritized. The issues were: Liability, Land Grant Funding, Handling and Segregation, Tolerances, Germplasm Purity, Certification Standards, USDA Rules for Organic Certification and Regulations, Opportunities and Consequences, Neighbor Relations, Controls on Research, Consumer Concerns, Traits and Requirements for process and principles to commercialize. Three of these issues were handled by presentations and providing information to the group. They were Traits, Requirements for commercialization and USDA Rules and Organic Certification. (Status: Accomplished)

2. Learn Listening/Dialogue, Conflict Resolution and Joint Problem Solving

The working group was split into three subcommittees to work on the issues. The subcommittees consisted of members from the different groups represented in the working group. All three groups successfully gathered information and came up with recommended BMPs. All members of the group had to work together to write the BMPS. (Status: Group members withdrew so it is impossible to evaluate this. I feel from conversations I have had, they did learn a few things from one another.)

Ground Rules were written for personal conduct at the meetings and on the group website. The rules were followed and respectful dialogue between opposing ideas were successfully conducted at every meeting. (Status: Accomplished)

A private website was set up to propose BMPs and hold discussion on them. This was not as successful as we would have liked as very few group members actually used it. (Status: Accomplished)

Thirteen BMPs were passed and written (Status: Accomplished)

3. Mutual Teaching and Learning

All members through participation in the discussion have working knowledge of the concerns of the other parties. (Status: Group members withdrew so it is impossible to evaluate this.)

4. Goodwill Between Participants

Group members were able to work successfully together at the meetings and in their subgroups.
We had 5 members withdraw from the coexistence working group. There originally was some animosity between those who stayed and those who left. Relationships are being rebuilt by some. (Status: Due to the withdrawal I was not able to get a good set of data on this.)

5. Develop Individual BMPs

Eleven BMPs were reached by large majorities and 2 were split decisions. Development of the BMPs ceased when the members withdrew. The only thing done was to write and print passed BMPs. (Status: completed)

6. Keep Interested Parties Informed of Findings and Proceedings (Status Accomplished)

The final form of the BMPs was posted on the website. No comments were forthcoming.

The project has been discussed with various groups around the state, nation and internationally. Minutes and information have been supplied on request. Two presentations were made at the National Association of County Agriculture Agents conference. One of the presentations was made on the Best Management Practices itself and one presentation was made on the process used. Both presentations were well received with approximately 30 to 40 agents attended each session. I had many favorable comments on both presentations. We have also cooperated with information to states that are trying to do similar things, Vermont, Hawaii and California. We are currently working quite closely with Hawaii as they try a similar program with their producers. They have looked at much of the material we have produced and I have participated on a conference call with them. We will continue to work with these groups and share back and forth. This is where I think the real value of this grant is, to help others build on our efforts. (Status: Accomplished)

7. BMPS Communicated, Disseminated, and Promoted To Working Group Constituents (Status: Completed)

Five working group members failed to turn in any constituent feedback forms on issues.
We had a 23% return rate on constituent feedback forms on issues. Over 200 comments on issues and suggestions for BMPs only 2 suggested BMPs were not considered reasonable suggestions. Outreach was done in the winter of 2005.

8. Develop Comprehensive BMPs and Curriculum (Status: Accomplished)

BMPs have been written and published: NDSU Extension Publication A-1275 Suggested Best Management Practices for the Coexistence of Organic, Biotech, and Conventional Production Systems.

9. Identify Presenters: Schedule and Promote Workshop Site and Dates (Status: Accomplished)

Brad Brummond, grant coordinator, made presentations in February of 2005 to North Dakota conventional producers, biotech producers, consumers, industry and Extension. The presentation focused around the BMPs. The sites were Devils Lake, Scranton, Richardton, Regent and LaMoure.

10. Minimizing Contamination Risks (Status: Not Accomplished)

It is impossible to measure with the withdrawal of the group. I do no see a lot change in this. I do think that the BMPs would help if followed.

11. Participants from regulatory and state institutions agree to apply the BMPs in their institutions and departments. (Status: Completed. No passed BMPs lend themselves to this.)

12. Disseminate BMPs to end users (Status: accomplished)

BMPs have been disseminated to growers throughout the state of North Dakota through the outreach meetings conducted in Devils Lake, Scranton, Richardton, Regent and Lamoure, along with all presentations done prior to this.

13. Implementatation of BMPs To Insure Purity and Accessibility of Genetic Resource Base (Status: Completed. BMPs were passed that address segregation of genetic material and crops. NDSU Plant Science, Foundation Seedstock Project and State Seed Department have protocols and policies in place that address these BMPs.)

14. Implementation of BMPs To Insure Integrity and Marketability With the Food System

(Status: Partially completed. BMPs were passed that address tolerances and consumer concerns. The implementation has already been done at the University and State Seed Department as they have protocols and policies in place that address their BMPs.)

15. Continuation of Joint Problem Solving Through the Transgenic Working Group

(Status: It is impossible to complete due to the withdrawal of the 5 members from the original group. I intend to use the group members and former group members as a sounding board for future issues but there is no chance to bring the former group back together.)


Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Gary Goreham
  • Annie Kirschenmann
  • Theresa Podoll


Materials and methods:

The Coexistence Working Group was formed as the core group that would develop the Best Management Practices. The group was selected so that all major stakeholders in the process were at the table. Members were selected based on their position of leadership in the group they represented. Members of the group were selected by Brad Brummond, Luke Bozeman, Theresa Podoll and Duane Hauck. They were also chairs of the Coexistence Working Group sub committees and acted as a steering committee for the grant. Each person made suggestions of who they would like to seat on the coexistence working group. Brad Brummond, Grant Coordinator, made the final selections. There were two types of members in the Coexistence Working Group, voting and non-voting. The non voting members were Brad Brummond (Coordinator), Tom Hanson (Secretary), Gary Goreham (Facilitator) and it was decided that someone from the biotech seed industry should take part, this was Greg Wandrey from Pioneer.

Due to the contentious nature of this discussion it was decided to bring in a professional facilitator, Dr. Gary Goreham, to keep the meeting moving. The facilitator’s job was to keep the discussion on track, keep the discussion respectful and to make sure all voices were heard.

It was decided to have a non voting member take minutes of the discussion. This person was Tom Hanson, the Sustainable Ag Coordinator from North and South Dakota. We needed someone who was familiar with the coexistence issue but was viewed as neutral. His job was to keep minutes of the lengthy discussion and provide clarification during the meetings.

Brad Brummond, Grant Coordinator, was the leader of the effort and made decisions of process and settled disputes in consultation with the steering committee and facilitator. He was also the spokesperson for the group, the person who developed the outreach and also was one of the authors of the NDSU Extension Publication A-1275 along with the Coexistence Working Group.
There were several phases to the development of the Best Management Practices. The first stage was identifying the issues. The issues were identified and prioritized at the first meeting. The BMPs were to address the issues identified and be categorized under one of them. The second stage was gathering information and discussion.

The third stage was development of the Best Management Practices. Brad Brummond, Grant Coordinator, developed the template used for the BMPs. It was decided to have a title, rationale, majority opinion and minority opinion. The rationale explained the need, the majority opinion was the groups’ recommendation on what to do and the minority opinion allowed the dissenting group to express their views. It was later decided to publish only the BMPs that passed and to include the vote count on the BMP. Groups were divided into three sub-committees with the steering committee members chairing the groups. The groups were divided to keep the make up of the original group intact in the sub-committees.

The sub-committees were to recommend BMPs to the group for consideration. BMPs could also be presented for a vote by individual members. There was secure website for people to post their ideas for BMPs.

The fourth stage was voting. Each proposal was brought forward and voted on by the coexistence working group. Each voting member had the option of voting or having someone in on the discussion carry a proxy for that person. This right was exercised several times. In order for the ballots to be official they had to be signed by the voting member. The withdrawal of several group members during this process made it difficult to proceed. All development of new BMPs promptly ceased at his point. The remaining group decided to continue with the project and just edit and write up the BMPs as passed, which was done.

The fifth stage was the development of the BMPs for publication. Brad Brummond, in conjunction with a professional writer, put the BMPs in their final form. The NDSU Extension Service put the publication in its final form.

The sixth and final stage consisted of outreach. The outreach was done by Brad Brummond and was presented to the conventional agriculture meeting throughout North Dakota. Brad also gave two presentations at the National Association of County Agriculture Associations annual meeting in Buffalo, New York in July of 2005, 1 presentation at the Iowa State University Coexistence Workshop in November of 2004 and 1 presentation at the NC SARE Administrative Council meeting in March of 2005.

The project was then evaluated through surveys.

Research results and discussion:

Outreach Evaluations


* The reliability of the survey was high. It scored a Cronbach’s alpha of .859.
* Most of the respondents were conventional producers.
* Most respondents thought this was an important effort and worth doing.
* Most respondents felt our model could be duplicated somewhere else.
* Respondents felt we should have reported failed BMPs.
* Respondents felt that minority opinions were an important part of the BMPs.
* The respondents rated developing lines of communication as very important in this effort.
* Respondents felt that coexistence would be forwarded if the BMPs were followed.
* Respondents did think the effort had a chance of succeeding and was not doomed from the start.


The vast majority of the participants considered themselves conventional producers (72.7%). We also had 9.1% that considered themselves biotech producers. Industry represented 7.6%. The rest were so low that they really did not influence the results. Most of the respondents came from Western North Dakota where there are fewer biotech farmers. Two outreach meetings in Eastern North Dakota were poorly attended and this is where most of the biotech producers are.

Due to the difficulty in formatting the charts to this website the charts were not included. View the highlights for results. The highlights take out the numbers and give you what the responses were.

Research conclusions:

Best Management Practices (BMPs) have been published. Outreach has been done in the State of North Dakota and around the nation. There is a lot of interest in the BMPs by groups either conducting or considering a coexistence effort in their states. This project seems to be the base from where new efforts are starting, People are looking at this grant and seeing where we succeeded and where we could have done better. They are then developing their own ideas on how to continue. Hawaii is drawing off of our work. This is the greatest impact that the grant has had to this date.

Conventional and biotech producers seem to have largely lost interest in this now that the transgenic wheat has been withdrawn. This still remains an issue of concern in the identity preserved and organic communities. The organic producers for the most part feel that the BMPs did not address their needs as they did not get specific enough and they did not get enforceable BMPs. This is very evident in reading the minority reports and caused the withdrawal of these members from the group.

I do not feel that this issue has been resolved, nor has it gone away. The trend in agriculture is toward more specialized agricultural markets and away from commodities. This market model only works if we can guarantee the purity and consistency of the products we market. This grant was an important first step along the road of coexistence. I only regret that I was not able to hold the group together to use it as a think tank for how to handle future coexistence issues. We in North Dakota have started the process and look forward to future efforts in this area. I am more than willing to share the coexistence experience in North Dakota with others.

Economic Analysis

No economic analysis conducted for this grant.

Farmer Adoption

It is very hard to tell if any of the suggestions are being adopted. It would appear that with the withdrawal of transgenic wheat from the market there is decreased interest in the subject by conventional and biotech growers. It remains a hot issue for Identity Preserved and Organic Growers. There is more interest in identity preserved products and segregation to meet these markets.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Suggested Best Management Practices for the Coexistence of Organic, Biotech and Conventional Production Systems NDSU Extension Publication A-1275 has been published and distributed. The outreach was done in the winter of 2005. Presentations have also been made to NCR SARE Administrative council, Iowa State University and the National meeting of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.

Project Outcomes


Areas needing additional study

I would like to see other states try and develop a similar effort improve on what we tried to do in North Dakota. I think we need definitive studies on how far pollen can travel under ideal circumstances for the different crops. This was hotly debated in our discussions

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.