Indiana-based company provides farmers with high-yielding non-GMO corn seed choices
Scott Odle is probably as far from being an anti-GMO activist as anyone could be. He has spent his life in conventional farming, growing up on an Indiana farm, studying agricultural economics at Purdue University, working for Cargill, and then returning to his family farm. A self-described conservative, Odle has doubts that genetically modified foods are harmful. Yet, Odle and his Indiana-based company, Spectrum Seed, are supporting the growing non-GMO food movement and have built a successful business, developing and selling non-GMO corn seed.
How did Odle’s journey lead him to the non-GMO world? A combination of factors including concerns about control over seed by a few large corporations, better economics and yields of non-GMO production, and the need to make agriculture more sustainable.
Not too many years ago, Odle admits he was “aggressive” on using genetically modified corn traits on his Indiana farm. But over time he started questioning the value of GM seed, and realized non-GMO was performing better. “I was gaining seven to ten more bushels per acre with non-GMO,” he says.
“We wanted to be simple”
Five years ago, Odle connected with Scott Johnson, a plant breeder who had worked for biotech giant BASF. “Scott found there were a lot of good non-GMO products out there,” Odle says.
Odle, Johnson, and several other colleagues then launched Spectrum Seed.
“I thought as producers we needed more choice. The price increases (for GM seed) were huge. It scared me how much I was spending on seed,” Odle says.
The aim was to create a company that would focus on developing and selling quality non-GMO corn seed and treat its customers well.
“Our mantra was that we wanted to be simple. We don’t require a refuge in a bag (as GM seed companies do), there are no rules, and none of our corn has been rejected in China,” Odle says, referring to China’s rejection of Syngenta’s unapproved AgriSure GM corn.
Spectrum is succeeding. “We are going into our fifth selling season, and our sales have almost doubled every year,” Odle says.
This year Spectrum offers 20 different non-GMO corn hybrids with maturity dates ranging from 82 to 116 days. They sell seed in 38 states.
Field trials show non-GMO outperforms GMO
This past year Spectrum conducted field trials of its non-GMO corn hybrids, comparing them with GM corn varieties in different regions in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio. The results showed that Spectrum’s hybrids produced yields that were as good as, or in some cases, better than GM varieties from Pioneer Hi-Bred, DeKalb, and other seed companies. For example in east central Iowa, Spectrum’s 6104 corn variety produced 181 bushels per acre compared to 178 bushels per acre for a Pioneer variety.
“We can produce yield without having (GMO) traits,” Odle says.
To ensure the non-GMO status of its seed, Spectrum receives third-party certification through the Identity Preservation program offered by the Indiana Crop Improvement Association. The program requires a threshold of less than 1.0% adventitious GM material or 99.0% purity for non-GMO corn. Spectrum’s hybrids have been tested to 0.2% and 0.1% adventitious GM material.
- See more at:Spectrum Seed helps farmers see advantages of going non-GMO | The Organic & Non-GMO Report
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