Next on the agenda for keeping our choices GMO-free is the development of organic cotton plants that have distinctive leaves so they can be distinguished from GMO plants. Ninety-nine percent of the cotton grown in Texas is GMO and the organic cotton farmers are trying to stay alive in the sea of pesticides.
Cotton is self-pollinating but also can be insect pollinated. Unfortunately this can raise havoc on the bee population if the flower is sprayed because of the GMO resistant seeds ability to withstand the pesticides. There are few seed choices for cotton farmers with only 4 varieties out of 84 that were non-GMO.
In order to combat this Jane Dever, cotton breeder at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Seed Matters are developing solutions to address this threat. Their goal is to breed organic cotton plants with a different leaf shape than GM plants. One such leaf from a specific cotton variety looks like that from the Okra plant as differentiated from conventional GM crops which are fuller leaves. If successful farmers could remove plants that have the normal leaf and visibly keep the ones with the “okra” leaf. They hope these will be available by 2020 and also to have better organic seed varieties available by then as well.
If this works we may see the crossover into other crops that have been inundated with GMO seeds such as cottonseed which is used as feed for dairy cows. This would really put us on a path that gives consumers more of a choice to go non-GMO.