Traceability: A Key Building Block of a Seed Business Management Solution
By Mike Dorris
Traceability is being able to track a unit of seed in a specific seed lot from the invoice it was sold on all the way back to the field it was grown. It also means being able to identify specific seed lots and each production process that they were subjected to and what the outcomes of each process were.
In the early days, traceability meant keeping each variety separate to prevent mixing and cross-contamination of the seed lots. That is still extremely important. A corn hybrid variety meant to be grown in central Illinois will not perform as advertised if it is planted in central Minnesota. Likewise, spraying non-Round-up ready soybeans with Round-up will be a complete disaster. However, traceability took on a whole new level of importance when we read last year about unapproved GMO wheat being found in a field in Oregon. More recently, China has rejected U.S. corn imports because of traces of Viptera corn and the presence of MIR 162 trait in their purchased grain. And more unapproved wheat was found in a Montana field.
It is imperative that today’s seed company be able to trace and account for every lot of seed not only from the finished package back to the field it was produced in, but also be able to account for all of the screenings, floor sweepings and any broken bags along the way. Growers have told us that detailed documentation is required regarding GPS coordinates of grower fields, and buffer zones are measured down to the foot to try to prevent pollen transfers to neighboring fields. Also any GMO seed that may need to be destroyed must be documented.
Using a software package that provides complete traceability and can produce a data trail by seed lot from the contract grower’s field to the farmers’ unit of treated seed provides a comfort level that the necessary information is available at a moment’s notice. It’s even better if that data also includes notes and attached documents about screenings and discards. The modern seed company has nothing to hide, but the hindrance of not being able to provide traceability documentation in a timely manner certainly leads the public to make incorrect and unfriendly assumptions regarding the safety of production agriculture.