Fueled by rumors from competitors that some companies wouldn't mix the two hybrids accurately when they offer their new –refuge-in-a-bag products, I ventured to the Pioneer Production plant near St. Joseph Illinois recently to watch the process in action. The idea is to plant the refuge in the same bag as the GMO corn, so that you don't have to worry about planting a separate refuge area for that insect.
Ushered into the plant, Josh St. Peters, corn manager for Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. Let me see for myself. Initially, the primary traited hybrid comes down from a holding tank. The refuge hybrid without that trait is in a much smaller holding tank. The entire process is controlled by computers and is very accurate.
The correct proportion of each seed is metered out. In this case, a 10% refuge is required, so 10% of the seeds must be from a refuge hybrid. When possible, it's genetically the same as the traited hybrid, except that it doesn't have the trait. If that's not possible to have a genetic equivalent. a very similar hybrid with certain characteristics is selected as the refuge hybrid,.
The seeds drop into large cups operating as a conveyor belt. The refuge does drop on top of the traited seed. However, by the time those cups dump onto a conveyor belt and the seed finds its way into the bagging hopper, it is thoroughly missed. Seeing is believing. The plant manager pulled a bag off the production line, not one bagged just because I was there, and we checked, Handfuls of the seed showed purple kernels to be fairly evenly spaced amongst the pink kernels.
Some seed treatments cause kernels to be different colors In this case Pioneer as a company always makes sure the GMO-traited hybrid is pink, and the refuge hybrid added is pink. That way growers know immediately that the two seeds are well mixed.The plant I visited can also fill pro boxes. It takes about five minutes to adjust from the bagging line- to being ready to fill a Probox. As the seed flows into the Pro-box, it's even clear that there is good mixing between the pink colors and the purple colors of the refuge hybrid that has been added. The mixing is in the correct 90 to 10%- proportion.