The two major party candidates for State Agriculture Secretary differ on the proper approach to organic farming.

Republican Bill Northey is a corn and soybean farmer, while Democrat Denise O’Brien and her husband raise poultry and grow apples and strawberries using organic farming practices. “It’s the most successful part and profitable part of agriculture and we should be able to give people the opportunity to raise those crops,” O’Brien says. “We live in the Midwest where we have a regional food system that we can supply large amounts of fruits and vegetables to a market that there’s a demand for. We are not meeting currently in this country the demand for organic products, of fruits and vegetables and of milk.”

O’Brien says government regulations should require buffer strips between a field where genetically-modified seeds have been planted and an organic farmer’s field so the pollen from those GMO plants doesn’t “contaminate” the organic crop.

Northey opposes government restrictions on where those genetically-modified seeds can be planted. “I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a neighboring farmer to an organic farmer to not plant biotech crops if they want to. These are crops that have been tested nationally, millions of dollars have been spent on (testing). They’re safe,” Northey says. “The contamination is just a market question (and has) nothing to do with safety.”

An “organic food” designation is denied crops grown near fields where pollen that might drift over from plants that sprouted out of genetically-modified seeds. The two candidates made their comments Friday during an appearance on Iowa Public Television.