The Truth About GMOs
I had this post nearly completely finished, then stopped and realized it just wasn't me. And if you've read much of my blog and/or met me in person, you know this blog is ... all me. No one pays me to say this stuff. I don't sugar coat my life, including the struggles of being a working mama, I stand up for what I believe in and I'm passionate and proud to be a farmer and farmer's wife.
You'd know that I support free choice, especially when it comes to food. I have friends and family from all walks of life who choose to purchase organic foods and products and are members of CSAs (community supported agriculture). I would never bash someone's choice to purchase organic versus conventionally produced food. But if given the chance, I will be happy to educate those around me about the food that we produce on our farm and why.
You'd also know that I get frustrated at the over-use of unnecessary labels on food. Labels on food that honestly don't amount to squat other than to confuse food buyers into thinking it's somehow healthier or better for you. Do I occasionally get caught up in labels? Sure! But I do my best to stay educated on my food options and make selections based on sound science and principles as opposed to misrepresentation.
For instance, if you want a truly organic food product, it should have the USDA Certified Organic seal. If it just says organic, well who knows if it really is since it's not regulated organic and umm ... under the USDA Certified Organic program, they have strict strict regulatory standards. How about natural? Or antibiotic-free? Cage-free? Or better yet, hormone-free? Free of high fructose corn syrup? Or two of my favorites rBST-free milk and gestation stall free pork?
Well I could have individual posts on each and every one of those labels and probably many many more, but today, I want to chat a little bit about GMOs or genetically-modified organism especially with all the recent buzz about labeling foods that are GMO.
Geez, it's sounds so scientific and unnatural. Why wouldn't you be a little cautious? Why wouldn't you want to know what the heck that means? I honestly think it's great to question the origin of your food, how it was produced and where. But on the other hand, it's easy to be misinformed especially about GMOs since there are plenty of groups spewing untruths and shoddy science getting attention from the media that are against biotechnology, conventionally-produced foods and many even bashing modern farming practices in general.
As a farmer, farm wife and mom, I want to take just a couple minutes to give you my perspective. And please know, if I believed GMO foods were harmful in any way, I sure as heck wouldn't raise them or feed them to my family.
By definition, GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Organisms that have been genetically modified include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, plants, fish and mammals. GMOs are the source of genetically-modified foods.
One of the first and most illustrating examples of a GMO crop is golden rice. Golden rice was created to fight a vitamin A deficiency, which affects 250 million people around the world, causing blindness and even death, mostly in small children. Rice is one of the most common foods, globally, with half of the world's population surviving on just a single daily bowl of rice a day. And since getting vitamin supplements distributed around the world would be nearly impossible, scientists engineered a grain of rice that already had vitamin A in it and so golden rice was born, saving millions of lives around the world.
If you'd ask me, I'd tell you that GMO crops are beneficial to world sustainability and health in many ways beyond just the golden rice example.
For instance, we can produce more with less, using fewer resources, including less herbicides and pesticides and reduce our overall carbon footprint within the agriculture industry.
In a day and age when residential areas are pushing out into farm country, we have fewer acres to produce food with, but more people to feed. In fact, it's been said that by 2050, we'll have a 2 billion increase in world population (current world population is 7 billion).
With GMO or biotech crops, we can increase our yields grown on the same or even less acreage (granted we don't have another drought!).
We can reduce crop damage from gnarly weeds, diseases and insects, which means herbicide applications are more precise and only used when/where needed.
We can even potentially improve nutritional value of foods or provide other health benefits (ie. golden rice!). We can reduce the use of fossil fuels with fewer trips across the field.
We can also improve water quality with the more precise use of chemicals (only used when/where needed).
Many folks question the safety of biotech/GMO foods, which like I mentioned earlier is a good thing! But the truth is that biotech seeds/plants undergo more safety testing than ANY OTHER agriculture product, including organic crops.
With continued research and development, biotech or GMO seeds will continue to produce better yields, improve nutritional benefits of certain crops, use less water, and allow for the increasingly precise use of fertilizers and pesticides.
I certainly wouldn't raise GMO crops if I thought they were harming the Earth in any way. I heard somewhere that "We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children." I agree completely, I want to be able to care for the land so that it continues to provide for the next generation. Period.
Continued research is always necessary so that we can improve the genetics of our crops and livestock, production practices and regulatory standards. I don't oppose research or regulation, but I sure do oppose mistruths or false portrayl of the extremely beneficial nature of biotech crops.
Moving forward, farmers need to be more sustainable and produce better, more nutritionally-beneficial crops and that's exactly what we intend to do, but with a background in sound science, always.