Tuesday, September 22, 2015

GMO - Genetically modified organisms

I got a handout from the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan all about GMOs.  It made me want to give one to everyone as Kris is out chopping our GMO corn right now.  Let me summarize from it so you, too, can discuss in the grocery store aisles!

What are GMOs?

Genetically modified organisms.  Translated - genes are changed.  Scientists intentionally make a copy of a gene for a desired trait in one plant and use it in another plant.

Selective breeding has been used since the beginning of time to produce crops with better taste, yield, and disease resistance.  GMOs speed up the process - instead of going through generations and generations of plants, you can use the genes right away.

Which crops are genetically modified?

(There are only eight!  How many of the eight can you name before scrolling down?)

Sugar beets

The USDA has approved others, but they're still in the process of being approved for sale.

Why would anyone want to grow GMOs?

One, they're better for the environment,

With better crops, farmers can reduce pesticide use, plow less often, and use fewer natural resources.

Two, they keep costs down for everyone.

When there's a drought, GMO plants still have a good chance of growing due to their hardy traits. That means food is still available to everyone, even though there was a dry year.  A year of no crops would be devastating to a farmer and bad for the consumer.  When crops are assured, we can still provide and we can all still consume.

Three, they present no health risks.

Farmers have been growing GM crops since 1994, and "there has not been a single documented instance of harm to human health resulting from genetic modifications, including allergic reactions, cancers, infertility, ADHD, or any other diseases." (CMPM, Real Talk About GMOs)

Who grows GMOs?

Answer in the brochure:  18 million farmers in 28 countries.  You may have heard that some countries ban GMO plants.  That's true.  But millions of people embrace the technology:

Canada, US, Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, S Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Spain, Portugal, Slovakia, Romania, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Phillipines, Australia, Argentina, and Czech Republic

What else?

Today's GMOs are "the most researched and tested agricultural products in history."  In fact, "GMO crops are compositionally and nutritionally the same as their conventional counterparts." (CMPM, Real Talk About GMOs)

GMOs are bred to resist chemicals and/or insects.  They do not internally contain pesticides and herbicides.

I wasn't able to find the brochure online, but this is the information in it.  I like it because it's succinct and straightforward.

Of course, none of this matters if consumers decide they don't want GMOs.  What consumers want, consumers get.  So if we're all educated on the matter, then we're all able to make better decisions.

As a farmer, why am I pro-GMO?  All the reasons that I just cited.  When a new iPhone comes out, people are waiting in line overnight.  Technology is embraced.  When scientists are able to streamline the genetic modification process to allow farmers to grow drought-resistant, chemical-resistant, and bug-resistant crops, people are worried.  Technology is not embraced.

Since I'm involved in agriculture and know a lot of farmers, my social media feed is full of articles about GMOs.  Take the time to do your own research ... and try to be more informed.  Take note of the woman who answers, "What's a GMO?" with: "I don't know.  I know it's like some corn, bad stuff, right?  I know it's bad, but to be completely honest with you, I have no idea."  When you have all of the information, you can make an informed decision for yourself.  Then when Jimmy Kimmel comes along, you'll be ready!

Thank you to the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan for their great brochure and educational efforts.  You can follow them on Facebook.

Meanwhile, back on the farm ... we're still chopping corn!  It's such a fantastic yield this year.  All the farmers are in the fields chopping.  Our milk co-op had an advisory board meeting today and I'm wondering who could have possibly made it!  When the corn's ready, it's ready.  We're still having newborn calves, today's the last day of summer, and the milk prices aren't budging.  Let's hope for a wonderful, dairy-loving fall!

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please email carla.wardin@gmail.com!


Memee71 said...

THis is what should be given to those "poor" countries to help feed their own people. If they get hungry enough they will learn how to feed themselves.

Terri Camburn said...

Actually it is what they are doing for poor countries. In rich countries if a crop fails, food costs more and people complain. In poor countries when crops fails, people die.