Okay, it’s technically a three letter acronym in the plural form but I was grasping for a catchy title.
As a mom, I want to make sure I’m giving my girls the best start possible and doing that includes providing a healthy diet. Aside from the occasional bribe of fruit snacks for finishing their dinner or being quiet in church, I want to make sure they have three balanced meals that are safe and nutritious for their growing little bodies. In my household, these safe, nutritious meals include GMOs.
When you hear the term, “GMO,” what is your gut reaction? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it may not be a positive one. But why is this? Because some Hollywood celebrities that have never stepped foot on a farm said they were bad? Because so many labels in the grocery store now say, “Non-GMO” and that must mean that GMOs are bad, right? Science continues to prove over and over again that GMO foods are safe for us to consume. Yet, there is still a lot of concern and fear surrounding them.
What exactly are GMOs? A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is the product of a precise plant breeding technique that uses a trait found in nature and transfers it to another plant. There are nine GMO crops available: corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, potatoes and squash. GMO apples are currently being developed as well. Farmers have been using selective breeding of crops for thousands of years. And they have actually been growing GMOs for decades. GMOs have been painted as a product of an unnatural process. However, gene transfer actually occurs in nature without human intervention. Take the sweet potato for example. It is one of the best known GMOs and it was created thousands of years ago by the one and only, Mother Nature.
GMOs were first commercially sold in 1994. At this time and in the years to follow, an increasingly smaller portion of the population was farming. This means fewer and fewer people were and are involved in the production of food. This has led to disconnection and ultimately a real fear of how food is being produced, with GMOs being one of the most controversial topics of all. Today, farmers and ranchers in the United States make up 2% of the population. That leaves 98% of people who are not directly involved in the food production process and who have a lot of questions about the practices and technologies farmers use to raise food out here in “fly over” country.
On our farm right now, we are in the process of planting this year’s crop, which for us, includes planting field corn and soybeans that are genetically modified. The GMO field corn we grow contains genetic traits to help protect against insect pressure as well as provide herbicide and drought tolerance. We also grow GMO soybeans which contain genetic traits to help with insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. We find many benefits to growing GMO seed on our farm including the ability to better manage the amount of pesticides we need to protect our crops from harmful insects, more effective weed management using less herbicides and a reduction in tillage practices ultimately helping us protect our vital resources – soil and water.
This kernel of GMO field corn is from the first field we planted on April 21. Despite the challenging conditions we have been facing, this seedling is off to a decent start with the radicle root shooting off the bottom and the mesocotyl shooting up the top.
Growing crops involves a lot of risk. Risk of insect infestations, risk of drought, risk of disease breakouts and more. Plant breeding and the use of GMO technology helps to mitigate some of these risks. It’s one piece of the puzzle we use to grow food that is safe, sustainable and provides energy in so many ways whether it’s fuel for our bodies, fuel for our animals’ bodies or fuel for our cars.
I am pro GMOs and have complete confidence in the safety and nutritional value of the food I feed to my family. But that doesn’t mean I am anti non-GMO or organic food. Organic food provides a safe nutritious option for consumers as well. It’s a tall task to feed the world and it takes farmers of all types to get the job done. Ultimately, consumers’ demand is what drives the food we produce. We are extremely lucky to live in a country where we have so many safe, healthy choices. Whether you prefer certified organic or GMO foods, you are able to provide your family with wholesome, sustainable food products that you can feel good about.
Here’s the bottom line: being concerned and questioning the food we put in our bodies is a healthy thing to do. It’s our job as farmers to provide a safe, sustainable product to feed your family. It’s imperative to our livelihoods that we do so.
For more information on GMOs, check out these great resources: GMOAnswers and FindOurCommonGround