Monday, October 6, 2014

Why we choose to raise GMOs

I will admit that I have stayed away from this topic since I started my blog because I feel like there are a lot of people that cannot have a civil discussion on this, but after having a friendly and open conversation about this over the weekend with the #FranklinCoHarvest blogger tour participants I've decided to open up a bit myself and share why we choose to raise GMO crops on our farm.  After this weekend I saw that there is some unfamiliarity with GMOs and that is what I hope to cover in today's post.

31 days from a Tractor Seat - Why we choose to raise GMOs
First off, let's describe what is a GMO.  A GMO (genetically modified organism) is an organism where the genetic material, aka DNA, has been changed from what occurs naturally.  Farmers and gardeners have been modifying plants for years by creating hybrids by selecting specific traits that they are looking for in a plant - such as manually pollinating two tomato plants together to create one tomato plant that produced both large and meaty tomatoes, or with apples - combining a sweet apple with a good baking apple, or by merging two corn plants so the corn has a strong stalk so it'll be more durable in weather and that creates a large ear of corn.  Biotechnology, that is used to do this in GMOs, is a more technologically advanced method of selecting traits.  As a farmer GMOs benefit my corn and soybean productivity and efficiency.

How do GMOs benefit corn and soybean productivity and efficiency?  First, GMO corn and soybean plants commonly have traits that help combat disease or insects, which helps us to use a minimal amount of pesticides (used to kill insects, similar to how you might use a mosquito repellent or a fly spray in the summer time) on our crops.  Besides using less pesticides, GMOs are a more efficient plant that use less land and water, due to traits in the plant that help with drought or root growth.  One of the largest benefits of GMOs is that herbicide-tolerant (aka weed killer resistant) crops allow us to control weeds better, which ultimately allows our crops to grow better and thrive.  And in the end, GMOs have higher yields because the traits it has been bred for have helped eliminate all of these yield-hampering issues.

Here I am eating GMO sweet corn at this year's
Farm Progress Show
Are GMOs safe to eat?  GMOs aren't only safe for you to eat, but a lot of times they are the more affordable food choice.  Many regulatory agencies and organizations such as the US Food & Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the USDA have all studied GMOs and have found that they are safe to eat and have no negative health effects.  In fact the average amount of time that the FDA and the EPA study each new GMO is 14 years to make sure it has no health risks before it gets to go to the marketplace.  If you are interested in seeing what some of these, and many more agencies and organization from around the world, have to say about GMOs check out this graph.

Did you know, that GMOs make up approximately 70-80% of the foods we eat?  Many common food and beverage ingredients, such as corn, soybeans and sugar beets, are commonly GMOs.  So if you look at the food label on the next food you eat, you most commonly will find at least one of these three ingredients listed.

Do you have any questions on GMOs?  I'd love to answer your questions.  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

31 days from a Tractor Seat series

(This post is a part of a 31 Days from a Tractor Seat series.  The best way to keep up with this series is to follow via email on the right sidebar of this post and by liking the Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids Facebook page.)

19 comments:

  1. Great info here and I will be linking to this post when I write some of mine!!! Thanks!!!

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  2. I agree, this is a lot of good info and you make it very easy to understand. Honestly I still don't know what side I fall in. I do feel like I can make a more educated decision though and really I think everyone should have both sides' info before they do make a decision.

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    1. I'm glad I could provide you some information as to why GMOs are a benefit for our farmers and our environment. Thank you for taking the time and curiosity to check out all aspects Donna.

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  3. A great post from a North Iowa farm family. Thank you for working hard to help put food on our tables.

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    1. Thanks Sara and it is what we love to do.

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  4. I'm sorry but it is flat out misleading and borderline negligent to try and compare selective plant breeding and hybridization within a single plant family to the transgenic modification of crops such as BT Corn. You don't even bother mentioning that transgenic GMOs are NOT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE IN NATURE and can only occur through human intervention. A single celled bacteria does not just up and miraculously mate with a corn plant one day.

    Also taking a myopic view of the consumption of GMOs at the "well if you just eat one" is bogus. There is a terrible industrial mess behind GMOs. You may state you use less chemicals but that is misleading as the industry ramps up significantly on chemical use in conjunction with GMOs and the next wave of GMOs solely designed for more damaging chemicals prepares to enter the field.

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  5. Broccoli is a GMO food, none found in nature. With the problems of the world, a little GMO food is kind of small potatoes. I think Anonymous needs to get off their soapbox and live in the real world. Be safe in the field, snuggle your babies.

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    1. Papayas are another food that is a GMO. Thanks for your comment Dee.

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    2. Not a single gene was modified to create Broccoli. It is ignorant to equate selective plant breeding with transgenic modification. In selective plant breeding there is a selection of parent plants that are naturally able to cross. In transgenic modification two entities are being crossed that could never cross without human intervention.

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    3. Both hybridization and biotechnology involve trait selection. Biotechnology is just a more specific, scientific and accurate way to doing so.

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  6. I wonder if "Anonymous," read the post or immediately hit "comment," as his/her statements don't really apply to this post. I find that the GMO debate is being waged largely by people who do not farm, don't know anything about farming, and want to sit in judgment of those who are keeping our country and the world fed. It's easy to fuss about something you don't understand with a full belly. If people really understood this issue... well, it wouldn't BE an issue.

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    1. Thanks RaeRae. I didn't even touch on how GMO crops are helping with world hunger by providing foods that can survive in their poor soils or drought conditions for example.

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  7. Val thank you for being courageous and addressing this topic; the controversy truly is rooted in ideologies, not facts/science... GMOs are proven to be safe, and will continue to be beneficial to the growing world population. Agriculture needs agvocates like you!

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    1. Thank you so much Krystal. I know there are some people that will never be comfortable with GMOs and I accept that - I just ask for the same acceptance of my reasons as to why I choose to raise them.

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  8. I really enjoyed reading your blog on this topic. I often cover this topic with my Biology students and would love for them to read this blog or even possibly discuss it with you to learn more about the reasons behind farmers choose to grow GMO's.

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    1. That'd be great. Keep in touch Audrey!

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  9. Val, transparency is important when presenting and explaining information. Your statement: "A GMO (genetically modified organism) is an organism where the genetic material, aka DNA, has been changed from what occurs naturally.", though true, obscures the reality of how the term is currently used. GMO is currently used to describe transgenic organisms, those into which DNA from another species has been introduced. It is unfortunate that the term GMO has come into this common usage, as transgenic is a much more descriptive term. When I read description as yours above, I fear that the writer is trying to confuse the issue rather that add clarity.

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    1. I was trying to make it as simple as possible. Thank you for commenting Ma Smith.

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