Perspectives On...

The GMO Disconnect

You don’t have to buy into GMOs,
but you shouldn’t fear them, either.

Of all the food questions we face, genetically modified organisms – or GMOs as most know them – tend to be the most confusing … and controversial. At its worst, the technology is thought to be unnatural, something created in a lab. At its best, it’s an innovation that revolutionized the way farmers grow crops.

So let’s talk about what GMOs mean for our food and what they mean to our farmers. There’s a lot more you might want to know.

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    "I’m an Illinois farmer answering questions about GMOs."

    Katie Pratt

    Farmer
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    "As a registered dietitian mom who shares your concerns, I’d..."

    Jodie Shield

    Expert
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    "It's cool and hip to be non-GMO, but why?"

    Amy Wagliardo

    Mom
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GMO 101: The View from Our Farm

Questions are being asked about GMOs and their safety, so I’m answering some of the questions I get as an Illinois farmer.

What are GMOs, and why do we plant them on our farm?

Some would argue gene modification has been happening for centuries, resulting in seedless watermelons, seedless grapes and chocolate cherry tomatoes. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants that contain a single gene from another organism so that the plant can do something it couldn’t before.

List of GMO Crops Today

  1. Corn
  2. Soybeans
  3. Cotton
  4. Canola
  5. Alfalfa (for animal feed)
  6. Sugar beets
  7. Rainbow papaya
  8. Ranger Russet and Atlantic potatoes
  9. Arctic Apples
  10. Select varieties of squash

If you’ve got a garden in your backyard, you probably know how easy it is for pests to damage your fruits or vegetables. It’s the same with our farm. Prior to using a genetically modified seed, one insect, the European corn borer, caused serious losses for corn farmers. Plant scientists found a naturally occurring soil bacterium (Bt -bacillus thuringiensis) that is toxic to the corn borer, selected the gene and inserted it into corn DNA. Now, instead of spraying the crop with a chemical multiple times, the plants fight the bug themselves. Organic corn farmers who don’t use GMO seeds can also have problems with the corn borer. They can use an approved Bt insecticide on their farms. The same result is achieved, but using different farming methods.

Another crop we grow is soybeans. You may have heard of Round-up Ready soybeans. They are soybean plants that can tolerate being sprayed with Round-up, a chemical meant to kill weeds. But why would plant scientists make such a thing? To use fewer chemicals. On our farm, we’ve reduced our application of herbicides (chemicals that control weeds) by half. Fewer chemicals being applied means less traffic in the fields, less fuel, less soil erosion . . . all beneficial for our farm.

We also plant non-genetically modified corn and soybean seeds. Planting a variety of hybrids and using a variety of farming methods like tilling the soil in different ways, crop rotation, weather analysis and weed control by simply mowing grass on the outer edge of a field can help control the number of pests. Pests, including insects, weeds and disease, have been evolving for years. With or without genetically modified seeds and pesticides, they will continue to evolve. So farmers must ready their tool belt, and genetically modified seeds are one of many tools we’re using today.

Are we told what to plant by “BIG AG”? Are GMOs safe? To find out how Katie answers these questions read her full blog here.

"I’m an Illinois farmer answering questions about GMOs."

Andy and Katie's Perspectives & Posts

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Farm Lesson: Sometimes the crop will fail.

Each year the kids learn something new with their popcorn patch. This year, the lesson involves the risk of farming. All farmers experience it.

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GMO 101: The View From Our Farm

GMO 101: The View From Our Farm

More and more questions are being asked about GMOs and their safety. Today, I’m answering some of the questions I get as an Illinois farmer.

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Hibernating Fields

Hibernating Fields

What about the fields that seem to sit empty doing nothing but hibernating in the cold air? Winter, snow, and cold temperatures are important to grain farmers. Winter literally allows the soil to rest.

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Illinois Farmer Q&A: How do you feel when you see misleading food labels at the grocery store?

Illinois Farmer Q&A: How do you feel when you see misleading food labels at the grocery store?

You have questions about farm practices and food labels, and Illinois farmers have those answers. We asked local farmers your questions about various labels so you can get your answers straight from the source.

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Illinois Farmer Q&A: How has biotechnology changed your farm?

Illinois Farmer Q&A: How has biotechnology changed your farm?

We asked local farmers your questions about GMOs so you can get your answers straight from the source. Let's talk about what's on your table.

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Illinois Farmer Q&A: How is your farm different from your grandparent's? How is it the same?

Illinois Farmer Q&A: How is your farm different from your grandparent's? How is it the same?

You have questions about how the environment is cared for on farms, and Illinois farmers have those answers. We asked local farmers your questions about environmental stewardship so you can get your answers straight from the source. Let's talk about what's on your table.

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Illinois Farmer Q&A: What food labels do you think are the most misleading?

Illinois Farmer Q&A: What food labels do you think are the most misleading?

You have questions about farm practices and food labels, and Illinois farmers have those answers. We asked local farmers your questions about various labels so you can get your answers straight from the source. Let's talk about what's on your table.

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Illinois Farmer Q&A: What food labels do you think hold the most significance?

Illinois Farmer Q&A: What food labels do you think hold the most significance?

You have questions about farm practices and food labels, and Illinois farmers have those answers. We asked local farmers your questions about various labels so you can get your answers straight from the source.

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Is News Media Making Your Food Choices For You?

Is News Media Making Your Food Choices For You?

Sandwiched between news from Syria and the latest from the presidential campaign was a short segment about restaurant chains and their commitment to reducing and or eliminating meat from farms that may use antibiotics... Honestly, this isn’t another pity-party, angry rant, woe-is-agriculture, no-one-likes-farmers post. This is about the lost art of critical thinking and reading.

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Some say GMOs are safe, some say GMOs are unsafe. Who should I believe?

Food brings out the emotional eater in all of us, especially when it comes to the topic of genetically modified foods (aka GMOs). As parents, we want to feed our families healthy foods, but does healthy mean GMO-free? With all of the conflicting headlines, healthy has become so confusing and quite frankly, downright scary. As a registered dietitian mom who shares your concerns, I’d like to help you become more than a headline reader. Rather than rely on the Food Babe or the food industry, here is where I go to get the facts about GMOs – both pros and cons - from reliable sources. I encourage you to check them out so that you can get the full story and make the right call for feeding your family. 

GMO SAFETY

National Academy Report. According to this recently published report, genetically engineered foods appear to be safe to eat and do not pose health risks. A committee of 20 independent scientists examined more than 1,000 studies spanning the twenty year period since GMO crops were introduced and found:

“No substantial evidence of a difference in risk to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GMO) crops and conventionally bred crops.”

While continued GMO safety research is essential, national health experts, such as Connie Diekman, Former Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President, are hopeful that using the technique of genetically engineered foods will have the potential to help meet the needs of feeding a growing worldwide population.

GMO EDUCATION

GMO Answers. What do seedless watermelons, honeycrisp apples and grapefruits have in common? They’re all hybrids, meaning they were crossbred with other plants, a technique that’s been going on for centuries. Genetically engineered foods speed up this natural process using biotechnology to make it happen. Currently there are only ten GMO crops available in the U.S. today. If you’re confused or skeptical about GMOs, the biotech industry created this website to do a better job of answering any and all types of consumer questions. Independent experts such as researchers, nutritionists and farmers provide all of the answers to questions generated by people like you. The goal of GMO Answers is to have an honest conversation with everyone who cares about how our food is grown. You’ll also find several resources written in consumer language to help you better understand the science and issues about GMOs.

BOTTOM LINE

When it comes to feeding your family healthy foods, you’re in charge. So when it comes to GMOs, whether you’re reading a food label or blog post, rather than be scared, be informed and prepared.

Jodie Shield Expert

"As a registered dietitian mom who shares your concerns, I’d like to help you become more than a headline reader. "

Jodie's Perspectives & Posts

Lessons in Food Labeling

Lessons in Food Labeling

Start with a commitment to cook and shop with a recipe that fits your family’s health goals and taste qualifications. Then, look at the labels.

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Some Say GMOs Are Safe, Some Say GMOs Are Unsafe – Who Should I Believe?

Some Say GMOs Are Safe, Some Say GMOs Are Unsafe – Who Should I Believe?

As a registered dietitian mom who shares your concerns, I’d like to help you become more than a headline reader. Rather than rely on the Food Babe or the food industry, here is where I go to get the facts about GMOs – both pros and cons - from reliable sources.

Read more >>

GMOs and Information Snake Oil

I visited my local grocery store last weekend and was greeted by two ruddy-faced college-age young men handing out samples of a new brand of tomato. The one on the right proudly announced the tomatoes were organic and non-GMO. 

I replied, "That's right, they are non-GMO because there is no tomato that exists that IS GMO."

He replied, "I know some of the tomatoes down at the (other local grocery store) are definitely GMO."

I replied, "No, sorry, there are only 10 crops that have commercially available GMO seeds, and tomato isn't one of them. You can look it up! It's true!"

The one on the left then said, "Huh, interesting."

I took a sample of the tasty tomato and bid them a good day to finish my grocery trip.

This interaction is indicative of a lot of the information on the Internet about our food - GMO, organic, gluten free, hormone free, antibiotic free - you name it - there are people selling "information snake oil" all over the place. And if it isn't snake oil, it's targeted packaged marketing. There are people like me who wish to be informed consumers who are misled, misguided and misinformed. And, we are TRYING to be informed! It's so confusing to be a consumer today! Or, in the case of my young gentlemen friends with the tomatoes, they haven't even bothered to inform themselves. It's cool and hip to be non-GMO these days, isn't it? But why? I, for one, don't get the backlash, especially after gaining even more knowledge from the source - a biotech research company.

GMO crops have been tested by national and international bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and the European Academies Science Advisory Council. None of these bodies (and countless others) has ever found one ounce of data to support there is any reason to not eat a GMO food. But the marketers know if they slap a non-GMO label on something, people will buy it. It adds to consumer confusion, and the marketers don't care - as long as you're buying what they are selling. What are verifiable outcomes of GMO farming are things like resilience for changing climates with things like drought tolerant corn, creating more food on less soil to feed an ever-growing population and providing nourishing food in developing countries.

I've become passionate about not falling for food marketing, encouraging people to do their own research and check their sources and keep an open mind. I hope I can share my knowledge with other Moms for the greater good of our farmers and our families. 

"It's cool and hip to be non-GMO, but why?"

Amy's Perspectives & Posts

Busting Myths on the Farm

Busting Myths on the Farm

MYTH: "Organic" means "pesticide free." FACT: "Organic" is a term that is regulated by the USDA and FDA.

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