How Do I Know It’s Safe?… a Discussion on GMOs

In Activism, Biotechnology, Food, Guest Blogger, Social Media, State Groups by Cathryn

Today, guest blogger Dawn Caldwell shares a post on her experience as a farmer and a CommonGround volunteer responding to questions about biotechnology and agriculture.

September 19, 2011 by Lady Of Ag

Of all the things I am; a wife, an employee, church council member, lawn mower, bill payer, grocery getter, cook, friend, aunt, daughter, granddaughter, niece, you get the idea…I feel that one of the most, if not the most important title I hold is that of Mom.  Oh believe me, there are definitely days I wonder why God ever entrusted me with two spawn (as they humorously call themselves)!  None-the-less, I take my opportunity to be a Mom VERY seriously (with as much humor built in as possible)! Like any mother of teenage “spawn”, I face all of the fun situations (never wanting to pay for their own gas), challenges (two broken cell phones at one time), celebrations (major part in the one-act play & great grades), and heartbreaks (oh the hard choices that have to be made…especially for teenage girls!).  And like every other mom, especially moms of athletes, nutrition and food safety come to mind all the time; especially when I’m buying ANOTHER $100 in groceries for the week.  Teenage spawn eat a LOT!

Big Eater (Spawn #1)

The Other Big Eater (Spawn #2) and his Dad don't like facing the camera.

Since becoming a CommonGround volunteer, one of the most common questions I get is about the safety of food derived directly or indirectly from GMO grains.  After a lengthy conversation with a fellow ag enthusiast recently at Husker Nation (for all of you non-Huskers reading this, that’s the entire area surrounding and including Memorial Stadium in Lincoln where we Huskers like to gather by the droves), I decided I just need to get the info in writing and hope that many, many people read and share what I am about to divulge.

I have to admit, it has been quite some time since I was in a science class daily.  So, I had to do some digging and reading to be able to verify what I thought was right and make sure that what I share isn’t just me trusting all that is out there to be used in the wide world of technology.

Let’s begin with what GMO stands for:  it is not “Get More Oreo’s”, though this afternoon, I wish someone would – cookies and milk sound really good right now!  GMO really stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  Do not let that scare you!  For perspective, the organism is only the seed, in fact, just a small part of the seed.  Now, as for the genetically modified part… When a gene from one organism is purposely moved to improve or change another organism in a laboratory, the result is a genetically modified organism (GMO). It is also sometimes called “transgenic” for transfer of genes.  See further explanation of this here.  If you read through that article, you will find that genetic engineering is certainly not new!  In fact, Bt proteins, a very common GMO in today’s farming, has been used in many organic farms for over 50 years as a microbial pest control agent.  A complete article on Bt strains used in organic farming can be seen here.

After all of the reading and questioning I have done to put together this blog post, I am even more comfortable with farmers utilizing GMO technology when raising crops.  GMO’s for insect resistance are typically very specific proteins that can affect only the target insect.  My take on this:  fewer pesticides being applied topically.  I think that is a good thing!  Of course there are GMO’s for a few other things such as certain herbicides (Round-Up Ready) and drought resistance.  I can see wonderful opportunities coming from this technology! For those of you VERY science-minded people, check out this document.

One more thing…the folks developing the technologies and the farmers using them are people just like you, with families and friends and neighbors.  We are purchasing food in the grocery store and we are drinking the water from under our fields and pastures. None of us would ever do anything to intentionally harm our food and water supply. GMO’s have been around now for more than 5 decades.  We can all rest assured that the dinner we serve our families tonight, whether it is meat from animals fed GMO grains or cereals from those grains, they are as safe and nutritious as ever.  And, because of modern farming and technology, there is enough for all of us to have plenty of choices of product when we do our food purchasing.

I know – I can already see the comments coming in… “But it is primarily one or two big companies putting those GMO’s out there and hauling in the mother load financially.”  I can tell you – anyone in the world had the opportunity to put forth the time, effort, and risk to do the same work they have done. In any other business, the successful leaders are rewarded, as they should be in agriculture. Is it frustrating being on the purchasing side of the technology?  Of course! Am I glad we have the choice to purchase or not purchase that technology? Absolutely!!! This is America, folks. We are supposed to be able to enjoy free enterprise. All of us need to continue working hard to live the life we think is best for ourselves and our families. I am not here to tell you have to purchase food grown with or without GMO technology or any other specific quality or label. I am only trying to reassure you that food in the United States is the safest in the world.

Now, go enjoy a wonderful meal with someone you love.  I think we get to enjoy some left over roast beef at our house tonight – probably in the form of roast beef salad sandwiches.  YUM!!!!