Joan Morton Coffee County Farm Bureau Women Across our land, the media and the Internet have shared many discussions with a lingering number of unanswered questions about the safety of foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Today I’d like to share some information that was presented to our Farm Bureau Women at a state meeting in Columbia, Tenn. on June 17. The speaker was Holly Butka, Global Consumer Engagement Lead for Monsanto. They are committed to bringing farmers a broad range of solutions to help nourish our growing world, one of which is improved seeds that farmers use for key crops, vegetables, and fruits. A GMO is created by taking a beneficial trait, like insect or disease resistance, from one living thing and introducing it into another to help it thrive in its environment. The new plant is then referred to as a GMO plant. Some GMO’s are (1) herbicide-tolerant crops that allow the farmer to spray herbicide over the crop without it killing it, and (2) insect-resistant crops that have genetics that protect the plant from insects. This is done through both traditional breeding and genetic modification. Plant breeding is the act of bringing together two specific parent plants to produce a new offspring. Just like a newborn baby will show characteristics from each of its parents, the new variety will also share traits from parent plants. Take the wild mustard plant as an example. This plant species was modified through breeding to create modern-day kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens and kohlrabi. Monsanto is composed of people just like you and me. Their primary purpose is to help us create more balanced meals. They want to feed their families the best quality fruits and vegetables, so they provide farmers with seeds that grow some of your favorite fruits and vegetables—including cucumbers, tomatoes, pepper, spinach, cantaloupe, honeydew and sweet corn. Monsanto is just one of many organizations that are looking for ways to help deal with some of our planet’s serious challenges like climate change, extreme weather, and the changing availability of food resources for our world. Remember GMO seeds help by minimizing damage to crops from weeds and pests so farmers can use chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides in a more limited way and still improve the environmental impact of agriculture. In the past, farmers have plowed their soil to control weeds, but now they can control weeds in more ways. Herbicide-tolerance has enabled no-till farming which has improved soil health and increased water retention. Insect-resistant crops have greatly reduced the need to use insecticides, ultimately cutting farm costs. Drought-tolerance allows crops to use water more efficiently so that farmers can use less water in times of drought.

For thousands of years, humans used traditional breeding methods to grow more of the foods needed to maintain a balanced diet. Plant breeding with GMO’s now allows farmers to grow vegetables with characteristics that consumers want and maintain produce freshness from farm to fork. Monsanto’s focus is on developing varieties that have the best flavor, appearance and size so that you, the consumer, will enjoy them. Since 1996, biotechnology has enabled farmers to dramatically increase production of food and fiber. This increase in production helps make a balanced meal more accessible.  Scientists have found through repeated and extensive testing, that GMO foods are no more risky than comparable non-GMO foods, nor do they differ in nutritional value. GMO crops are subjected to more testing than any other new variety, and as a result, we know more about this set of crops than any of the other crops that plant breeders have developed over the past few centuries according to Ms. Butka. In the US, GMO crops are subjected to regular reviews by two or three federal agencies: FDA, USDA and EPA. Only then do foods from these crops enter our food supply. Here are some myths that Ms. Butka gave us about GMO’s:

  1. Most items in the grocery are GMO’s – No, so far, GMO products are primarily limited to corn, soybeans, wheat, veggies, canola, fruit, and sorghum.
  2. GMO’s are unsafe and untested – No, they have been 20 years in the making, but they are the most tested foods in the grocery.
  3. The Bio Tech companies are against labeling – No, they fully support organized and unorganized labeling.
  4. The farmer receives no benefit from GMO’s – No, the farmer can grow more healthy food so he has economic benefits as well as environmental benefits.
  5. Glyphosphate (Roundup) causes cancer! – No, there are no known human risks. It has been used for 40 years and it contains no known carcinogens.

  To learn more about GMO’s go to these sources:

  Sweet corn is coming in and it sure does taste good! I’m not afraid of GMO foods anymore, now that I understood what they are and for how long the farmers have been using them safely. When you eat your next leafy green salad, think of all the good nutrition you’re getting and how many different types of greens are in it. Enjoy! Thank a farmer! They are eating what they sell us—don’t be afraid any more.