In the heavily saturated social media society that we live in today, it’s often difficult to find truthful information regarding just about anything. From politics to agriculture, posts are shared across the world, normally by misinformed websites, gossip magazines and some guy on Twitter with an agenda.
I bring up GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms, because this issue has taken the world by storm. However, many consumers have no idea what a GMO truly is; they just believe it’s “bad” for them. Jimmy Kimmel even documented this phenomenon in a video below…and it’s honestly pretty hard to watch.
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
To put things in perspective, only 2% of the United States population is involved in farming. That means, there are a lot of people who are far removed from agriculture and do not understand what it takes to get our food to the table.
As a society, we need to get back to the fundamentals of science when it comes down to our food supply, and validate our opinions based on intelligent facts. When I walk down the isles of the grocery store, I hear comments like the ones I heard in Jimmy’s video. I see mom’s paying double the price for an item that has a Non-GMO sticker on it, yet does not use genetic engineering in its production. That is a very misleading marketing practice and is robbing families of their money.
The US has been safely consuming GMO products since 1996. There are only nine GMO crops available in the United States and include corn, soybeans, alfalfa, canola, papaya, summer squash, sugar beets, apples and most recently, potatoes. So, when someone is buying a carton of blueberries with the Non-GMO sticker on it…it is a marketing scam.
What exactly is a GMO then? A genetically modified organism, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, is an organism produced through genetic modification. Basically, an organisms genetic code is precisely changed, by introducing a quality or trait that it wouldn’t be able to achieve with traditional breeding techniques. Farmers and scientists remove inefficient genes and add ones that help prevent crop disease, control insects, manage weeds and can even change the organisms nutritional profile.
Let’s take for example, the potato. It would take DECADES of traditional breeding techniques to achieve all of the desired traits needed to improve the quality of the crop yield. Why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of food biotechnology and improve production with safety and sustainability in mind?
Safety is a major key component in the GMO discussion. As mentioned before, the US has been consuming GMO products since 1996 and there is no scientific evidence of any detrimental health concerns for humans or the environment.
Foods that have been developed through biotechnology are studied and regulated extensively by organizations such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is part of the United Nations.
Even trusted health organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) endorse biotechnology and it’s responsible use in food production enhancement.
GMO’s are not something to be afraid of—they are not evil and are not contaminating our food supply. Farmers and scientists care about sustainability to our planet—how else will we feed our growing world? By 2020, there will be 9 BILLION people on this earth to feed!
Aside from safety, GMO’s provide the consumer many benefits. Through biotechnology and advanced breeding techniques, scientists have developed foods and ingredients that contain a higher proportion of healthy fats. In addition, modern food production techniques have produced canola and soybean oils that do not contain any trans fat!
Talking produce…biotechnology has made many strides in apple and potato production, in which they are able to keep their original color longer after slicing or rough handling. This also means that they do not bruise as easily and are able to stay crisper for longer periods of time. How? There is gene that is responsible for browning that is “silenced” or “turned off” in the genetic sequence. This makes the product last longer and is very appealing to consumers and suppliers alike.
Sustainability is more important now than ever when it comes to our food supply, due to the increasing population. Not only does food biotechnology need to support the sustainability of the environment, but it also needs to support social and economic sustainability.
How do GMO’s support all three?
Biotechnology improves the safe and effective use of pesticides, reduces the need for insecticide on crops, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, preserves and improves soil quality and ultimately reduces crop losses that occur in the field and post harvest.
Modern farming practices have proven to strengthen the economic sustainability of all family farms, regardless of their size. Examples include reduced farming costs (reduced labor, fuel, fertilizers and pesticides), and fewer crops lost to disease which ultimately increases yields.
Let’s think about fuel use. Carbon emissions from fuel use are drastically lower on farms that utilize biotechnology because farmers do not need to apply pesticides or till as often. In 2011, the resulting carbon dioxide reductions due to biotechnology use was estimated to be 4.19 billion pounds. This is the equivalent of removing 800,000 cars from the road!
GMOs and their role in biotechnology are safe, consumer friendly and sustainable in more ways than just one. The examples I mentioned above are only a few of the benefits and scientifically based facts about GMOs and their modern use in agriculture.
All of the facts and figures in this post are based upon a published work entitled Food Biotechnology: A Communication Guide to Improving Understanding. This reputable and scientific based information was put together by the United States Agriculture Foreign Ag Service and the International Food Information Council (IFIC). The IFIC Foundation is “dedicated to the mission of effectively communicating science-based information on health, nutrition and food safety for the public good.”
I would highly recommend checking out the website Food Insight for more information regarding food biotechnology, along with links to the numerous research studies dedicated to improving the food supply.
Remember: information is POWER! Educate yourself and spread awareness…not propaganda.