The following is a guest blog post from farmer Dawn Scheier. Dawn and her husband, Patrick, grow corn and soybeans in Salem. Patrick is the fourth generation of farmers in his family.
In our country, we are blessed with a plethora of choices when it comes to food. GMO, non-GMO, organic, non-organic, grass-fed, grain-fed, vegan, vegetarian: Whatever your preference, you can find it. The best part about all these choices is that no matter what you choose, you can rest assured it is a safe choice for you and your family.
To give you a good picture of just how harmless GMOs are, it helps to know what makes a food or crop genetically modified and what that means for us. The term “genetically modified organisms” doesn’t mean there are foreign organisms injected into your food. The “organism” refers to a cell. All food has cells, which are no longer living by the time they are harvested.
Genetic modification is basically a faster version of selective breeding, something farmers have done for centuries. Depending on the desired outcome, a gene is added to the crop from bacteria, a virus or a different variety of fruit or vegetable. That tiny change in the crop’s DNA results in huge positive results, like resistance to insects or non-browning apples or potatoes.
GMOs also have the potential to improve lives beyond non-browning apples. Golden Rice is a variety of rice genetically modified to increase levels of vitamin A. This variety has great implications for people in 122 countries affected by vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to blindness. Genetic modification also rescued a whole papaya crop from dying out. Twenty years ago, the papaya crop in Hawaii was almost wiped out due to ringspot virus until one scientist had an idea. He took a gene from one part of the virus and applied it to the papaya’s DNA, making it immune and saving the entire fruit population for Hawaiian farmers.
Over the years, farmers – myself included – have seen the benefits of growing GMO crops and have adopted them at rapid rates. Our family started planting them as soon as they became available 21 years ago. They make it easier to protect crops from the elements and predators like insects and weeds. They help us to use fewer resources like water or chemicals. As a farmer, I take my responsibility to grow safe, healthy food very seriously. As a mother, I am confident in the science that says GMO foods are a safe and nutritious choice for my family.
Hungry for Truth is a great local resource that focuses on the connection between food and farming in an unbiased way, supporting everyone’s right to choose the best options for themselves and their families. Better yet, you can reach out to a local farmer and talk to them about why they do what they do. Everybody eats food. Learning more about what goes on before it hits grocery shelves can help all of us make informed decisions and a better connection to the food on our plates.