Thinking About Proposition 105

Update 11/5/14: Colorado voters have overwhelmingly voted against Proposition 105 in 2014.  I did vote in favor of 105 only because I took my mom’s saying to heart.  I just don’t see myself ever siding with Monsanto.  A similar ballot measure in the state of Oregon has failed, but by a very slim margin.  Voters in a Hawaii county have put a moratorium on growing genetically engineered crops in their county.  Maybe Lincoln County Colorado will follow suit.  
Perhaps the $15 million that was poured into the Colorado Anti-105 side will mean less money for new GMOs and the executives at those big companies.
If you have come across this blogpost after the 2014 election, it is still worth a read.  I did a thorough job of exploring some of the issues that the idea of labeling GMOs has brought up.  I have not seen any of these issues brought up elsewhere.  

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been thinking a lot about Proposition 105 lately. In November 2014, the voters of Colorado will be voting on this ballot measure (Proposition 105) to label or not label GMOs.

GMOs are an issue close to my heart.  I am an organic farmer  a farmer who grows things naturally without the use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides (who is legally not allowed to use the o-word because I am not certified organic).  I am also a mother to five beautiful children. My job as their mother is to keep them healthy with a healthy diet.

The pro-GMO crowd insists that GMOs are just as safe as other crop varieties.  They also say that GMOs will lead to less pesticides, herbicides and toxins used in agricultural production and increased yields.  (I say “will lead to” since it hasn’t happened yet.) The anti-GMO crowd says that GMOs are not healthy for us humans or animals and that growing GMOs result in more toxins in the environments, which will be detrimental.

I am a sitting on the GMO fence.  I am not convinced either way.  However, by default, I am staunchly anti-GMO.  Maybe I’ll believe that there is no harm to the environment or to human health in, um, one thousand years after there has been much time to study them.  But until then, when we know the long term effects of GMOs, I am against GMOs.  Hybrids and other varieties have proven their safety of the course of millennia. GMO advocates have proven their safety for 20 years.  I’m going to side with Mother Nature here and not Monsanto.  I am also unsure that we should be messing with the genetic code.  Where do we draw the line between genetically engineering corn and eugenics and Natzism?  In Genesis, we (as a humankind) were given dominion, but where does dominion stop and playing god begin?  I don’t have the answer to those two questions, but I think that you should think about them as I have been thinking about them in the context of GMOs.

And, really, how can anyone tell you for certain that GMOs are safe?  I really don’t see how we can know this all in 20 years.  I do know that the occurrence of certain cancers have been in epidemic proportions.  So has obesity, autism, leaky guts, etc.  The prevalence of these maladies has also risen astronomically in the last 20 years.  Is it GMOs?  Is it vaccines or even the ‘other stuff’ in the vaccines?  Is it climate change or even just naturally occurring climate change that has been occurring for millennia as the Earth spins around the sun?  Is it pesticides? Was there some volcano somewhere that erupted and caused all this?  Is the entire increase in these occurrences only because we are better at diagnosing? The fact is that we have an increase in all of these maladies and we don’t know the reason for sure. GMOs are just as likely as any of these other reasons to have caused them.  I am not taking a chance with my beautiful children.  20 years of studies compared to millennia? I’m going with the crops that have proven themselves over millennia.  Take a risk on GMOs if you want with yourself.  That’s your prerogative.  It’s also my prerogative to skip the GMOs.

I wish that there wouldn’t be any more GMOs. Ever. I don’t think it’s worth the risk of finding out later that they caused harm to human health or to the environment.  I don’t think we should be messing with genetic codes.  But I am also against regulation.  Do you remember the story of the NewLeaf Potato? The NewLeaf Potato was a genetically engineered potato introduced in the 1990’s.  By 2001, they were no more because there was no market for them.  The market forced them to abandon the New Leaf Potato.  I wish that the market would kill other GMOs, too.  (Of course now they are talking about introducing a new kind of GMO potato, but for now potatoes are safe.)  Market killing is the ideal.

Since a food cannot legally be both organic and GMO, an increase in the organic market share means a decrease in the GMO market share.  The demand for organic groceries keeps rising. This gives me hope, hope that the market will resound against GMOs all by itself and without Proposition 105.  Whole Foods Market, for example, has promised GMO-transparency in all of its products in just a few more years.  Perhaps its competitors will follow suit.  Organizations like the Non-GMO Project keep growing and keep growing in the amount of groceries they certify.  Chipotle Restaurants have promised to phase out GMOs, too (except in their meats).  Cheerios eliminated GMOs due to public outrage.  There are all these little lights shining at what I hope is the end of the GMO tunnel.    We would need a lot more little lights, but I have hope.

Proposition 105 would only label certain GMO-containing foods.  Proposition 105 exempts meat, dairy and eggs that came from GMO-eating animals.  It exempts gum, alcohol and foods for immediate consumption.  These labels would only apply to food sold within the state of Colorado.

If JohnQPublic saw a “contains GMO” label on his favorite food products, would that impact his food choices?  Would Proposition 105, if passed, cause an increase in demand for non-GMO foods and therefore be another light shining at the end of the GMO tunnel?  It has the potential to be a very big light.  It can snowball into other lights and may kill GMOs, just like the lack of a market killed the NewLeaf Potato.

Will Proposition 105 negatively affect Coloradans? I am not a big-government-have-a-lot-of-laws type person. Referring to the NoOn105.com website, I’d like to offer a my unsolicited opinions on their reasons why farmers should oppose Proposition 105.
“Costly new bureaucratic requirements would impact farmers regardless of whether or not they grow GE crops.” They go on to say how this will create more paperwork and may require a farmer to have two sets of equipment.  I believe this to be false.  I do not know of a single farmer who grows some GMO corn and some conventional corn, for example. Farmers around here grow GMO corn and non-GMO everything else.  The wheat is wheat, for example, which is not GMO.  It will stay that way.  It is normal custom to clean equipment between harvesting a different crop. Also, growing GMO and copyrighted seed already impose many regulations.  I remember the time, for example, when we grew a copyrighted variety of wheat.  We legally had to sell it back to the elevator (and we did).  It was illegal for me to make a loaf of bread with my own wheat.  How ridiculous is that?  The extra rules for farmers that would be created by this law are no more ridiculous than the rules already in place.
“Proposition 105 would require Colorado food exports to be specially labeled – putting our farmers at a competitive disadvantage.”  This is a downright fallacy.  The proposed legislation requires labeling of food sold in Colorado.  It does not concern food produced in Colorado and sold elsewhere.  Also, if Proposition 105 passes here, other states will follow suit.  We won’t be the only ones.
“Proposition 105 would create a costly new bureaucracy.” Maybe so. Who is going to enforce all of these new rules?  If the cost is not to the consumer, it will be to the taxpayer.

I swiped this off the NoOn105 website.  It's all true.

I swiped this off the NoOn105 website. It’s all true. You’d be better off to go by my instructions on determining GMO. I hate GMOs and I worry that Proposition 105 will give consumers a false sense of security since they will not see a GMO label on these GMO products.

I worry that Proposition 105 will cause small farmers like me who occasionally direct market an unfair burden.  Right now I have to say, “I’m not allowed to say I’m organic because I’m not certified, but I follow organic standards.”  Will I have to say, “I’m not allowed to say I’m not GMO because I haven’t had my products tested, but I do not grow genetically engineered products.”?  If I ever got big enough to go to a farmer’s market, will my potential customers understand all this? And what about the Colorado Cottage Food Producers?

I also worry that Proposition 105 labels will become meaningless.  I worry that they will be “I-checked-the-box-so-now-you-can’t-sue-me” type labels. I see these type of labels all the time.  Some paraphrased examples are:
“Don’t let your babies play with this plastic bag.  They could suffocate.”
“May be made with soy, wheat or dairy.”
“May contain peanuts or be processed in a facility that processes peanuts or tree nuts.”
“This contains a substance known in the state of California to cause cancer.”
“Our farmers pledge not to give cows rBST hormones, but studies have shown that there’s no significant difference between rBST and non-rBST anyway.”
“Make sure you wear a gas mask and ventilate when you’re painting.”
“Open the window and evacuate the room if you break this lightbulb. Wear a hazmat suit when you clean it up.”
“If you’re pregnant or nursing, consult a doctor.” (on prenatal vitamins, too!)
“This will cure blah-blah, but this is not meant to cure, treat or diagnose any disease.”
“This coffee may be really hot and you may burn yourself.”
Again, remember these are my own versions and the actual content of these labels are different.  But I know you’ve seen them, too, and you know which ones I mean. We’ll have to add, “May contain GMO ingredients in the State of Colorado.” or some other version. These labels are really meaningless and we don’t need more meaningless ambiguous labels.

So all-in-all, I’m against Proposition 105, except for one reason…

My mom. My mom has a lot of wise little sayings.  One of her wisest little sayings is

“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”

I am in favor of Proposition 105 only because Monsanto and the like are against it. I can’t see myself siding with Monsanto. These are the same people who made Agent Orange. These are the same people who make all these crazy GMOs and the chemicals for them. Monsanto is the reason that I cannot even obtain non-GMO corn seed in my area. Monsanto sees Proposition 105 as a threat, which is why they have poured all this money into campaigning against it. A threat to Monsanto is my friend. In the end, I’m not sure how I’ll vote.

There is a lot that I’ve thought about in regards to Proposition 105. Some of these thoughts that I’ve shared above I haven’t seen on any for or against article or website.  Take these points into consideration, too, when making your decision.  Decide well, Colorado. I hope you will make the right decision, whatever that will be.  I sure don’t know what it is.


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Knowing What is GMO by the Ingredient Label

Voters in the state of Colorado are voting on a ballot initiative this November.  Called Proposition 105, the proposed measure will require GMOs and GMO containing products sold in the state of Colorado to be more or less labeled.

I have been thinking much about Proposition 105 lately.  I’m thinking out loud, here with you dear blog readers.  I decided I’m going to organize my own thoughts and share them with you.

Called “Right to Know- GMO”, I feel this initiative is a bit of a misnomer.  The proponents of Proposition 105 claim that it is the public’s right to know what is in their food.

In this blogpost, I am arguing that the public already does have the right to know what’s in their food, Proposition 105 or not.

Let’s first review what GMOs are.  GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  That means that scientists have removed the genetic code of one organism and inserted it into the genetic code of a totally different organism.  The resulting organism has a new genetic code that is man-made.  That code would never exist in nature.  The resulting organism, that GMO, now has a trait that is more desirable by many.  For example, Bt Corn is corn that has a bacteria genetic code inserted in it.  The corn borer, a caterpillar larvae that used to kill thousands of acres of corn, will eat the Bt GMO corn and its stomach will explode.

I also wanted to clarify the difference between hybrids and GMOs.  I have come across many many people who are unclear on this distinction.  A hybrid is a cross-breed.  Mankind has been hybridizing crops for millennia.  They cross certain varieties of crops together and the resulting offspring has the good traits of both sides.  Man might help this along by sprinkling pollen or something, however, he is hybridizing through natural means.  If you planted varietyx of a crop next to varietyz they’d probably cross breed anyway.  GMOs have their actual genetic code changed by scientists.  Hybrids and GMOs are whole different ballgames.

There are a lot of differing opinions about GMOs.  Proponents of GMOs say GMOs are super-safe, as safe as hybrids, and better for the environment.  Anti-GMO folks say GMOs are the reason for all the epidemic chronic diseases (like cancer and autism) in the world. Anti-GMO folks also say that letting these, um, unnatural genetic codes loose into the environment will wreak havoc.  Look at one study and it says one thing. Look at another study and it says something else.  I follow GMO news very closely and I haven’t seen a 100% convincing  argument either way.

Personally, I am opposed to GMOs.  GMOs seem like franken-science. “They” say GMOs are safe, however, GMOs have only been in production for about twenty years.  20 years is hardly enough time to study long term health or environmental effects.  GMOs, at the very least, are unproven for human and animal health and the environment.  I am a mother of five children.  It is my job to feed my children good wholesome food and to keep them healthy.  I am not going to take a risk on my family with GMOs.  Non-GMOs are proven.  GMOs aren’t. I am also a farmer.  It is my job to grow food for others and to be a good steward of the land that these crops are grown on.  I will not grow a GMO since I will not grow something I wouldn’t eat.  I will not grow a GMO since I hope that my children will farm the same land that their great-great grandparents farmed and I am unsure that GMOs are safe for future generations of the environment.

I take my job as a mother very seriously.  As I said above, I am responsible for the health of my children and I truly believe that there are health connections to diet.  I feed my children the best that our budget and time allows.  I avoid GMOs.

Getting back to Proposition 105, many have argued that if passed, we will now have a “right to know” what is in our food.  I will spend the rest of this blogpost telling you that we already have the right to know what’s in our food and I will review how to tell if GMOs are in your food by truly reading the ingredient label.

The background of this little meme above is actually a Round-Up Ready GMO corn field here in Eastern Colorado.  The Round-Up killed everything but the GMO Round-Up Ready volunteer corn.

The background of this little meme above is actually a Round-Up Ready GMO corn field here in Eastern Colorado. The Round-Up killed everything but the GMO Round-Up Ready volunteer corn.

The first principle to remember is that there are only a few GMO crops currently in commercial production.  These crops are corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, canola, alfalfa, papaya, summer squash and zucchini. This is as of October 2014, as I write this blogpost.  There are experiments all over the place for various additional GMO crops and various additional kinds of GMO of the already GMO crops. But right now, we only have GMO corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, canola, alfalfa, papaya, summer squash and zucchini.

Secondly, we must remember that the word “organic” is a copyrighted word.  If a food item does not comply with the 2002 Organic Standards Act, it is illegal to be called “organic”. (Although I would venture to say that there are some loopholes where some foreign grown crops are allowed to be called organic where they may or may not be following the same standards as us.)  Organic standards exclude GMOs.  If a product says it’s “organic”, than it cannot be both GMO and legally organic, too.  It’s a pretty safe bet that organics are not GMO.  I should caution you, however, not to fall for the “made with” trick.  If you bought, for example, spaghetti sauce, that said “made with organic tomatoes” on the label, than that only means the tomatoes are organic.   That does not mean that the other components of the sauce are organic.  We should assume they’re not organic and they might even be GMO.

Moreover, we must also assume that any crop which has GMO production and is not sold as organic or specifically non-GMO is in fact GMO.  For example, 94% of the soy grown in the USA in 2011 was GMO (source).  We can assume any soy that’s not organic and not labeled non-GMO is in fact GMO.  94% is a whole lot.

Our fourth principle to remember is that certain crops are sold as crops and certain ones are made into everything.  Summer squash, zucchini and papaya are pretty much just sold as “themselves”.  One can just avoid commercially produced non-organic summer squash, zucchini and papaya and thus avoid these GMOs, easy peasy, done.  Cotton of course is used to make fabric.  We don’t eat fabric, but we may eat cottonseed oil.  Avoid cottonseed oil, food products made with cottonseed oil and eating t-shirts and you will avoid eating GMO cotton. Canola, or rapeseed, is a “new” oil, once touted as the healthy choice, primarily in the 1980’s. If you avoid canola oil and food products made with canola oil, you will avoid GMO canola.

We must also remember to assume that unless meat, eggs and dairy are specifically marketed as “organic”, “non-GMO” or “grass-fed”, we must assume that the animals have eaten GMOs.  GMO corn and GMO soy are the heart of most every animal food, from chicken, pig and cow feedlots to even fish food.  Additionally, some may give animals alfalfa, which is now GMO, too.  Also, there is a lot of “byproduct” fed to commercial animals.  These byproducts are assumed to be from GMOs.  It’s a safe assumption that commercially marketed meats, eggs and dairy have come from animals who ate GMOs unless specified. If you’re the-farmers-market-type who purchases things directly from the farmer, ask him. Chickens may free range and have access to pasture, but they may also be given a GMO-laden feed as a supplement. Ask.

Remember, also, that “sugar” as an ingredient or product probably comes from sugar beets, which are GMO.  Cane sugar is not GMO (yet).

Our sixth and final principle to remember is that about everything comes from corn and soy.  Vinegar, vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn meal (and therefore corn chips and tortillas), cosmetics, cellulose, and I-don’t-even-know funky foods are all from corn.  There are way more qualified people who can tell you all the ‘stuff’ they make from corn and soy.  Look it up. Find out what these products are.  Avoid them to avoid GMOs.

We should also remember that everything changes so rapidly.  They are experimenting all over the place and it seems more GMOs are approved every year.  What I write is current as I write it, but give it a few months and it won’t be. Also remember that you should really do your own research on all of this and not just go by what some blogger said.

For example, I occasionally buy Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips at Sam’s Club. They contain just three ingredients- potatoes, olive oil and salt.  Since I know that potatoes, olive oil and salt are not currently GMO, I know that Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips are not GMO.  I do not need the proposed labeling from Proposition 105 to tell me that.  I can also look at the label and see that these chips are Non-GMO Project Verified. The good people over at the Non-GMO Project certify certain foods as non-GMO.  The food manufacturers choose to have their products verified.  The Non-GMO Project will allow the food manufacturer to put their label on the product if the product complies with the Non-GMO Project’s standards.  This is a choice that Boulder Canyon made, to have their potato chips verified and to put this label on.  Honestly, since I’m such an ingredient label reader, I already knew that Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips are non-GMO.  If a hypothetical shopper was in the chip aisle, he or she can read the labels, just as I do and see that PotatoChipBrandX contains “soy oil” as an ingredient.  The shopper will know that since 94% of the soy grown in America is GMO and the label does not say “organic soy” or “non-GMO soy” it is safe to assume that PotatoChipBrandX contains GMO.

My husband Kevin made this point to me.  “Most people don’t care about GMOs. The people who do care, people like you, already know how to tell what is GMO by looking at the ingredients, just like you do. Proposition 105 isn’t going to do anything for them.”

Kevin is right.

You already have the right to know what’s in your food.  It’s called the ingredient label.  You should learn what those ingredients really mean, whether Proposition 105 passes or not. Use my GMO principle ingredient guide as a basis, but also do your own research. You don’t really need Proposition 105.
Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 9.26.25 AM


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GMO Wheat And GMO Misinformation

 

I just wrote this whole post about how I’m against GMOs to give a little background on them.  I really intended these two posts to be one, but once I get going, I guess I can’t shut up.  One post would have been too long… So please go back and read Monday’s post to get some background on GMOs.

 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when so-called against-GMO people don’t have their facts straight.  It seems to happen all the time.  There is a lot of misinformation out there about what exactly are GMOs and what crops are GMOs.  If you’re going to be “against” something, know what you’re against.  No offense, but otherwise, you just look stupid.

 

So here, in this post, I am going to talk about what GMOs are and hopefully clear up some common misconceptions.  Please keep in mind that I am writing this now in August 2013 and things change quickly.

 

GMO stands for genetically modified organism.  This means that scientists actually alter the gene sequence of certain species.  That’s right- the scientists have modified the genes of GMO varieties, hence the term genetically modified organism.  They insert genes of a different species into the GMO.  It’s new resulting GMO will be a grain with let’s say a bacterial genome in it.  In current approved commercial production, there are only a handful of GMO crops.  These crops are alfalfa, corn, soy, papaya, cotton, zucchini, yellow squash and sugar beets.  Let me repeat that, in current approved commercial production, the only GMO crops are alfalfa, corn, soy, papaya, cotton, zucchini, yellow squash and sugar beets. That is it, as of this writing.  (If you want to read about this from some great folks who actually know what they’re talking about and not shooting from their hips like me, you should check out the non-GMO project here.)

 

There are mad experiments all over the place of other GMO crops.  They destroy these harvests and they are not in our food supply.  Sure these experimental crops could be cross-pollinating and contaminating the actual commercial production crops.  Sure some of the people involved in these experiments could be unscrupulous and sell them to the unknowing grain elevators to make a quick buck.  But for the most part, unless you are consuming alfalfa, corn, soy, papaya, cotton, zucchini, yellow squash and sugar beets or products derived from them or animals that ate these, you are safe from GMOs.

 

About 90-some-odd percent of the corn and soy grown in the USA is GMO.  Corn and soy are in everything.  For example, these common food and cosmetic ingredients are all derived from corn: ascorbic acid, baking powder, calcium citrate, cellulose, citrate, citric acid, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, decyl glucoside, dextrin, maltodextrin, dextrose, ethanol, ferrous gluconate, artificial and natural flavors, golden syrup, honey, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, iodized salt, lactic acid, lauryl glucoside, magnesium citrate, magnesium stearate, malic acid, malt, malt flavoring, maltitol, maltodextrin, mannitol, methyl gluceth, modified food starch, MSG, polydextrose, polyactic acid, polysorbates, powdered sugar, saccharin, sodium citrate, sodium erthorbate, sodium starch glycolate, sorbitan, sorbitol, starch, sucralose, tocopherol, vanilla extract, vinegar, vitamins, xanthum gum, xylitol and zein.  And that’s just corn.  If you want to avoid GMOs, you need to avoid all these common ingredients in processed foods.  There are many more that are derived from soy.  Avoid them to avoid GMOs.

 

Animals eat corn and soy.  All animals, pretty much.  Even fish are fed corn and soy derived food.  So unless you buy organic meats, raise them yourselves, or know the farmer really well, GMOs are in your meat.  Of course there are GMO animal feed alternatives, but they are few and far between and hard to find (for the rancher).  Even if you buy “pastured” or “grass-fed” meat, you should further inquire about the animals consuming corn and soy.  Those terms do not necessarily mean GMO-free.  Going meat-less is unhealthy, in my opinion.  So do eat meat, but do eat GMO-free meat.

 

Well what about wheat, you ask?  There is currently no GMO wheat presently under commercial  cultivation.  That is worth repeating.  There is currently no GMO wheat under commercial cultivation.  For some reason, (and I blame Dr. William Davis) people are under the assumption that wheat is currently GMO.  No, it is not.

2011… No, wheat is not GMO.
2011… No, I wouldn’t let them do this if this was GMO.

I’m not saying that the commercially produced wheat is good for you. Commercially produced wheat is intensely hybridized.  It is bred and bred so much through conventional breeding methods that the resulting common wheat bares little resemblance to its wild ancestors.  It is also a lot higher in gluten so that commercial bakeries can make a loaf of bread with more rise and less actual wheat.  These differences of wheat varieties are just the result of breeding, not inserting new genes into the genome of the wheat, not yet anyway.

Eatlocalgrown.com?  Eat local grown dot com?
Sites like this crack me up because if I ate locally grown, I’d
be eating GMOs. Anyway, this meme is a good summary of
the difference between hybrids and GMOs.

In June 2013, a farmer in Oregon noticed some volunteer wheat in his field.  A volunteer crop is basically a cultivated crop that wasn’t planted there- a weed but of a cultivated crop.  So the farmer, being of the conventional sort, sprayed Roundup on the said wheat.  The wheat didn’t die.  He sent it off for testing.  The reason that the wheat didn’t die was that it was GMO Roundup Ready wheat.  Experimental GMO wheat plots hadn’t been tried in Oregon since like ten years before this incident.  How did the GMO wheat get there?  This one incident of this one farmer finding GMO wheat in his one field set off international mayhem.  A bunch of countries that don’t allow GMOs said they wouldn’t take imported American wheat.  Monsanto says it’s all sabotage.  Even if it was, Monsanto, when you play with fire, you get burned.  There is a farmer in Western Kansas that is suing Monsanto for making his wheat worth less on the commodity market.  Of course this is just one incident.  How many others go unnoticed or get hushed up?  For whatever reason, whether this incident, the weather, or just life, wheat has dropped drastically on the commodity market in the last few months.  As for our part, we didn’t even have a wheat crop this year because of last year’s drought.

2011… It seems that every year there is an extra baby in the harvest
photos.  My Vince was born less than 12 hours after we took this picture,
which is sideways because I still don’t know how to work a computer.
2012…

 

So let me sum up what I am saying…
1.  There is a lot of misinformation out there about GMOs.
2. The only current GMO crops (as of this writing) are alfalfa, corn, soy, papaya, cotton, zucchini, yellow squash and sugar beets.
3. Corn and soy derivatives are in about all processed foods, so if you want to avoid GMOs, you must avoid corn and soy derivatives.
4. About all conventionally raised animals eat corn and soy.
5. Wheat is currently not GMO.
6. There are tons of experiments all over the place with tons of different crops.  They’ll be a lot more GMOs soon.  Yes, it is possible for these experiments to sabotage our food supply.
7.  If you’re going to be against GMOs, at least know what you’re talking about.  Read up on them, here

 


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I Am Against GMOs

Be warned: This is one of those posts where I am talking about my passions from my point of view. I will have a lot of facts in here, too, but also a lot of my opinions. Don’t read if you don’t want to. If you do read and we have a different opinion, that’s fine. This is my blog where I state my opinions. We can still be friends. You can still get your own blog and write your opinions on there. But for the facts part of it, at least get your facts straight. Also know that I am writing this post in April 2014. Things change quickly. My information is current as of this writing.

GMOs? Let’s start with what they are… GMO stands for genetically modified organism. This means that scientists actually alter the gene sequence of certain species. That’s right- the scientists have modified the genes of GMO varieties, hence the term genetically modified organism. They insert genes of a different species into the GMO. That new resulting GMO will be a grain with let’s say a bacterial genome in it. Most GMOs are impossible to detect with the naked eye. They look, feel, smell, taste and touch just like their non-GMO counterparts. These new genes in the GMOs give the said GMO traits that they wouldn’t normally have in nature.

For example, the varieties of GMO corn that commonly planted here in Lincoln County are “Roundup Ready”. “Roundup Ready” means that the gene sequence of the corn is modified to include the gene sequence of another organism or organisms (I’m not sure which) and the resulting corn is now resistant to the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate). A farmer will have corn growing in his field and he can spray that field with Roundup. All the weeds and any volunteer crops will be killed by the Roundup except for that said Roundup Ready corn. The genome of the Roundup Ready GMO corn has been altered to not be killed by the Roundup. Weeds are particularly a problem in corn fields because corn is a big plant and each must be widely spaced from its neighbor. This gives weeds large places to grow in corn fields. [Initially this GMO corn was just feeder corn, as in the corn fed to animals, made into all kinds of food additives or used as corn meal. 2012 was the first allowance of GMO sweet corn. Now sweet corn is GMO, too.] Although not commonly planted in Lincoln County, there are also GMO varieties of corn that have their own insecticide built right in. Known as Bt-Corn, this GMO insecticide corn expresses an endotoxin protein which when ingested by certain types of caterpillars will cause their stomachs to explode. (But it’s “perfectly safe” for us.) There is also currently LibertyLink corn which is resistant to Liberty herbicide, in a similar way that Roundup Ready corn is resistant to Roundup. I use corn as an example here because I have done more research on corn since we have considered planting non-GMO corn and GMO corn is most relevant to me personally since my neighbors all plant it. And there is also a new kind of GMO corn now which is supposed to be more drought resistant.

Currently 90-some-odd percent of corn, soy and sugar beets are GMO, of one type of GMO or another or combined. I am personally less familiar with these other crops since they are unable to be grown in Lincoln County. Currently (as of this writing) in commercial production in the USA are GMO varieties of alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, sugar beets, yellow squash and zucchini. It is pretty safe to assume that those said crops are GMO. If you are in the supermarket looking at labels, assume that these crops as well as the many food additives derived from corn and soy are GMO.

Now for the opinion part where I’ll talk about why I’m against GMOs and will not grow them. The proponents of GMOs say they’re perfectly safe. They say they allow better crop yields and will solve the world’s hunger crisis. They say they actually lead to less usage of harmful chemicals. I’m going to now explain why they’re wrong.

– “GMOs are perfectly safe.” – You know, they could be right. Look at one study and it will show GMOs are safe. Look at another study and it will show GMOs aren’t safe. I’ve done a little bit of grad school research in my biology field (although not a corn field) and I can tell you that for the most part to have a premise that is scientifically testable, it’s probably not real science. You can make a study turn out how you want it to. I discount the studies, because some are funded by Monsanto and other GMO-advocates and some are funded by the non-GMO crowd. I don’t think the studies right now are conclusive. So, yes, GMOs could be safe. I haven’t seen any credible evidence saying they definitely are or aren’t.
But here is what I do know about GMOs: 1. The scientists have inserted genomes of other species into the genomes of the GMO. That is not natural. These gene sequences will never exist in nature. 2. Plants are always cross pollinating. These new genomes are now in places where they shouldn’t be. 3. GMOs have only been around since the 1990’s. Twenty years is really not enough time to study the generational effects. 4. Roundup Ready crops are ready for Roundup and therefore are grown with chemicals. I do not know of one farmer who plants Roundup Ready crops and doesn’t actually use Roundup. If you do, please tell me and I will stand corrected on that. Even if the crops are safe, are the chemicals?

-“GMOs allow for better crop yields and will solve the world’s hunger crisis.” Again, the studies are ambiguous. Some have showed an equal or worse yield with GMOs. Some better. For example, here in Lincoln County, there are so many other factors besides weeds that contribute to the yield potential of corn. Really weeds are the least of your problems. Water, nitrogen, carbon, etc. are all a lot more problematic than weeds. People are hungry now because they lack sufficient economic resources to purchase food. The crop yields have nothing to do with it. People need local independent systems to produce food, food that is affordable, food that is local for them, food that is not in the whole ‘system’. GMOs are not going to provide people with economic resources or independent local food sources.

-“GMOs lead to less usage of chemicals.” I’ve touched upon this in my first point. Especially for the GMOs that are herbicide ready, they lead to the use of herbicides.

Here is how the pro-GMO crowd may be right on this point. People don’t like GMOs. In the current USDA organic standards, there is no allowance for the use of GMOs. There are many many consumers who choose organic because the organic products are non-GMO and not because the organic products are grown without the use of chemicals. The demand for organic food has grown by leaps and bounds, in part fueled by the ever more widespread use of GMOs. These organically grown crops do not have chemical use. So sure, as GMOs are more and more widespread, more and more consumers opt for organic. The organic demand increases The organic cultivation increases. The chemical usage decreases. So, yes, GMO proponents, you are right here when you say that GMOs result in less use of chemicals, but I don’t think it’s in the way you meant it.

True that I'm only throwing this picture in for some color in this post. This is a field slightly north of Karval Colorado in which the dirt is blowing away into the road ditch. This is May 2013. I'm sorry, but GMOs ain't gonna help your yield here.

True that I’m only throwing this picture in for some color in this post.
This is a field slightly north of Karval Colorado in which the dirt is blowing away into the road ditch. This is May 2013.
I’m sorry, but GMOs ain’t gonna help your yield here.

So let’s say that GMOs are safe. Is there any harm in still staying away from them? Even if I’m wrong to say they’re harmful, I’m not wrong to say they’re not better. Am I wrong to keep them away from my family, my animals and my land (which has been farmed by my children’s ancestors)? I don’t think so. In the best case scenario, they are equally as safe. I’m just not going to risk it with my family. I don’t do GMO.

And even if there is nothing to the non-GMO crowd claims, there is a market demand for non-GMOs. As a matter of fact, there is a big push for certain products to be voluntarily labeled as non-GMO. The food processing companies cannot find enough non-GMO raw ingredient sources to certify their product as non-GMO. (You can read about this here.) So even if I’m wrong, at best non-GMO is a niche market and a growing demand. Farmers, even if you are the most pro-GMO guy out there, you should pay attention to that demand. It could make you rich.

And here is where my Catholic two-cents comes in… should we really be messing with the genes God gave us, or gave our corn? Did God say it was OK to remove genes from His creation and put it into His other creation? What does dominion mean?

And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth.

So, yes, I am against GMOs.


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