GMO – One of the Good Guys

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Field of young corn plants

GMO – One of the Good guys

GMO is one of the most misunderstood tools of high-tech farming. The names used to describe GM seeds including “GMO and genetically engineered” can sound threatening to consumers, and have created marketing disadvantages for products with ingredients from GM seeds. With some examination of the facts, these fears about GM seeds and GMO food quickly disappear.

Suppose you’re a tomato farmer. You know that people demand the freshest, healthiest, tastiest, best looking produce. You like healthy fruit as well, and do your best to deliver the nicest tomatoes possible. But one of the stumbling blocks to delivering perfect tomatoes are ravenous tomato fruit-worms that chew holes in the fruit and plant buds. No one wants to buy worm eaten tomatoes. Are pesticides the only solution? Sometimes – There are actually several types of pesticides available, conventional AND organic, but can be very expensive for the farmer to use.

One solution is to grow genetically modified tomato plants that repel the hungry fruit-worms. Genes from a resistant variety of tomato is “spliced” into one of the supermarket varieties. The GMO tomato looks great, tastes great, travels well, is packed with nutrition, and you didn’t have to use expensive pesticides. (Tomatoes actually face a whole HOST of pests…) At this time, there are no commercially grown GMO tomatoes in the US.

One of the main purposes of farming with GMO plants is to increase the quantity and quality of food, for consumers the world over. As of 2013, there were over 2000 global studies affirming the SAFETY of GM foods. These studies have come to the; “…consensus conclusion that GMO crops are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods…”

The science of producing GMOs (genetically modified organisms) has developed for centuries. Throughout human history, we have genetically enhanced organisms through selective breeding. For example; sweet, red and crunchy apples, seedless grapes, purebred dogs, award winning orchids; all are examples of how humans have selectively enhanced desirable traits in other living things.

Food growers especially are challenged with the task of feeding the world. The “great purpose” of farming is to provide good, healthy food to every human on earth. Farmers face obstacles to the “great purpose” such as lack of water, poor soil, plant diseases, voracious insects, the high costs of producing and then distribution of perishable foods.

Genetic engineering offers solutions to several of these farming challenges by producing:

  • Disease resistant plants
  • Vegetables that repel insect attacks
  • Crops that grow well in poor soil conditions
  • Plants that need less water
  • Food that is absolutely healthy and safe for humans

Genetically modified foods may actually SAVE certain food varieties that are facing extinction. Take the banana. According to a CNN.COM report, the bananas we buy at the supermarket the world over are facing ANOTHER extinction.

Cavendish bananas in a produce isle... Can GMO help save the "world's banana" from extinction?
Cavendish bananas in a produce isle… Can GMO help save the “world’s banana” from extinction?

Back in 1965, the world’s export banana variety, Gros Michel, became commercially extinct due to a fungal disease called, Panama disease. The disease started out from Central America and quickly spread to most of the world’s commercial banana plantations. The solution at the time was to switch to the Cavandish variety of banana, which was found to be resistant to Panama disease.

Fifty years later, the banana industry is facing a new threat from a disease named, “Tropical Race 4.” (Sounds like a another lame reality show.) TR4 affects the current Cavandish variety of banana the same way Panama disease affected Gros Michel.

The practice of only growing one variety of banana is at the heart of problem. By only growing one variety of banana (monoculture) people have set themselves up for tragedy. It’s ironic that there are over 1000banana varieties in the world, and that by only growing one variety, an entire industry is facing turmoil. Replacing a varied multi-culture with a mono-culture invites disaster.

According to an article published by GMO Compass, many banana producers hope to save Cavendish bananas with the help of genetic engineering. A group of scientists have announced that they intend to entirely sequence the banana genome, focusing on banana varieties found in nature. Sequencing the banana genome should enable researchers to discover disease resistant genes that could be transferred to high-yielding, seedless varieties such as the Cavendish.

GMO isn’t the “single solution” for agriculture, but is one of the many high-tech tools used in sustainable agriculture to increase the quality and quantity of food for the world.

Terry Wanzek, of Jamestown, N.D., is a farmer and North Dakota state senator. In an article written by Wanzek and published in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, MN, Terry says, “…we started to plant GMO corn and soybeans many years ago: They (GMOs) allow us to grow more food on less land than ever before. This is the very definition of sustainable agriculture – good for the Earth and for the future of our family farm, too.”

The “Frankenstein” paranoia surrounding GMO agriculture is unfounded, but can easily dispelled with a diligent examination of the facts. Disease resistant plants, insect deflecting produce, high yield crops that thrive in poor soil and need less water, delicious and safe food for humans; we find that GMO is one of the good guys.

Let’s Grow Together is sponsored by the non-profit, Washington Wheat Foundation in Ritzville, WA. www.wawheat.org

SOURCES:

Genetic Science Learning Center. “Genetically Modified Foods.” Learn Genetics. July 15, 2013. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/contenct/science/gmfoods/

CNN.COM – Marketplace AFRICA
Why bananas as we know them might go extinct (again)
by Jacopo Prisco, for CNN
Updated 11:52 AM ET, Fri January 8, 2016
http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/22/africa/banana-panama-disease/

GMO Compass – www.gmo-compass.org
Bananas – Using Genetic Engineering Against Fungal Disease
http://www.gmocompass.org/eng/grocery_shopping/fruit_vegetables/17.bananas_using_genetic_engineering_against_fungal_disease.html

StarTribune – eEdition
COMMENTARY
How using technology makes our family farm better
Thanks to innovations like GPS, drones and GMOs, we help put food on the table.
By Terry Wanzek – August 28, 2016 – 7:13AM
http://www.startribune.com/how-using-technology-makes-our-family-farm-better/391460881/

Pests of Tomato
http://ipm.ncsu.edu/AG295/html/tomato_key.htm
GENETIC LITERACY PROJECT – www.geneticliteracyproject.org
With 2000+ studies affirming safety, GM foods among most analyzed subjects in science
by JoAnna Wendel & Jon Entine – October 8, 2013

 

 

 

 

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