Table of Contents
- What are GMOs?
- What are GMOs not?
- Why do farmers use technology such as GMOs and pesticides?
- My perspective on the safety and sustainability of GMOs
- My perspective as a Christian on GMOs
- Questions and comments from readers answered
- Additional Resources
What are GMOs?
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, will also be referred to in this blog as GM Food, GM Crops, GM Products, Genetic Engineering, and Biotechnology. Genetic engineering does not just exist in food, products such as insulin, aspartame, and the Hepititis B vaccine are all GMOs. This blog will mainly focus on GM crops, or biotechnology. Biotechnology in plant agriculture is the process of intentionally making a copy of a gene for a desired trait from one plant or organism and using it in another plant. Humans have been intentionally changing the genetics of crops since the beginning of their existence. In fact, every single fruit, vegetable, and grain that is grown by farmers today has been genetically altered (through hybrids and selective breeding) to produce better taste, yield, or disease/drought/insect resistance. While GM Crops are slightly different than hybrids, they are simply the newest form of this type of technology and have been around since the early 1990s.
Comprehensive list of GM Crops in the USA
- Corn (88 percent of USA crop)
- Soybeans (93 percent of USA crop)
- Cotton (94 percent of USA crop)
- Canola (90 percent of USA crop)
- Sugar Beets (90 percent of USA crop)
- Papayas (75 percent of USA crop)
Wheat is not a GM crop, but as mentioned previously has been significantly genetically altered since the beginning of human history. If you know a farmer that grows one or more of these crops, there is a very good chance they are a GM crop farmer.
Who Grows GMOs?
List of GM products
While it is possible (difficult, but possible) to avoid foods containing GM crops, it is practically impossible to avoid GM products altogether:
- Food for Human Consumption: While the majority of GM crops to go biofuels and animal feed, GMO ingredients are found in many food products in the grocery store. (Aside from the organic food aisle) Link: List of GM Foods
- Food for Animal Consumption: The majority of U.S. corn, soybeans and alfalfa grown using GMO seed (as mentioned above) are used for livestock feed. Unless the meat is labeled “certified organic,” the chance that the livestock had consumed GM Crops is very high. Livestock by-products account for thousands of products you use every day. Link: Livestock By-Products
- Other Uses: GM products are used in fuel for your automobiles, fiber for your clothes, medicines, road/building construction materials, printer inks, adhesives, etc. An average person has more than likely consumed GM crops or used GM products every single day in the last year.
What do GM crops look like? Are GM crops “poisonous” or “toxic?”
What are GMOs not? (Debunking common myths)
- There have been over 2,000 independent, peer-reviewed studies done on the safety of GM Crops. Link: GMO Safety Study
- There have been over 1 trillion meals consumed by livestock containing GM products. Not a single sickness or death has occured. Link: Trillion Meal Study
- After reviewing thousands of studies, the following medical organizations support GMOs: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Medical Association, American Society for Microbiology, Australian Academy of Sciences, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, British Medical Association, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, European Commission, European Food Safety Authority, Federation of Animal Science Societies, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, French Academy of Science, Indian National Science Academy, Institute of Food Technologists, International Council for Science, International Union of Food Science and Technology, Italian National Academy of Science, Mexican Academy of Sciences, National Academies of Science (United States), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Royal Society (United Kingdom), World Health Organization
- Click this link for: Over 600 published safety assessments
Different in Appearance and Nutritional Value to Non-GMO:
- GM Crops are identical to non-GM Crops in appearance as well as nutritional value. When compared next to each other, there is literally no difference in physical makeup. Nutritional value of a crop can vary due to many factors, but if raised with similar methods and in the same location as a non-GMO counterpart, GMO crops show little to no difference in nutrition.
Only produced by Monsanto
- There are hundreds of seed companies that a farm family like mine can purchase seeds from. While Monsanto is the largest of all of these companies, by no means do they have a monopoly on the market. As far as GMOs go, there are 3 main seed companies you can buy GMO seeds from, mainly because it is so expensive to bring GMOs to market. The point is that farmers have absolute freedom of choice in the company they buy their seed from. They are not forced to buy from Monsanto.
- Read my full blog about Monsanto here: https://petersonfarmblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/15-myths-about-the-former-monsanto-company/
Banned in other countries
- While certain countries have banned the production of GM Crops, most countries (Including the EU) at the very least allow imported goods to contain GM products. The reason GM Crop production has been banned in certain countries is not due to safety concerns, but rather because of negative public perceptions and emotions.
Owned by the seed company while in production
- I have never met a farmer who feels like they or their crops are “owned” by a GMO seed company. Seed companies do require “stewardship agreements” of farmers to make sure they are not stealing a product the seed company spent millions of dollars to research and produce. In other words, farmers are not allowed to reuse their GMO seeds, but they do own the crops from the purchase of the seed to the sale of the grain. Check out this great blog from a fellow farmer, Brian Scott: My Family Farm Is Not Under Corporate Control
Causing farmers to commit suicide
- This was a widely publicized rumor about farmers in India who were growing GM Crops and is simply not correct. Read more here: India Farmer Myth
- This was a widely publicized study that claimed rats developed tumors after digesting GMO corn. The study was funded by an anti-GMO organization, was heavily criticized by the scientific community, and was eventually retracted. Read more here: Retracted GMO Study
Pesticide (chemical) Producing
- The term “pesticide” simply means to get rid of insects and pests. It does not mean that a GM crop contains or produces synthetic chemicals. Take Bt corn for instance. Bt corn produces a protein called Bt. The Bt protein is toxic to bugs, because bugs cannot digest it, so they die. Humans, as well as livestock, can digest Bt proteins, so they do not die (or get sick).
Increasing pesticide/herbicide use
- GMOs are not responsible for the sudden rise of pesticides and herbicides, but rather the decline in usage since the initial rise. (See section below: Why do farmers use GM Crops?)
Why do farmers use technology like GMOs and pesticides? (Benefits) What are the issues? (Costs)
(By both Greg and Nathan Peterson) There is a lot of information here dealing with crop, soil, and weed science. A lot of this is information I have been taught in high-level college courses I have taken. Even after taking these classes, I still feel like I don’t know everything about these topics. That’s what the experts are for. There are experts doing research on the specific things we are discussing at universities (the professors who were teaching me) and research facilities (scientists) around the world. These are the people we should be going to with questions about GMOs, pesticides/herbicides, etc. Not celebrities, soccer moms, and “doctors” who are also talk show hosts trying to market their show. I would also like to clarify that farmers are not unintelligent; they usually know their stuff! They’re using information and products that have been tested and developed by individual scientists/professionals in each area of farming. A farmer is not going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a product without knowing how it works. So if you are not able to visit with a professor or a scientist, the next best thing would be to talk to a farmer, whose information base comes from personal, real-life experience, not Internet blog-reading experience that can be unreliable.
Benefit #1: Farmers use technology to increase yield potential
GMOs: The first and foremost reason farmers use GM crops is because they increase production. This is the same reason farmers and seed companies have been using traditional breeding for years. Hybrids and breeding are mainly responsible for the massive yield increase we’ve seen over the last several decades, but genetic modification is what helps keep the plant from being eaten by insects or taken over by weeds. It allows the plant to reach the full yield potential hybrids and breeding have given it.
When breeding for seed varieties, seed companies use plants that are most desirable. These are the ones that are able to endure through difficult circumstances like insects, disease, and drought. Seed breeding through genetic engineering is done in the same way, but geneticists are able to speed up the process. The traits that are currently being used for GM crops are traits that resist chemicals and/or resist insects. In both cases, the traits allow the crop to produce more with the resources they have. This is fundamental for increased food production.
Issue #1: We are (and will always be) experiencing issues with resistance
A common and very significant problem with this is that the insects have potential to become resistant to the resistant trait. In the same way, weeds can become resistant to herbicides. This is a concern and always has been a concern. Every farmer understands that diseases, insects and weeds are always changing, which is why we must keep improving our crops to keep up with them. Genetic engineering is simply the newest way to go about that. Resistance is a fundamental part of farming that is rooted in the imperfection of this world (This is explained in the “My Perspective on GMOs as a Christian” blog) and greatly affects the farming industry.
Solution: A lot of time and money are going into working on ways to fight resistance. The farming industry has dealt with problems like this since the beginning of time, and there have always been people ready to step up to solve them. This is the task that has been assigned to each one of us in the food industry! Finding solutions to problems.
Benefit #2: Farmers use technology to better protect the environment
This requires a brief history lesson: Farming is an industry that is always changing. Farmers in the early 1900s used to till up their fields completely, no matter what, plant their crops (usually the same crop repeatedly, otherwise known as monocropping), cultivate in between the rows while the crop was growing, harvest the crop, and till the fields again. This left the soil bare and exposed for most of the year and was a lot of extra work. Each heavy rain or plastering windstorm (these are defining weather characteristics of the weather we farm in) would result in vast amounts of topsoil being washed or blown away. Huge dust storms caused the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. Floods overwhelmed deltas with soil that could never be recovered. This was clearly unsustainable and quite frankly, an unethical way to treat the precious gift that is the earth. Farmers knew they must progress to better methods of raising crops. Tree lines were planted to slow down the wind, terraces and waterways were built to slow down and redirect runoff, and reservoirs were built to help contain floods. Farmers also started changing their tillage methods to leave residue on the soil for a larger part of the year. All of these new ideas shaped what is now known as “conservational farming,” a form of environmentally-friendly farming that is practiced widely across America, as well as many other countries, today.
In the late 20th century, a new method of conservational farming was developed called “no-till.” The concept of no-till farming is to leave all residues on the soil throughout the year and never till it under. The idea is based off of how plants grow in natural environments. This type of farming not only protects the topsoil from wind and water erosion but also preserves the natural culture of the soil throughout the soil profile whereas tilling can disrupt it. Furthermore, root structure remains to give the soil more strength, water holding capacity, water infiltration, and higher organic matter content. It also promotes earthworms and microorganisms active in the soil. There is a lot going on below the surface!
Issue #2: Herbicide/Pesticide Usage is Required to No-Till Farm
However, you cannot practice no-till farming without the use of herbicides. Therefore, conservational farming has led to an increase in chemical usage in the last several decades. See, without the practice of tilling the soil, a farmer has no way (unless by hand) to kill a crop’s number one enemy: weeds. It would require over 70 million people to hand weed the cropland acres in the USA alone (See below). Herbicides have allowed farmers to easily control weeds and practice no-till and conservational till practices.
No-till farmers spraying weeds at 10 mph with a 120 ft sprayer can cover a field roughly SIX times as fast as a tillage tool pulled behind a tractor going 5 mph and burn a lot less fuel as well. Herbicides are sprayed once or twice during a growing season with or without the crop already growing. This is so much easier for a farmer than the alternative: Tilling the soil 3-4 times prior to planting and cultivating between the rows after planting, which is difficult, slower and has to be done multiple times. As you can see, no-till farming can be of great value to the preservation of the environment!
(Side note: To be clear, farmers who are not no-till still use pesticides. This includes conventional tillage farmers as well as organic farmers (who use natural pesticides). These methods are used for many different management reasons and they are both completely viable practices. Whether or not a farmer decides to till is based on many different variables. We choose to no-till because of the contour of our land, the various weather factors we face, the amount of labor we have available, and the many advantages listed in the previous paragraph.)
Solution: Below you can read about how things like GMOs and cover crops are helping to reduce pesticide usage. It is clear we need to reduce our use of pesticides in agriculture, and the good news is that we will likely see a decrease in pesticide usage over the next several decades.
Benefit #3: Farmers use GM technology to reduce costly inputs like pesticides
GMO technology can actually help reduce the amount herbicide/pesticides. Bt corn and Bt cotton resist the corn borer itself so farmers don’t have to spray (less pesticides). Roundup Ready GM crops provide better weed control that can be provided while the crop is growing. Glyphosate (The Roundup Ready herbicide) is one of the least toxic chemicals available for use, which is why it is so popular among farmers. Safer, more effective chemicals like Glyphosate are being developed as we speak. If farmers were not allowed to use GM crops like these, they would have to use more potent chemicals that are active in the soil for a whole growing season and spray multiple times instead of just once, regardless of whether the field was tilled. This is why we say that GMOs reduce herbicide/pesticide usage.
GMOs are not the only way to reduce herbicide/pesticide usage. Chemicals and fertilizer are some of the highest expenses a farmer has to spend to plant a crop, so minimizing the use of them is a very high priority. Equipment manufacturers are continually implementing new machinery and computer technology to increase the precision and accuracy of chemical application machines (sprayers) to apply these products. This technology extends all the way from inside of the cab to the output at the nozzles:
- Monitors in sprayers can be calibrated to spray specific amounts of chemical/fertilizer in each part of the field to prevent the slightest amount of over-application.
- They also keep track of each individual field, knowing where to turn on/off the application in sections to make sure no area is double applied.
- There are also sensors called “green-seekers” being developed that can, for certain applications, detect green (weeds) and spray only in that one spot so chemical is not wasted empty spaces of the field.
- Nozzles are always being developed to better apply the spray solution in an ideal consistency to cover the plants but not drift from the desired application area.
- There is also boom-leveling technology that has been developed to prevent drift by automatically retaining the sprayer booms at a certain height off of the ground.
- You can see all of these in action in Part 2 of our blog about chemicals:
Another tool that is being developed to decrease herbicide usage is cover crops. Cover crops are plants that are grown in between growing seasons to help keep the ground covered and hold/provide nutrients in the soil for the future desired crop. There are many potential benefits to cover crops, however, they are still being tested and experimented with. One benefit is that if the ground is growing something throughout the entire year, it can dramatically reduce the opportunity for weeds to grow. This, of course, then reduces the need to spray the weeds. Livestock can also graze cover crops. In this way, the livestock are controlling the weeds/cover crops for the farmer instead of herbicides. Cover crops won’t eliminate the need for herbicides completely but they could potentially lower the use of them quite a bit. Farmers and agricultural researchers will continue to learn how things like cover c
More and more farmers are adopting these technologies as they become more and more available and affordable. Conveniently, less chemical usage is best for the environment as well as for a farmer’s pocketbook so this technology pays for itself. It doesn’t make sense for farmers to use more chemicals than they have to, because they cost so much. Farmers and manufacturers will continue to identify the problems in chemical application as well as continue to find solutions.
Issue #3: Herbicide/Pesticide use in farming is still very high. Large, Agri-Business companies are taking home most of the profit. The whole process caters to larger, more efficient farms and larger, more efficient businesses.
There is, of course, the issue of who is profiting from selling these expensive technologies (such as GMOs and pesticides). It is true that the ones benefitting the most from these technologies are chemical companies and seed companies. I wish it were different, that the farmers were the ones taking home most of the profit. However, this is simply a result of the free market society we have in place. These companies have created products that help farmers grow more food with less inputs. Farmers are willing to pay these companies thousands of dollars for their products. That is why the large seed and pesticide companies are making a lot of money. There is no “buying out” of farmers happening, and farmers still have all sorts of freedom to choose what kind of crops to plant. If farmers want to make more money, we have to find a way to make our product appealing enough to consumers, so that they will spend higher amounts of money. That is essentially what organic farmers are doing. (Although I mentioned earlier that organic food at its core isn’t “better” or “different” nutritionally than conventional food)
This system, along with many other variables, has resulted in less farms with more acreage. Does this mean that these farms are taking over family farms? Not necessarily. What I have seen in my travels is that most of the time it is the family farms becoming larger to adapt to the changes being made in the agricultural industry. Family farms still make up 96% of all farms in America, and that percentage doesn’t seem to be going down. (See: The Definition of Family Farming)
The free market system caters to larger, more efficient farms and larger, more efficient businesses. That is why there are so many successful businesses in America that are huge (Microsoft, Apple, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, etc). That is just how industry in the free market works. Keep in mind that a lot of the money these companies make is poured back into research of new products and new technology. You can hate on this system if you want, but in my opinion, without these huge companies, our country (and other countries around the world) would not be as well off.
It is the same thing in agriculture. There are huge companies in agriculture with a lot of money (John Deere, Case IH, Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow) and it doesn’t always seem fair that they are making most of the profit. But these companies (as well as all of the other large companies I failed to mention) are responsible for most of the research, technology, and development that we’ve seen in the last several decades. GMOs cost millions of dollars and take many years to get approved. Who else has millions of dollars to fund this research besides these large agricultural companies? Farming has progressed so much in the last few decades. We’ve talked about all of the great things that are happening and why they are happening. We’ve also talked about the issues that are happening, and how we are working to solve them. Next, we will talk about the health, safety, and sustainability of GMOs.
My perspective on the safety and sustainability of GM Crops
My perspective on the safety and sustainability of GM crops is an opinion that I’ve formed based on the facts presented above. There is nothing wrong with having a different opinion than me! New information can change someone’s opinion, and I will try to keep an open mind about this if you do as well. I will now address the three main questions about GMOs.
Are GM Foods Healthy (Nutritious)?
In my opinion, the answer to this question is a resounding yes. As mentioned earlier in the blog, GM products are exactly the same in nutritional value and physical makeup as their non-GMO counterparts. The argument of whether or not GM products are “healthy” can’t really exist in my opinion, because they are literally the same thing (nutrition-wise) as non-GMO products. A nutrition label on an ear of GM corn would be exactly the same as the label on an ear of non-GM corn. Inserting a gene into a plant does not change its appearance or nutritional value.
Now, please realize that there are going to be unhealthy foods containing GM products in them (Energy drinks for example). However, this does not mean that the raw GM products (like corn) in these drinks are unhealthy. It is the processing, cooking, and/or mixing of other ingredients with the GM products that can create an unhealthy food or drink. This is one of the main misconceptions I see with the organic food industry. While organic farmers work extremely hard and create nutritious, valuable food products, the original core products of organic food and regular food are the exact same in composition. It is the end product (as well as the production methods used to grow them) that separates the two in the grocery store. You can cook just as wholesome of a meal with GM products as you can with organic food products. But we’ll save that conversation for a separate blog post coming soon.
To summarize, if you are determined to find a reason to stop eating GM food, it should not be because you believe it is a less nutritious product (because it’s not), it should be due more to safety and sustainability concerns, which I will address next.
Are GM Foods safe?
As of today, all signs point to GMOs being safe to consume. There have been over 2,000 independent studies over the last 20 years on this topic. (Link: 2,000 Studies) As shown in the “Eating GM Crops from the Field” video, I have been around GMOs my entire life and I have never seen any indication of any type of danger associated with their production and consumption. I believe most (if not all) GM crop farmers feel the same way. Are there issues with GMOs? Yes, of course. Many of those were explained in the section above (Why do farmers use GMOs?). However, in my opinion, the evidence that *currently* exists does nothing but support the stance of GM foods being safe.
I do realize that this does not guarantee the absolute safety of GMOs. There are new tests on GMOs being performed every day and it may be that some day one of them will come back with a negative side effect. At that point, I would change my opinion on GMOs, because new evidence would show me that there is new truth to be believed. However, until then I will remain convinced that they are indeed “safe.”
I put safe in quotations because, you see, most of what we do in life isn’t safe.
For instance, is it safe to:
- Ride in or drive an automobile? (Reckless drivers, malfunction)
- Wear “safety” belts in an automobile? (Seat belts are not 100% effective)
- To be outside? (Heat, cold, earthquakes, poisonous animals, etc.)
- To be inside? (Mold, poisonous spiders, etc.)
- To use medicine? (Side effects anyone?)
- To use a cell phone? (Where are the long term studies?)
- To fall in love? (Broken relationships can be detrimental to your health)
Hopefully you get my point. Nothing in this life is really “safe” and without risk. But we participate in these activities because we feel the benefits truly outweigh the perceived risks! Seriously, if you only worry about living “safe” all the time then you probably aren’t truly living. Life is full of risk. Every type of technology comes with risk. That includes GMOs. GM food has never been shown to be dangerous, but that does not mean the risk isn’t still there. I realize there are alternatives to GMOs that some people believe carry less risk, and that is where the organic food (non-GMO) industry comes into play. (Although there are still risks taken by consuming organic food as well) However, not every consumer can afford that choice. That is why one person’s beliefs should not determine another’s beliefs and choices. Every farmer and consumer should be allowed the freedom of what to grow and what to eat! (I talk about that more in the section below, “GMO labeling”)
Are GM Foods environmentally sustainable?
The decision of whether or not to eat GM products is up to you. It is your personal choice. If you choose not to eat them, you can purchase food from the organic aisle in the grocery store. I have no problem with that! Organic producers are some of the hardest working people out there, and I have a lot of respect for them. I just hope you know why you are making that organic food purchase. It cannot be because GMOs are “evil, unhealthy, toxic, poisonous, etc.” They aren’t. It should instead be because, in your specific situation, the possible risks of eating GMOs outweigh the outlined benefits. This is not true for everyone, and I talk about that more in the section below (“GMO labeling”).
What I do have a problem with is people trying to ban GMOs from being produced. Especially when they use false information to accomplish their agenda. (See: What are GMOs not? Debunking GMO Myths) Until there is sufficient evidence that GMOs are harmful to people or to the environment, farmers should be allowed to produce them and consumers should be allowed to consume them. First of all, because we live in a free country. Second of all…
Sustainability. Both for humans and the environment. The population of the world is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. To feed this population, it is estimated that we will need to produce twice as much food then as we are producing now. Available farmland is shrinking back each day due to issues such as urban sprawl. How are we going to sustainably feed this many people? There are 2 options (that I can see) to accomplishing that:
Option 1: Revert back to smaller farms and more farmers. I believe this is what believers on the organic side of things desire. It is definitely the most romantic of the two options. However, there are some issues with this option:
-You see, the amount of farmers and people who want to become farmers is declining each year.. The average age of a farmer is 55 years old and has been increasing for the last couple of decades. Where are the millions of extra farmers (that I think would be required to farm entirely organic) going to come from in 30 years when the older generation of farmers passes away? Farming is a very difficult job, and most people would rather be spending their time working weekdays 9-5, enjoying free weekends, and relying on others to grow their food.
-Another problem is that the current structure of the agricultural industry would have to be overthrown. It’s hard to explain this in detail as the agricultural industry is ridiculously complex, but transforming the operating systems, transportation, storage, etc away from large farms and technology like GM crops would cost trillions of dollars, huge government involvement, and simply isn’t something that could happen over a few years or even decades.
-Finally, a free market system like we have in the USA does not cater well to smaller farms. Just like in every other industry, it favors larger, more efficient farms that can produce food at a lower cost. It is also not possible to force farmers to downsize their operation and to grow their food organically. Farmers are never happy when they are told to change their operation after they have worked for decades to try and perfect it. I could go on and on with more issues. The point is that, in my opinion, option 1 is highly unlikely to ever happen. However, I have no problem with people trying to make it happen, as long as they go about it ethically. (This means no false, agenda-driven information, focusing on solutions and benefits to this option, not attacking Option 2. Remember, over 90% of farmers in Option 2 are family farmers like me. It makes me sad when people attack the farm families who are part of the foundation of our society.)
Option 2: Use technologies like GM crops to continue to increase yields, reduce chemical usage, and improve efficiency. The benefits of using technology to farm have been clearly outlined in this blog. Is there risk? Yes. But the risks that are possible are, *in my opinion* completely overshadowed by the benefits of technology. If GM crops are supported, they will provide a huge impact to farmers in underdeveloped countries in the future. They will be able to solve a lot of hunger crises throughout the world. (Link: GMO impact in underdeveloped countries)
The agricultural community is a community that has fought through many difficulties together and I believe we have the tools to solve this dilemma. However, we must be allowed to use those tools.
Conclusion: What then should we do?
Today, in 2014, we enjoy the safest, most abundant, food supply in the history of the entire world! Never before have we seen the amount of choices of food we have today and the ease of which it’s available. It’s quite amazing to be honest. But yet, millions of people spend their time complaining about their food supply. I don’t get it! I realize that farmers and agribusinesses should be held accountable and that questions should be asked about the safety and quality of food, but at some point thankfulness needs to come into play. Be thankful for farmers! Be thankful for choices! Be thankful for freedom!
For some perspective, picture in your mind your ancestors from the Great Depression, or the people from the original thirteen colonies of America, or even the people from ancient times. What do you think they would say about today’s food supply? I don’t think their first response would be negative. They would be blown away by the quantity, diversity, and availability of the food in our grocery stores.
People today (including myself) take so much for granted and complain about things we have. We repeatedly bite the hand that feeds us. A middle class person in America lives a more comfortable life than 99% of people in the history of humanity. Can’t that be enough? When are we going to be satisfied? When are we going to be thankful for what we have? I realize farmers and the food industry needs to be held in check. Asking questions is great! Attacking us based on false information? Not so great.
Farmers are working harder than you know every day trying to feed you. The least you could do is say thank you. Not complain about what they’re feeding you. (Asking questions and keeping us in check is not complaining) If you do feel we are making bad decisions, then you are absolutely free to grow your own food or buy from another type of farmer (organic). But I hope that you can understand that each farmer, no matter what the type, is doing the best they can, and we are making the decisions we feel are the right ones, not only for us, but also for the environment and for the consumer. That’s why we feed our families what we grow!
It’s Time to Find A Real Problem to Fight Against
Whether or not you agree with what I have to say about GMOs in this blog post, the real truth I want to get at here is that you really shouldn’t be wasting your time fighting against GMOs. (And to be honest, I shouldn’t have to be spending time defending why our farm grows them) Why has this become such a priority? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? Here is a list of some of the real issues that I believe each and every one of us, including myself, should be investing more time and energy into stopping:
- Human Slavery: There are 30 million human slaves in the world today. 30 million.
- Poverty: 1 billion children are born into poverty. 22,000 children die each year because of it.
- Hunger: 805 million people do not have enough available food to live a healthy, active lifestyle.
- Abuse: 6 million children are reported to have been abused in the United States alone. 1 in 4 women will experience some type of abuse in their lifetime.
A lesser, non-proven issue? GMOs: Responsible for 0 deaths and 0 sicknesses since they were introduced.
Reading those statistics will probably make you feel sad. There are two things we should all do after seeing those. 1. Be thankful for what we have. 2. Stop wasting our time complaining and start doing something positive to help reduce some of those numbers! A song I think of when I write this is Matthew West’s “Do Something.”
The Reality of Sustainable Food Production
As human beings, we have to understand that this world is not perfect. Completely sustainable food production, while theoretically possible, is never going to be perfect either. Are GMOs perfect? No. Is it possible that someday we will find a better alternative? Yes. (Organic is a better alternative for a small population, but it is not the ultimate solution!) Until the day comes when we no longer need the technology, all types of farmers must continue to improve our methods of production. I believe GMOs to be better for the soil environment, better for farmers, better for poverty-ravished communities, and overall better for producing safe, high-quality, affordable food. That’s why I grow them, eat them myself, and promote the truth about them. In my opinion, the benefits outweigh the possible risks (for now)!
Thank you so much for reading. I will appreciate hearing feedback from all of you. Let’s get this conversation started and find some solutions to the real world problems we are facing today!
Additional Blog: My perspective as a Christian on GMOs
Click here to read: My perspective as a Christian on GMOs
Questions and Comments From Readers Answered
If GMOs are so good, then why not label them?
My immediate answer to that question is: I believe GMOs are “good” (not proven to be dangerous), so therefore I do not think they need to be labeled. However, I am pro-freedom of choice for consumers. I believe consumers should have freedom to avoid any type of food product if they want to, and so I am not necessary against the idea of labeling. However….
-Consumers today are very uneducated about a lot of things in the food production system. Many people google search their questions about food, health, etc. and rely on answers from random people on the internet to base their views upon instead of facts and true expert opinions. I would be all for labeling of GMO products if it meant that as a result consumers were educated (correctly) about what they are, why farmers use them, and what benefits/risks they impose. The problem is the average consumer has no idea what GMOs are and therefore would be scared of a label that says “genetically modified.” Marketing companies take full advantage of this. We need people to be educated about their food, not scared of it!
-Most of the labeling of today has nothing to do with nutrition. It has everything to do with marketing. Terms placed on labels are misleading and are designed to sell a product by making consumers think that the anything that doesn’t have that label is bad for them. If we were to put a label on every GMO food product, I think the same would hold true. Consumers would assume that “GMOs must be bad if they have to put a label about them. I better buy non-GMO instead.” Again, this is fear based marketing instead of fact-based education. I am all for consumers having freedom of choice! If you have been informed correctly with facts about GMOs and still want to buy non-GMO, go for it! However, I am not for consumers being scared into avoiding a product they know nothing about.
-Nutritional labels are supposed to show nutrition! Biotechnology (GMOs) is not dealing in nutrition. As mentioned earlier in the blog, GMO and non-GMO are the same in appearance and nutrition. Biotechnology is dealing with the technology used to grow the food. Are we are going to start labeling every single type of technology used to grow our food?
-Labeling of GM Products is so much more complex than people may realize. As mentioned in the “What are GMOs?” section of this blog, GMOs are found in so many products that labeling each and every one of them would be a costly (See: Cost of Labeling) decision.
-Labeling is desired almost exclusively by consumers who don’t want to buy GM products. It is a niche market. It wouldn’t make sense to label everything when only a small percentage of the population cares, especially when consumers are not well educated on them and there has been no proven danger. Instead of labeling all GM products, we are currently labeling all the products that are GMO-free, giving people who want this choice the option to choose it! This provides a compromise between anti-GMO agendas (get rid of all GM products) and pro-GMO agendas (no need to eat non-GMO). If we get to a point where the majority of consumers have been adequately educated on GMOs and still desire labels on everything, then I would be for labeling everything.
The (educated) consumer is always right.
600 Plus Safety Assessments on GMOs
Ex Anti-GMO Activist Mark Lynas On Why GMOs are Green and Sustainable
10 Truths About GMOs and Organics
This Is Why It Is Okay To Feed Your Family GMOs
Planting the Four Billionth Acre of GM Crops
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Thank you for writing such a great blog.
I grew up on a family farm in WA state.
Enjoyed reading this! VERY informational! Thank you.
Great work as usual. I’m glad American agriculture has you to advocate for them.
One thing I’m not sure on is Monsanto being the largest.
Excellent video and article
Done in a kind, factual way. Good presentation without a huge bias.
I’ve written a few papers on this subject and have collected the same kind of info as you have.
Would be interesting to see the chemical composition of the different plants( non gmo vs gmo)
Dairy farmer, Manitoba, Canada
Animal science undergrad student
Very good presentation. Although I am ofr mthe use of any method to raise better crops and reduce costs I learned some things that I did not know before reading.
Reblogged this on Nathaniel Jackson and commented:
If you ever wanted to know what a Kansas farmer believes about genetically modified organisms.
Thanks for your blog. w too raise gmo crops and not afraid to eat them
Straight up, I was a anti gmo person. I say was because through research and great articles, such as this, I have changed my view. Thank you. Great job. God bless you guys, I hope to meet you someday.
From Washington state,
27 year old dairy farmer, processor, direct delivery to the store.
Thanks for the comment David! My goal is not to “convert” people to my opinion, but rather inform them of the facts and let them make their own decision. Thank you for seeking out the truth for yourself!
I learned a great deal on your blog and videos. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.
Great blog! Thank you for sharing the truth!!
Thank you for publicizing this. As a farmer’s daughter and farmer’s wife, we need more input from the farmer’s point of view. I think the fool that coined the term “genetically modified” should have consulted with a marketing firm/agent to come up with a better, non-scary term than “genetically modified.” Keep up the good work guys!
Thanks Greg. As a fellow farmer, it is great to know the truth about GMOs. Keep up the good work.
Outstanding! Impressed with your insights. I have argued with my wife and others for quite awhile that GMO foods are perfectly safe. My wife has finally started to come around. Keep up the good work, looking forward to more videos!
I cannot fault you guys for what you do. When a few farmers are expected to feed the entire world, I believe GMO’s/herbicides/pesticides is our only option. However, I believe there is an alternative, and that includes more family farms feeding themselves, working hard, proper crop rotation between several crops, and no concern for the dollar…just plain simple farming, the way it worked for centuries. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening; our society is too far gone. People don’t want to work and can you imagine telling a yuppie kid to put down his handheld and go feed the chickens?! Thanks guys for all the work you do in promoting farming as a viable career option. It’s a shame more youngsters don’t take note. God bless!
Bryan, you mention “no concern for the dollar” as a part of “just plain simple farming,” but as a farmer’s daughter, a farmer’s wife and someone who works in the agriculture industry, I have to remind you that farming is how we support our livelihoods. Farming is our family business, and to not be concerned for the dollar is asking us to not be profitable, go bankrupt and quickly lose our farm. I grew up as the third generation on my dad’s farm in South Dakota, and my husband is the fifth generation to farm his family farm in Texas so I can guarantee you that we didn’t keep our farms in our family this long by not having a concern for the dollar. My husband’s great great grandfather settled his land in Texas over a century ago, and despite many struggles, he managed to turn a profit and keep his land. That’s how any business works, and farming is no different.
Well said, Kaitlyn!! It seems that many think farmers shouldn’t make any money.
Kaitlyn — I liked your response. It is discouraging that so many people associate profit with greed. They are two very different things.
A well managed farm is a prosperous one, and vice versa. Good financial stewardship goes hand in hand with good resource stewardship. Show me a farm that is not economically viable or only marginally so, that lacks ability to prosper in the face of changing economic realities, and I will show you a farm that has issues with erosion, takes shortcuts on animal welfare, that lacks entrepreneurial energy, that holds less opportunity for new generations, and its operators have greater health issues, lack of motivation, and personal strife. It is also a farm that will not stay in the family long.
Farming is certainly a business that supports a unique way of life and is a cultural anchor in a changing society, but it is a business nonetheless. I find it difficult to understand the perception that farming is somehow exempt from the laws of economics and that farmers have some moral duty to eschew innovation and cling to outdated ways of doing things. I think there is a romanticism that associates farming with subsistence agriculture, that farmers should have no need for or desire for education, health care, personal and household amenities and cultural experiences that other Americans take for granted. While most of us provide these things with salaries and benefits of our jobs, farmers must provide this for themselves through their business income and off farm employment on top of the demands of farming.
We do expect farmers to practice good stewardship of the land and resources, but it is unfair and even paradoxal to confine the definition of good stewardship to romanticized and superficial understandings of farming. Technology and good resource stewardship can and do go hand-in-hand, and stagnate technology is as often as not a recipe for poor resource stewardship.
I want farming to be profitable because it is in the interest of society, the environment, and the economic and social stability of rural communities that you do so.
Now please take note I am not trying to piss off anyone I just feel i must say in your comment you said something about the alternative to GMO’s involves “working hard” now I do not know where you are from or what you do but all the farmer’s I know do work hard, now if you can come up with a way to work harder than everyday in your life from 4 am to midnight or more without going mad or losing your mind, then I am all ears.
Another myth reflected in Bryan’s comment is that only “big farmers” plant GM crops. In 2013 GM crops were planted on over 36 million acres in 27 countries. The U.S. is the largest (40% of the total) but 90% of the farmers planting GM crops were resource poor and 56% of all GM plantings in 2013 were in the developing world (source is http://www.isaaa.org). I once heard Florence Wambugu, a Kenyan plant pathologist, make the point that if herbicide tolerant crops were available to African smallholders their children would be able to attend school instead of weeding. The “plain simple farms” I’ve been on in Africa and Asia all shared at least one thing in common, an aspiration to grow to the point that they could feed themselves and generate additional income from their labor.
I made a mistake on the data included in my comment. GM crops were planted on over 300 million acres in 2013, not 36 million. 18 million farmers planted GM crops. Same source as in the original comment.
Great job! Thanks for putting so much thought and research into your post and pulling it together in an understandable and referenced format. I’ll be referring people to it when they ask me about GMOs. Facts just don’t get as much media coverage as the sensational myths around GMO.
Thank you for taking the time to write such an educational post.
EXCELLENT article!!!! Thank you for feeding the world! ☺ & I absolutely love yalls videos! Keep them coming! 😀
Thanks for wading in on a topic where controversy can keep a lot of the people who know it closely away. I can tell it took a long time to put it all together!
I work for a company that sells GM seeds. I meet the farmers and understand, companies are here to serve the grower and help agriculture move forward in meeting growing demands. Thank you for advocating agriculture!
Great work, Greg! And thanks so much for the mention of my post from CNN’s Eatocracy! The original version of it on my own blog is at http://thefarmerslife.com/biotechnology/i-occupy-our-food-supply-everyday/
Excellent blog! What I feel is one of your most important statements, “As you saw in the video, we eat our own crops, therefore we believe they are safe.” – One thing that gets lost in this entire debate is the fact that farmers are also consumers! We have to eat and feed our families just like everyone else.
Greg, thank you striving to clarify a subject so often muddled. Through personal research and observation both in college while studying agronomy and now several years in the field of experience. This subject has and intrigued me to learn more and more. Please read the journal article that I have sent to you via Facebook message since there is not an upload portal here. Further discussion in a civil manner would be welcome.
I thought your post was extremely well done and I felt like a gained knowledge and perspective on the subject. Good Job!
Absolutely perfect!! In every way!! You hit it right on the head!!
Thank you SO much for doing this. Sooooooooo much false information is out there. We need more people like you! I will be referencing this blog and the information found in it as well as your video for future projects of mine.
10000000 POINTS TO THE PETERSON FARM BROS!!
Hi Greg – Thanks for this post. Can you elaborate on the ban of GM crops in the EU? I notice you did not include any references for this particular point making it seem more like an opinion than a fact.
You’re right, I did not cite a source there, I will try to get that changed! Part of the reason I said that as an opinion was because my brothers and I visited Germany and talked to many different German farmers and subjects like GMOs often came up. They all said that the ban was based on fear, not fact. And several of them were jealous that we were able to use GM technology in America!
Owen Patterson, former UK environment secretary had some harsh criticisms for the EU stance (going so far as to call them a Green Blob) when he visited South Africa on February 24th, 2015. His comments on the issue, as well as his citations can be found here: http://geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/02/24/owen-paterson-anti-gmo-stance-of-green-blob-greenpeace-condemn-poor-to-starvation-death/
Good article. Well said.
Greg Peterson Farm Bros, As a dairy farmer we as a family have used GMO corn BT and RR but i found the cows had a drop in production i am now using a GMO conventional corn high in starch and sugar Milk production increase 12 to15 LBS and a decrease in displaced abomasums . What have your weight gains done? And herd Health?
Excellent article!!! Well said in every aspect! We also grow GMO’s and eat them as well. Thank you for posting the facts! You and your family are truly role models for us and our children! Thanks again, and keep up the wonderful work!!
Reblogged this on beerranchblog and commented:
Great links to independent studies on GMO Crops.
I really just have a question, of you have time or resources to find the answer. But I am a farmer and do use GMO plants. But I have heard that corn is a man made plant. And if that is true, wouldn’t that make even organic corn a GMO?
I am a 18 year old in south carolina. While I don’t agree with your beliefs on gmo food, I respect the fact that you stand behind your products. I personally try to be as organic as possible but thats pretty hard sometime. But personal tastes aside I am glad you have taken a stance on gmo. We have a difference of opinion’s but like you said we can and will continue to be friends. Thumbs up bro! But seriously feed as many as you can. Cause our farm is only 2 acres we can feed maybe thirty a year organicly. Well ill end by saying this I respect you for choosing farming as a living. Cause it is tough. You know what i mean.
Ps God bless you bro in Christ.
Thanks Paul! We can agree to disagree. Like I mentioned in the blog, I have absolutely no problem with anyone buying organic food as long as they know why they are buying it and they don’t demand non-organic food to be banned with no fact-based explanation!
Thanks again for writing such a complete article that is not based on emotion! We need to educate about agriculture and remember that hybrids were feared at first! Without hybrids, there would be a lot more hunger in the world! Technology is the only way production will be able to keep up with continued need for increased production! Keep up the great work!:0)
As a farmer’s daughter myself, I must respectfully disagree. There are many studies that prove the opposite of the conclusions you’ve drawn. GMO foods weaken the nutrients in food, add unnecessary chemicals to our bodies (which lead to disease), mess with our digestion, weaken honeybees (thus their demise as a critical part of the food cycle), and more. Joel Salatin is a farmer who is on the right track at getting farming back in business. I know all too well how GMO seed companies work (my brother-in-law worked at a seed farm). I’m curious what do you do with information such as this? https://laudyms.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/changing-from-gmo-to-non-gmo-natural-soy-animal-feed-farmers-see-big-difference/
Thanks for the comment! I would disagree that there are many studies that “prove” the opposite of the conclusions I’ve drawn. For instance, one conclusion: “There has never been a death or sickness due to ingestion of GM Food.” Do you have studies that show death or sickness in humans after GMO consumption? I would love to see the “many studies” you are talking about. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the scientific, peer-reviewed studies support GMO safety. GMOs themselves do not “add chemicals” into our bodies, the only difference between GMO and non-GMO is a single gene. They also do not mess with our ingestion. I’ve been eating GMOs for several decades and have never seen anything like that. The weakening of the honeybee population cannot be linked only to GMOs. There are hundreds of factors that could be contributing to that and there has been no conclusive evidence on specifics so far. Hopefully they can solve that problem, because honeybees are very important to farmers. I’ve seen a lot of Joel Salatin’s work and while he does have some good ideas and makes some good points, unless there are millions of new farmers lining up to farm this way, I don’t think his goals are going to happen. I would love to have a one-on-one conversation with him!
If gmo and pesticides mess with bad bugs gut, don’t you think that it could mess with bees guts? While you are one hundred percent rigth about the many factors causing bee hive collapse, don’t you think you could do more to prevent it by not using pesticides or gmo? By going organic you could not only help bees but other people. I don’t know what the business market is like in Kansas but down here people are seeking out the organic over regular produce. In all I say go to God,pray, and listen. God bless.
I would have liked to see you reply to the link from Rachel.
Hybrid and GMO are not equivalent, you would not be able to breed in some of the changes that GMO’s do through cross-breeding ….ever.
….I don’t trust large corporations to have peoples best interest. for the most part they are all crony capitalists. I am not against GMO per se but I have little faith in the corporations and the peer reviewed. Global warming is a perfect example of peer reviewed fraud. And that is on an epic scale.
in your reply to Rachel you mentioned that the difference is a single gene ..isn’t it a single gene that causes cancer in people. That argument can run both ways.
I applaud your initiative but we often only see what we want.
I grow my own vegetables and they are usually heirloom (I don’t have issues with hybrid ) and nothing I buy in a grocery store compares with regarding flavour. I do not insist on being or following certified organic standards as this too is full of holes and loaded with bullsh!t from the other extreme.
I think science has advanced us tremendously but don’t trust any large corporation will be honest with so much money at stake.
I would like to way in on this. For me, consuming a genetically modified plant is no problem (ie: F1 hybrid) however when a plant is modified to resist a chemical herbicide, that creates a different problem. When sprayed on the plant is there not a residue left on, or take up by the roots. And bees are not resistant to neonicotinoids. I understand the need to control weeds to get the best yield, but at what cost? Is it worth taking a chance with your health in consuming herbicide residue, to the environment, with the die off of bees. In our area Seattle has just become that largest city to band neonicotinoids. I am sorry, but with out the bees your farm, my farm, food production as we know it will not exist. GMO’s when modified to resist herbicides is not the path for sustainable farming.
I’d like to add my perspective on your questions here. I think you have confused neonicotinoids with GMOs. The two are not related. Neonics are a seed treatment product to suppress insect feeding on young plants, which could be wheat, barley, corn or soybeans, to list a few. And as to whether they affect bee populations- the data is incredibly sparse on this. It is far too early to be imposing bans when we don’t yet know if Neonics even have a significant effect. Moreover, if we ban neonics, we will have to resort to older, considerably more toxic insecticides to control pests.
The genetic changes genetic modification imposes are actually quite comparable to conventional breeding. Wheat is unrecognizable from its ancestors, and is in fact a different species altogether. Humans did that through conventional breeding; they altered the generic makeup of wheat (and other crops) to the point where it is a different plant entirely. Not that different from genetic modification; it just takes longer.
Great post, Greg. I’m a farmer from Saskatchewan (Canada) and it’s great to see an informed discussion on this topic. People need to read the facts.
I would like to get one thing straight, people think pesticides and GMO are the same thing, PESTICIDES ARE CHEMICALS, GMO’S ARE GROWN ORGANISMS/PLANTS. GMO’S REDUCE THE AMOUNTS OF CHEMICALS APPLIED. People use those terms synonymously and it annoys the heck out of me to no end.
Let’s think about how many other bad things we have been adding to this world: Fuel exhaust, cigarette smoke, aerosol, etc. The reason the bees are disappearing is because of all of the pesticide residues. From what Greg was saying, GMO’s are allowing us to apply fewer pesticides (and herbicides) because of a natural gene found somewhere else that is put into the plant to give it a resistance. It is one gene that is naturally found elsewhere, it is not being created in a lab somewhere.
The largest misuse of chemicals comes from people spraying their own lawns to get rid of the one dandelion in their front yard to try to keep it perfectly green. All farmers are required to be licensed and certified to be able to buy chemical applications (at least in my state, CT), and it obviously costs a lot of money so we don’t spray things just because we want to for aesthetic reasons. Many people go to home depot and probably do not read the application instructions, overdose, do not dilute enough, and therefore, use way too much resulting in extra residues that the bees are picking up.
Here is a link to one of many bee studies, with CCD being linked to chemicals in the spray. GMO farmers are using less spray than ever… I am for GMO’s, my farm uses them, my animals, my family and myself are quite healthy and I have yet to have a problem with GMO’s.
So GMO isn’t a safe technology, but it has been studied by THOUSANDS …. Maybe more than 10,000 scinentists wrote something about this …. And what do we got ? Nothing more than “You never know” ….
So if you’re not sure about GMO can maybe do, or maybe not, because human changed one or two genes in it …. Think about the all natural plante reproduction : millions of gene mixed !!!! And there is no study about every genetical changes it gives ….
I notice that you ignored my question. Although you may not have any health problems yet, what if you do in the future, as many people have? Infertility, hormone related cancers, allergies, asthma and many more can be linked to GMO consumption. Once you marry and have children (if you’re able, due to high infertility these days), you may want better for your children. Just because it’s already a fallen world, does not mean that we shouldn’t give our children the best in health and prosperity. We have a son with severe allergies (food and environmental). He is sick much of the time, so eliminating toxins (to give his little body the most nutrients and he least amount of stresses) of all sorts are high on the priority list in our life. Maybe someday you’ll be in the same place. Getting food and life back to the way God intended will bring us the most health, not trying to play God and “improve” on His gifts through GMOs. We will not be blessed in the long term, even if the short term benefits may look like it’s a good thing.
Also, you must also check who is funding the studies you are citing. Most often the results are able to be skewed the way that the finders desire (in any area of debate). If you download and read this book I’m posting, maybe you’ll see where some of us are coming from. It also has the data on GMO damage you asked for.
Funders* not finders in the last paragraph. People funding!
Rachel, I did not mean to ignore your question. There are a lot of comments and I must have missed it. You have brought up a lot of good points! I do not think the links you have posted can truly “link” GM products to those health problems. I realize that a lot of studies are funded by pro-GMO organizations, but is the same thing not true with the studies you are posting as well? (They are funded by anti-GMO organizations)
I find it interesting that the thousands of farm families who are growing GMOs (and eating their own crops) are some of the healthiest people in the country. How do we explain that? We don’t have any sort of allergies in our family and until there is a clear correlation provided that shows how families who eat GMOs have more health issues and families that don’t have less, I will have trouble believing the studies you have posted. The thing to remember is that GMOs are helping farmers, have the potential to solve hunger crises, and reduce the amount chemical usage. Unless the proven concerns outweigh the proven benefits, it makes sense to grow GMOs.
In the last few months I have been hearing about GMO’s causing a loss in reproductive rates in livestock and that several corporations are now looking to use Non GMO corn and beans as their main protein source in feed for their breeding facilities. If true that livestock producers feel that it is causing reproduction issues in livestock how long before it becomes a Human health issue. Very little supportive data to support this of yet but a large increase of request for Non GMO grain.
Good question. The Governments would be happy if it caused reproductive problems in Humans, because they are worried about to many humans on this planet. Like they keep pushing these vaccinations that has mercury in it. To many kids end up with ADHD and other things that they didn’t have before the vaccinations. Check and see what margarine was originally going to be used for.
Hey guys! We’re big fans of your work (who isn’t?) Wanted to thank you for taking the time to write this post. Talking about GMOs isn’t always easy, but it is always important. We’re glad to hear your voice in this conversation! Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help support the work you’re doing.
Thanks for this summary of the GMO story. I do not known if there is more than two mistakes.
I am French, I’m growing corn, and I can not plant GMO seeds because of the fears that environnementalim organizations spread other the whole non-farming population. Most of those preachers are not scientists, are not farming at all, there biological knowledge is close to high school level, but they are shoutting enought to get on TV ….
and they made peoples trust them anyway.
You’re right when you’re saying we refuse to plant GMO, but 90% of our cattle is GM-feed, RR-Soy feed ! Because our ISO-soybean are now so expansive to produce that we can not sell it for cattle feed !
Only one more point : Herbicide consumption.
Yes Glyphosat consumption is rising, while GMO RR acerage is growing. But do you got an idea about the toxicity of the chemicals I do have to spray instead of Round-up ?
We do have to spray herbicides 3 times a year on corn, and there is 2 or 3 differents types of chemicals in the tank.
“You’re doing the chemical industry business”
Ok, so where 1L of glyphosat (Roundup) cost me 3€.
1L of sulfonylurea can cost me 90€.
Who is helping most the “chemical industry business” ????
I hope I did not disturb too much peoples, thanks to argue, as this blog is well doing it, better than I could, you got to remenber that I’am french, so sorry if my English is not perfect, but this is the best I can produce.
Thanks for the comment! I agree with everything you said. I did not realize most of the livestock there is fed GM feed. That, along with how you said you agree that the ban of GM crop production in Europe was due to fear and not to fact, supports several of my points in the blog.
You’re saying :
“There have been over 2,000 independent, peer-reviewed studies done on the safety of GM Crops. Link: GMO Safety Study”
This is almost right, there is a scientist in France who tried to know how many scientific papers was written about GMO in the world about 2010.
The result is : 26,184 …. This was the world wide GMO scientific library in 2010.
(The link is in French sorry)
Exactly. 2,000 is probably a very conservative estimate. There is simply a ridiculous amount of study that has gone into GMOs.
Thank you for your informative piece. I was commenting tonight that more folks need to hear from the farmers that are doing the work to put food on our tables and the tables of the world.
The seed companies can’t advocate for GMOs. It is up to the farmers and educated consumers to advocate for them and to help dispel the misinformation about them.
I am a 63 yr young consumer from Dallas, Tx. I have watched while our farmers (and farmers in other countries) have increased the selection of available food and at the same time, kept the price affordable.
I really do try to ‘Thank a Farmer’ every day
Appreciate that! Thanks for the comment!
On the farm I work on we grow GMO crops and eat and we don’t get sick so I’m with Greg Peterson on this on
Congrats on the work you have done here! I am thoroughly impressed here by your work! I have done a little traveling outside of the Midwest, and I have talked to many outside of our region who are strongly opposed to GMOs. I ask why and their response is usually one of the misconceptions about tumors, animals not eating GMOs, chemicals, etc., like you mentioned. My overall goal like you is not to convert people, but rather inform people and let them make their own decision based on the facts. Prior to reading your article, I used many of the same viewpoints as you, seeing as I too come from a family farm and use GM crops and consume GM products on a daily basis.
One thought to your point about stewardship agreements with companies (I have no argument on, just an addition) and why farmers cannot keep seeds, is (to my working knowledge) because of the heterosity of the plants. This is a somewhat technical concept, but when explained in terms of people or animals, I have found it helps shed additional light as to why farmers are not allowed to keep seeds. Again that is one person’s opinion and method to describing a particular misconception. I look forward to hearing and reading more about your interactions and insights into agriculture and farming! I will be sure to pass along this article to those who I meet in the future, who are willing to listen not only about GMOs but agriculture as well! Best of luck in your future endeavors!
Thanks for the input!
I am strongly anti GMO but I respect your right to believe what you do. You don’t have a problem eating it and we have all eaten it for years without knowing it. But that does not mean it is safe in the long term. I also have every right to have my food labeled so I know what I want to eat and what I want to avoid. I think there is a lot more to the story that we all may never know. A truly independent study is difficult to find. Before I believe anything, I try to find the funding for the study because that will affect the results.
Thanks for the comment Jan! Just curious, what exactly is considered long term for you? As of today, we have been consuming GM Food for 20 years and have consumed 1 trillion meals. Would long term be considered 50 years? 5 trillion meals? Is there really much that can change after so many years? Why don’t people wait 50 years to use smart phones? They seem to have a lot of risks to using them. Maybe we should all stop using smart phones until the long term (50 years) studies have been done. Just some food for thought!
A lot has changed in 20 years of food. Corn is added into lot more product then 20 years ago. Cancer is on the rise. 1 out of 4 people. While there may not be studies linking GMO foods to cancer, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a link. Look how many years it took Tobacco to be link to cancer. I’m a small permiculture farmer. While I agree there is lots of stupid fears on GMO, a simple labeling of GE foods is all I ask. That way I can make the choice based on the knowledge I believe. Labeling makes it easy for everyone. The farmer who feel GMO Corn will help feed the world can stand behind their product. People like me who sometimes have to eat outside my garden can choice to avoid GE foods. Either way it’s a win win for everyone!
Hi Greg. Excellent article. As an animal scientist for over 30 years (in the USA, Ireland, Holland, Canada), I agree with you fully. I practice what I preach in restaurants and refuse to eat anything that is labelled “GMO-free or organic or natural”.
Re the comment on cancer below – I don’t believe that the rates of cancer are actually increasing (but the rate of diagnosis may be increasing because we have much better diagnostic tools now and every illness has to be called something nowadays) BUT, if they are, I believe that it is due to the following: (a) society is living longer and longer (despite all the so-called nasty things we scientists have developed!) and, if you live long enough, the body wears out and cancer occurs; (b) people don’t protect their skin enough (skin cancer); (c) our lifestyle (eating unhealthy junk food – obesity, air pollution (carbon), illegal drugs/cigarettes, etc.).
Re organic tasting better comment: in my opinion, organic food production is simply a marketing tactic – there is not a shred of evidence that organic food is better than conventional food (at least in the West). Why some people might think organic food tastes better is because it tends to be locally produced and, therefore, fresh. Everything tastes better fresh! I am totally in favour of buying locally-produced and seasonally-produced food (fresh, minimize transport pollution) but forget the “organic” palaver.
Keep up the good work on the blog.
Ah the ever popular plea for labeling, and it’s understandable. But does anyone really know what the labeling would cost? It would affect the entire production of food, from the farm to transportation to storage to the store. And who would pay for that? The consumer. The affordable price of food is something that is taken for granted.
I find the point about labeling costs to be FALSE and irresponsible.
Labeling of GE fude is currently required in many other countries. This labeling is already being done by the same food producers that send food to the USA, many are USA companies.
No cost increase or difference.
As the Blog suggests, we do have the right to know what the food we eat contains and where it comes from.
Without labeling there is no real way to track the results of consuming anything.
There are many health concerns in the US that have come to be over the past 20 years, the time that GE fude had been in our food supply.
Decrease in male testosterone.
Increase in infertility.
Increase in cancer.
Increase in obesity.
Without labeling it makes it easy to exclude GE fude from possible cause.
Companies relabel all the time. GF labeling, New and Improved, when a products get bought out by another company. Labels have flashly colourful labeling. “All Natural”; Organic; Kosher; I’m sorry but you’re “cost to label” is just LAME. Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 didn’t add a huge cost to the food prices! Look at the historical data. GE/GMO labeling is the least we can do. If you aren’t afraid, or proud of what your product is made of it should be on the label. Finally there is this (link below) a proposed label change for 2014-2015. Why not just add GE/GMO at the same time. It would ‘SAVE’ money. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm387533.htm.
Using Europe as an example of the success of food labeling is a bridge too far for me. For example, in the UK, poultry farms are required to stamp every single egg!
As an aside, the European Union has been a source of many other ridiculous food regulations. The EU recently banned cinnamon and olive oil served in bowls at restaurants. It also banned the sale of home canned goods being sold at churches and charities, etc..
The regulations for small restaurants have become very complex and unnavigable.
I hope this gives some counterbalance to the idea that following the European food regulation models would be desirable.
We also have the ozone layer depleting which will relate to cancer. We have more technology which emits radiation (phones, tv’s, computers) and is directly correlated to cancer. Lots of PROCESSED food contains added preservatives and chemicals (that is added after the food is harvested, therefore having nothing to do with the GMO aspect of the food). People are getting less exercise and obesity rates are sky high compared to what they used to be. There are a lot of other things changing besides GMO, I think our focus needs to be more on those aspects of life.
Great blog, two interesting facts I have learned while reading the national organic standards; 1. organic producers can use pesticides, hormones and antibiotics including Bt insecticides.
2. Processed organic foods can contain up to 5% GMO ingredients.
God speed in your search for truth and open minds.
” including Bt insecticides.”
=> Even Bee-keepers are using it, in an organic way or not they can spray Bt insecticides directly on hives.
Thank you for writing this informative post. We have a very small farm in comparison and focus on heirloom seeds. As and heirloom farmer, I am very concerned about the so called “Suicide” seeds. Seed saving has been an integral part of agriculture since the beginning of time. These seeds give entire control to seed companies. It also could be very damaging to developing nations and farmers that lack the funds to buy new seeds every year. Thank you for taking time to do research on this topic.
Thanks for the comment Erica! I agree with you that this is something to be concerned about. Here is something that was commented earlier by user, “your friend in iowa”:
“One thought to your point about stewardship agreements with companies (I have no argument on, just an addition) and why farmers cannot keep seeds, is (to my working knowledge) because of the heterosity of the plants. This is a somewhat technical concept, but when explained in terms of people or animals, I have found it helps shed additional light as to why farmers are not allowed to keep seeds. Again that is one person’s opinion and method to describing a particular misconception.”
If anyone else would like to weigh in on this issue feel free!
Norman Borlaug, the father of the “Green Revolution,” was very interested in GMO developments and felt that they were a natural extention of his own work in breeding new, high yield crops. His work saved millions of lives and his crops allowed countries such as Mexico and India to become net exporters of wheat and rice, rather than importers. He was truly a great man.
I am not a farmer, but I loved reading his biography. He grew up on a farm around the time that new varieties of crops were being bred and sold, in the 1920’s. These seeds had to be bought each year, which some farmers really objected to. But Norman Borlaug’s uncle decided to plant a plot of the newer variety to see if it was actually worth the while to buy the seed yearly. He did his test plot and decided it was well worth the price of buying the seed each year. It is customary for people who develop a wonderful rose or wheat plant to make a profit from that development. (That is why you agree not to take a cutting from a miniature rose.) It has always been that way. The farmer is the one who determines if the returns are worth the investment.
One more interesting fact is that plants can be genetically altered by exposing the seeds to certain frequencies of em radiation. This causes mutations and some of them are desirable. It is allowable to do this in “organic” plant propagation. These are mutations caused by radiation, and is much more trial-and-error, but new cultivars can be created this way.
Very good, informative post, Greg. I hope your information reaches out to people that are on the fence. Don’t let the negativity get you down, there are activists that attack you even when presenting the truth and facts in a respectful manner. I had an activist try to get me fired from my nursing job from writing a post on Arctic Apples. They no know bounds and are ruthless. Well done.
Gentlemen: This is a difficult topic to navigate but I am so pleased that you dove in! Your perspective – your voice as farmers, consumers – matters in all this. Congrats on moving the conversation forward! Well done!
My name is Melissa and I am a 4th generation dairy farmer in Oregon. We have been organic for 10 years, but we were conventional for 80 years prior to that. I will be honest, I am not a fan of every type of GMO, but I see where they can have their place. I believe consumers should have options (and I hope they make their choices with truthful knowledge) and if they choose to not have GM products because of their personal beliefs/values then that is ok too. That is what I believe the consumer has a right to, above and beyond that though I whole heartedly support what you do. Farmers should have the right to pick their given tools without hate and prejudice from consumers that are giving no alternative. Farmers work hard no matter what side of the fence they are on to be good stewards of the land and take care of their animals. Farmers need to learn to be respectful of each other as well. We each have our own methods and while they may differ we are all still farmers trying to bring healthy, nutritious products to the world.
I’m glad you are taking a respectful role in agriculture. We so often have hatefulness thrown at us these days. My daughters love your videos! When they ask me what it means for us to be organic and others to be conventional I explain that we are all farmers we just use different methods.
Thanks for being amazing advocates for the ag industry and good role models for young farmers.
Thank you for that thoughtful comment Melissa! I agree with everything you said. As long as consumers are making decisions based on truth they have every right to purchase freely!
Raised on Virginia hillside farm – worked for Monsanto for 46 years – eat GMO food every day – organic food way overrated and overpriced – retired & working on my 74th birthday without any real digestive or medical problems. Thanks, Greg — you guys are awesome…..
If you just watched any of the documentaries about monsanto and it’s practices, you would know that Monsanto has a very nasty track record. Why should i trust Monsanto nowadays, knowing that they have been lying about the safety of their products and environmental pollution since it was founded? Many people are still suffering from their past (and present) products daily. That you have not encountered problems in your carreer within Monsanto doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.