Why do people think they need to argue about everything, especially their food? I always hear talk about GMOs, organic foods, free range, and of course the vegans. As an agriculturalist, I am slightly biased to these topics, but knowing the real truth is important in the lives of every American consumer. For the sake of my sanity and possibly your own, we are going to stick to GMOs.
Let’s start off with informational sources. With so much controversial media and propaganda, it is very hard to find real facts on these subjects. If you are looking for information on any controversial subjects, be aware of sites which only state negative things about either side of the issue. Sources which have facts or arguments from both sides are more creditable, but remember to check what kind of organization published the information. A government organization, such as the USDA, would be a great place to start searching for the real facts.
Let’s start with GMOs. The big hype now days is “GMO Free.” There is a fairly large number of people who feel the need to fight over how food is labeled and how it is produced. These people are usually multiple miles and generations removed from the farm. The closest they’ve been to a farm is the perfect scene on their overpriced package of “free range, organic, non-GMO” tofu from the nearest vegan shop. (Note the sarcasm in that last sentence.) Here is a list of GMOs, their uses, and the new trait(s) approved for use in the United States:
- Alfalfa (Animal feed) Weed tolerance
- Canola (Cooking oils, margarine) Weed tolerance, higher lauric acid, Phytase production
- Cotton (Fiber, oils, animal feed) Weed and insect tolerance
- Maize/Corn (Corn starch, animal feed) Weed, insect and drought tolerance, increased Lysine
- Soybeans (Oil, animal feed) Weed tolerance, Increased oleic acid production, Stearidonic acid production
- Sugar Beets (Food) Weed tolerance
- Papaya (Food) Virus resistance
- Potato (Food, Industrial) Virus resistance and modified starch
- Squash (Food) Virus resistance
- Tobacco (Cigarettes) Nicotine reduction
There are not very many GMO foods or animal feeds approved for use in the U.S. Since these are the only approved plants, no others can enter into the food system in America. So the “Non-GMO” labeling you see on tomatoes and orange juice is technically correct, but truly unnecessary. The food grown here in America is safe and affordable with a steady supply. With the help of GMOs, farmers are able to produce food for the entire country. 97% of farms in the U.S. are family owned. The products you buy at the store are produced by farmers who feed the same food products to their own families.
When people who know little to nothing about daily farm operations push their beliefs and the “correct way to do things” at the famers, it makes their job more difficult. Anti this and that groups lobby and protest to change the way farmers are allowed to grow their crops and raise their animals. What many people don’t understand is farmers put in extra hours to produce safe and wholesome foods for the nation, but get shot down because it isn’t good enough. The media portrays everything as a death sentence which really takes a toll on the farmers. Being a correctly informed consumer can help change many of these issues and makes everyone’s lives a little easier.
In class, we are currently studying western films. If you think about life back in the “Wild West,” they didn’t complain about what they had to eat. They either took what they could get or go hungry. Granted, they didn’t have genetic modifying quite yet, but they took what they were given and didn’t complain. Now days its seems as though people will argue about anything. Out of all of the issues in our world, arguing about food labeling and pushing personal beliefs of “the perfect diet” should not be a major issue in our country.