GMO CROPS: ITS BIGGER THAN YOU

Of course, when you’re researching GMO crops you are most concerned with their safety for your family.  But maybe, their availability is bigger than you, bigger than your family, bigger than all of us.

GMO crops are grown around the world by approximately 18 million farmers, most of them in developing countries.  In total, more than 75 countries import, grow and/or research GMOs.  In 2016, 26 countries planted GMO crops.

GMO crops developing countriesGrowing GMO crops provides significant benefits to farmers around the world.  GMO crops increase their yield and lower their costs to farm.  This makes GMOs an important part of alleviating poverty for millions of poor farmers and farm families around the world (equaling approximately 65 million people total).

PG Economics estimates that farmers in developing countries received $3.45 for each dollar invested in genetically engineered crop seeds in 2015.

Use this guide to learn where GMOs are being grown and reviewed for approval around the world.

WORRIED ABOUT GMO FOODS?

Stop.

There are only 10 genetically modified crops available todayThey are alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets.

These crops have been genetically modified to express a positive characteristic that makes the crop easier to manage.  An example of these would be improved insect resistance.

Many of these crops are then used as processed ingredients, like sugar or cornstarch.  The sugar or cornstarch might then be included in food products at your local grocery store.  The only way to eat a GMO directly would be if your store includes varieties of papaya, potatoes, squash, sweet corn or apples in their produce aisle.

The list below identifies the genetic traits expressed and uses of the 10 GMO crops approved in the U.S.

GMOs in the U.S.

Although most of these GMO crops are edited for herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance, this does not mean that the plant cells actually make herbicides or release chemicals.

Many of these crops produce a protein that is indigestible to insects.  When an insect feasts on the plant, it cannot digest the protein and it dies.  Humans CAN digest this protein, so the genetic mutation has zero impact to humans.

DID EWG’S ‘BREAKFAST WITH A DOSE OF ROUNDUP’ SCARE YOU?

Did you happen to hear in the news that a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a man dying of cancer, which he says was caused by his repeated exposure to large quantities of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers while working as a school groundskeeper?

Did you perhaps also hear the follow-up information from the Environmental Working Group that trace amounts of Roundup are found in most of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats?

If yes to either of these questions, I’m certain that you’re feeling a bit frightened of your food and wondering what in the world is safe to eat now that all these details have been released.

Fear not!  I present you with: math.

This video is 100% worth watching.  Yes, it has a hefty time requirement, but if you are indeed worried about your food, you simply must take the time to watch it.

Still have questions?  We’d love to attempt to answer in the comments.  Fire away!

PESTICIDES ARE NOT REGULATED – FALSE!

We have a surprise for you! The crop protection industry works in concert with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal and state regulatory agencies to bring products to market after a thorough evaluation and approval process.

EPA regulates pesticide use pursuant to the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Before a pesticide can be sold to farmers, pesticide manufacturers must demonstrate that the pesticide will not result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and a crop may not be treated with a pesticide unless EPA has specifically approved the pesticide for use on that crop.

Federal law ensures that any pesticide residues on your food are safe for you and your family. The process of gaining pre-market approval or “registering” a new pesticide product is intentionally rigorous, and it takes up to a decade before a new product is available to growers. As companies register new products, EPA requires them to submit more than 1,000 pages of scientific data that evaluate any potential product risk for the Agency to review.

Since 1959, Congress has updated pesticide laws multiple times and currently mandates that EPA re-review registered products at least every 15 years to make sure they meet current scientific and regulatory standards. In addition, manufacturers spend a great deal of resources ensuring the continued agronomic value of their products.

Source: http://giveacrop.org/myth-vs-fact/ 

FARMERS DON’T SPRAY A LOT OF CHEMICALS …

If you’re worried about the chemicals or pesticides in your food, Sarah, a farmer from North Dakota can ease your mind.

In this video, she teaches us that farmers are applying chemicals equaling no more than a cup of coffee to their fields that are about the size of a football field. She also explains that the technology farmers use today allows them to control the size of the droplets of pesticides they apply and that they can apply varying amounts to the field – depending on each section’s need – down to the square inch.

Feel better? If not, ask questions in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

YOU’VE GOT A NASTY BUG ON YOUR HANDS

This is definitely funny, and we love the way that CropLife America makes using crop protection funny, but it’s a serious issue too.

My son learned about using pesticides this year with his 4-H flower gardening project. Asian beetles were eating his geraniums until we got the trusty old Seven from the garage and sprinkled some all over his flowers, protecting his hard work for the coming county fair.

The same is true for farmers and their crops, except more is on the line. If they don’t use pesticides to protect their crops from bugs, diseases, and weeds, their crop could fail. And without an income for the year, the future of the family farm is in jeopardy.

Crop protection is sorely needed. Yes, the idea of pesticides is a scary one for some people, but farmers use them safely and each pesticide is thoroughly tested before it is approved for use.

Stay tuned for more on crop protection the rest of this week!

ORGANIC VS CONVENTIONAL FARMING – WHAT’S THE SAME, WHAT’S DIFFERENT?

[Republished from Illinois Farm Families]

Organic versus conventional – it’s a highly debated topic. As a farmer who has employed both methods, perhaps I can offer a valuable point of view to help you make the best choice for you and your family.

What’s the same?

  • Pesticides – There are pesticides approved for use in both types of farming. Farmers use these to protect their crops from bugs and disease.
  • Soil health – Farmers use a variety of tools and practices to maintain soil and water health on farms of every shape and size.
  • Sustainability – All farmers think about sustainability. The tools farmers can use vary slightly between conventional and organic, but the desired result is the same.
  • Farmers care – We all care about growing safe food for our families and preserving our land for years to come.
  • Safety – Whether or not you’re reaching for an “organic” label at the store, the food you’re eating is safe. Furthermore, research shows very little difference between the nutritional value of organic and conventionally grown foods.

What’s different?

  • Pesticides – While there are approved pesticides for use in both types of farming, pesticides used on organic farms must be naturally derived whereas conventional farms can use synthetic pesticides.
  • GMOs – Genetically modified crops are not allowed in organic farming. GMOs can be grown in our conventional fields and help us avoid using pesticides among other benefits.
  • Cost – But you already knew that. Generally speaking, certified organic food costs more.
  • So, yes, there are some differences between conventional and organic farming, but there isn’t necessarily a “right” and a “wrong” way to farm. It all comes down to what is best for each individual farmer and their land. In my case, I’m comfortable growing both and I feed both to my family. I’m making what I believe are the best choices and I encourage you to do the same..

TRENT SANDERSON

Trent farms with his family in northern Illinois. He also enjoys learning and educating other farmers about the environmental benefits of cover crops. He lives on the farm with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son Owen. 

AG-IFY YOUR HEALTH CLASS LESSON

It’s pretty simple to incorporate another subject into whatever lesson you are teaching. We do it all the time in agriculture education without even thinking about it. For example, in a BSAA (biological science applications in agriculture) class we practice surveying the lay of the land which includes being able to calculate slope, something that is learned in a math class. In an introduction to agriculture class we learn about the dust bowl which was caused in part by poor agricultural practices and without even thinking about it, we are incorporating a history lesson into an agriculture class.

As an agriculture education major who is currently student teaching, this seems like no big deal to me. I incorporate different subject areas into my lessons every single day, but I think it’s pretty rare to see agriculture incorporated into another subject’s lessons. So let’s talk about a recent experience I had that I know would have been one of the best ways to incorporate agriculture into a different classroom setting.

10-17-16organic-labelMy older sister is a high school and junior high health and physical education teacher. At a family dinner recently, she was talking about how she was currently teaching nutrition in her health class and was having students ask questions about whether organic food is better than non-organic and other topics of the such. As soon as she said this, a light clicked on in my head and I realized that would have been a perfect time to incorporate an agriculture-based lesson on teaching students to understand where their food comes from.

To incorporate this into her lesson, she could simply start the class out by getting a basic understanding of the class and what they know and believe. To do this, she could start out by asking students if they know where their food comes from. If the students understand that their food is grown by a farmer and doesn’t just appear in a grocery store, then she could move on to asking if they know how the food is grown or what it takes to grow a plant? 10-17-16my_plate_logoOn the Illinois Ag in the Classroom website there is My Plate activity that shows not only the correct portion sizes of food, but you can also click on each of the portions on the plate and learn how that food is grown and also do some activities with each food group. After explaining to the students how food is grown, she could go into a discussion of asking students who choose to eat organic food and why they choose to do so. She could then proceed to ask students what they believe some of the current buzz words and phrases me. One topic she could discuss is that of Subway’s current promotion of “antibiotic-free meat.” This marketing scheme actually doesn’t even make any sense as it is illegal for farmers to sell any type of meat or animal food product that has any trace of antibiotics. If this is a topic that she feels uncomfortable teaching, she could have students use their devices to go to the Illinois Farm Families where they can learn what all these buzzwords mean, actually meet the people who grow their food, and even personally ask questions to farmers and growers around Illinois.

With all of the co-teaching and diversity within teaching happening right now, don’t forget to try to incorporate in the area that feeds, clothes, and fuels you and your students everyday!

ellen-youngEllen Young
Illinois State University

WHEN GMO AND ORGANIC APPEAR IN THE SAME SENTENCE

What do Organic and GMO have in common?

Organic and GMO have at least one thing in common, and that is they both use Bacillus thuringiensis, also known as bT.

What’s the significance of bT?

In its simplest form, bT is a naturally occurring bacteria creating a protein that makes insects sick when they eat it. Therefore, bT is used for crops to kill off insects (as a pesticide), however it is completely safe for human consumption and safe for our environment.

Why is bT safe for humans and not insects?

10-10-16url1When an insect eats this bT protein, it messes with their digestion/absorption of food and causes them to die off. However, bT is completely safe for human consumption and safe for our environment. Sort of like comparing the diets of cows and humans… if humans were to eat a bunch of grass like cows do, then it would cause serious digestive issues and other health risks. However, cows are perfectly healthy when they eat grass because their systems are made to consume it!

How is bT used?

BT is widely used in both Organic farming and GMO farming as a natural pesticide. However, the process in which it is used is where it differentiates. Organic farmers use bT bacteria as a spray onto their crops, whereas GMO farmers use the DNA from the bacteria that produces the protein that insects can’t eat which is then put into the DNA of the GMO plant so that the plant also produces the protein that insects can’t eat. This gene has been engineered to work in plants and is very effective in preventing insect damage without the pesticide sprays.

GMO is the way to go!

10-10-16cars-gmos_xvfxx5_rbsw23GMOs are a necessity for farmers and for the environment! In the United States alone, the majority of corn, soybeans, and cotton have been engineered in the soil of bT, which can also be considered a transgenic crop. This boom has led to more food production and lower prices for consumers. Basically, GMOs produce more with less! Altogether, genetic modification boosts crop yields by 21% and cuts pesticides by 37%. Due to this increase in yield, we get to save on land, therefore protecting the Earth more! With over 15 years of transgenic crops, there has never been a health danger.

10-10-16keep-calm-gmo-safeSo what’s the point?

GMO’s use the same protein pesticide that the organic farmers use to control specific insects. This pesticide is in no way harmful to humans or the environment. The only difference is the way it is applied. Organic sprays it on their crops, GMO farmers put it in the soil. GMO crops allow farmers to use less pesticides!

 

katie-roustio
Katie Roustio
University of Illinois