EXTRA: “What’s in Your Food?”
Take a look in your pantry… and you’ll probably find that most of your food labels state they have been genetically engineered in some way.
But what does that mean? And is it safe?
Wendy Yeager is a fourth generation farmer.
She and her husband run a 970 acre farm in Dallas County growing soybeans, cotton, sorghum and peanuts.
The soybeans and cotton are GMO’s. That means their seeds have been genetically modified.
“A GMO is a genetically modified organism. That means these plants have been selected the best from the best. A common misnomer that people have is that there’s this scary scientist putting something that is horrible inside a plant. It’s based off genetic selection.”
Experts say the natural genetic selection has helped farmers for thousands of years to yield the heartiest crop.
“If we were still relying on the corn that the Indians relied on, we would have a cob about the size of my finger that would have 8 to 12 kernels on it. And that’s not going to take care of it. That’s not going to do the job,” said AL Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan.
McMillan supports GMOs.
“In some ways they are a huge asset. We are really going to be dependent on science and technology if we are going to be able to feed the world. Estimates are, and this is a number most people agree on, we’ve got to double global food production by 2050. Today we are only growing about 1 to 2 percent a year, so biotechnology is a part of science and technology will be a critical part of that.”
McMillan says drought resistant cotton has helped Alabama farmers this past year especially.
So what is the problem?
Rudy Pacumbaba is a horticulture specialist with the alabama cooperative extension agency.
He gives lectures about the myths and facts of GMOs.
He says in the breeding process, a natural toxin is used in the seeds so that they can form their own pesticide within the seed.
For Wendy Yeager, it’s a wonderful asset.
“GMOs have saved us a lot of time in the field. It allows us the ability to be doing something else because we are making one less trip through the field because we don’t have to spray for those bugs,” said Yeager.
But it worries some health food activists like Steve Thompson, co-owner of Healthwise Foods in Montgomery.
“I just know all the dangers. You start messing with the genetics of a certain like grain or if something has eaten the grains like an animal like beef or whatever, if they have eaten genetically modified a soy or corn, it genetically alters their tissues,” said Thompson.
Thompson only eats organic and won’t take his chances on GMOs.
“The lasting effects of GMOs, nobody really knows. If you change one gene that makes a grain that secretes its own pesticide, what is that going to do inside of you? Create the pesticide as well? Who knows what is going to happen later on,” said Thompson.
Experts say the GMOs have been tested.
And in fact, the U.S. Government has signed off on them.
“The process is very lengthy. First, the actual corporations and companies have to generate their own data to support their claims with their actual product, the actual traits that are generated and what are the outcomes with those particular products. That data also then has to be substantiated by the USDA, FDA and EPA. So then the regulatory agencies get a hold of that product of that data and compare it with the data they are going to be creating, as well,” said Pacumbaba.
Nevertheless, heath food advocates pushed for stricter legislation. And in 2016, a law was passed to require labels for foods.
And now on everything from cereals to soup and crackers, you will find “genetically engineered” or “partially genetically engineered.”
Thompson says he looks for the “NON-GMO Project” label.
As for Yeager, she has no concern over the seeds she is planting and the food she feeds her family.
“GMOS are 100 percent safe. There is nothing in them that would harm them, or me or you. It’s genetic selection… Picking the best of the best,” said Yeager.
There are ten GMO crops that are commercially available.
They include corn, soybeans, cotton, potatoes, squash, papaya, canola, alfalfa, apples, and sugar beets.
For more information on GMO’s, click here.
For more information on the “NON-GMO Project”, click here.