Are GMO Foods Safe?

Photography courtesy of Nobelprize.org

Photography courtesy of Nobelprize.org

Norman Borlaug was an American agronomist who won the peace prize for his research which was credited for saving more than a billion lives. He was recognized for these efforts by winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal among many other awards.

What did Borlaug do?

He created a type of wheat that could sustain drought better than those of the past as well as sustain disease without the need for insecticides or parasiticides all while producing a higher yield.

During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan and India.

As a result, he provided income for those countries and their people, and saved billions from starvation. While Borlaug is no longer with us, he remains a hero and his creation continues to save lives across the world.

Norman Borlaug created a healthy and nutritious variety of genetically modified wheat.

Please take some time and learn the facts about genetically modified organisms below, originally posted by Common Ground

  • What are GMO foods?
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, including between nonrelated species. Such methods are used to create GMO plants – which result in GMO food crops. This technology is called biotechnology.
    • Farmers and gardeners have been creating plant hybrids for as long as they’ve been growing plants. Biotechnology simply serves as a more technologically advanced method.
    • The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) says that while particular biotech traits may be new to certain crops, the same basic types of traits are often found naturally in plants and allow them to survive and evolve.
  • What do we know about GMO food safety?
    • Every plant improved through the use of food biotechnology is examined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for potential health risks. Tests are done on plants before entering the food and animal feed supply. The WHO reports that current foods containing biotech ingredients have passed human health risk assessments. In addition, the WHO says no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of biotech foods.
  • What are the benefits of food biotechnology to agriculture?
    • Growing food with GMOs can result in better-tasting fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are naturally resistant to insects. Plant breeding also results in crops better able to withstand the environmental challenges of drought, disease and insect infestations.
    • By developing special traits in plants, biotechnology allows for more food to be grown in more places using fewer chemicals and fewer natural resources.
    • This increased availability of crops provides significant economic gains to farmers in developing countries.
    • An Iowa State University study shows that without biotechnology, global prices would be nearly 10 percent higher for soybeans and 6 percent higher for corn.
    • Biotechnology also benefits the environment. A Council for Agricultural Science and Technology report says biotech soy, corn and cotton have decreased soil erosion by 90 percent, preserving 37 million tons of topsoil. Biotech crops also provide a 70 percent reduction in herbicide runoff and an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
    • According to USDA, biotech crops may provide enhanced quality traits such as increased levels of beta-carotene in rice to aid in reducing vitamin A deficiencies and improved oil compositions in canola, soybeans and corn. Crops with the ability to grow in salty soils or to better withstand drought conditions are also in the works.
    • USDA also says research on potatoes, squash, tomatoes and other crops continues in a similar manner to provide resistance to diseases that otherwise are very difficult to control.

– Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter growing up on a cow/calf and grain farm in Iowa. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, majoring in both animal science and public relations. She has been involved with agriculture from birth, working in multiple facets of the industry including the USDA and Extension. Kassi relocated to Nebraska in 2010 to work for a marketing communications agency for a multitude of agriculture clients.

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