The following question was submitted via the CommonGround website. If you have a question about a food or farming topic, submit your question here.
First off, I would like to say that there is a lot of misinformation spread around the internet and that’s true for just about any subject you can find. Obviously this is going to be true on the subject of GMO’s. Reading on this subject, there seems to be a lot of debate if GMO’s are safe for human consumption and the environment. I do want to note that I have not read any real scientific data that would indicate that there is a danger. As a pro AG website I would like to ask you your opinion on the safety of GMO’s as well as your opinion on the labeling of GMO foods. I look forward to your response.
- John Scott
Dear Mr. Scott:
I am the sixth generation to live on my family’s farm. So it’s my responsibility to continue to take care of this land and our family business so it’s here for the coming generations.
We use seeds enhanced with biotechnology as a tool on our farm. Biotechnology is the term for genetically modifying plants or seeds. We use this tool just like we would a wrench or a combine. We don’t use these seeds in all of our fields, but it’s a tool we use to manage some of the insects on some of our fields.
By using seeds produced with biotechnology, we limit the chemicals we are applying to the field. Instead of having an airplane come in and spray an insecticide over a field, the insect resistance is right inside the seed. Seeds that have been altered genetically to be pest-resistant or drought-resistant or otherwise more resilient help us to grow better crops with less water and less chemicals.
It’s also important to note that the process of genetically altering seeds is not very different from plant breeding that has been going on for centuries, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization. (See source)
Those are the main reasons I feel good about biotechnology on our farm. As a grocery store customer, I feel very confident that the food produced using the biotechnology we use is very safe because I understand how it’s done. It’s not as frightening as people imagine. It’s pretty basic science. Besides my opinion, check out what CommonGround has gathered from other sources:
Every plant improved through biotechnology for food is examined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency for potential health risks. For more than 20 years, biotech products have been assessed for safety, and, in fact, are among the most tested in history. (See USDA and The Council For Biotechnology Information)
Since 1992, FDA has reviewed more than 50 biotech products, and none has been found to pose a safety concern. Groups that include the U.S. National Academies of Science, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, American Medical Association and American Dietetic Association have determined that biotech crops are as safe as crops improved through traditional and organic breeding methods. A report by the National Academies found that biotech crops do not pose any more health risks than crops created by these other techniques, and that food safety evaluations should be based on the resulting food product, not the technique used to create it. (See source)
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods because different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. (See source)
However, the WHO does confirm that GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, “no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved,” according to WHO’s website page titled, 20 QUESTIONS ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) FOODS.
For more information, please visit the GMO Food Facts page on the CommonGround website. Click here to visit.
On the subject of labeling GMO foods, CommonGround has no official position. We believe the FDA should have the final say on that matter. The current FDA policy established in 1992 addresses the labeling of foods derived from new plant varieties, including plants developed by bioengineering. The 1992 policy does not establish special labeling requirements for bioengineered foods as a class of foods. The policy states that FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.
For more information, visit FDA’s guidance document by clicking here or the Biotechnology Organization’s: FAQs About Biotech Crops and Labeling here.
Thanks for your question, Mr. Scott. Please contact me or any of the other CommonGround farm volunteers if you have any other questions or comments.
Suzanne Shirbroun, CommonGround volunteer and farmer from Farmersburg, Iowa