Monday, October 20, 2014

Genetically Modified Foods Are Safe
January 30, 2014 by John Parker | No Comments

Recently, one of the major cereal manufacturing companies decided to label one of its main cereals as not containing any ingredients from GMOs (genetically modified…

Recently, one of the major cereal manufacturing companies decided to label one of its main cereals as not containing any ingredients from GMOs (genetically modified organisms). What this says is the company will not use any food from plants developed with modern and safe biotechnology practices in that cereal.

Several interesting observations can be made about this decision. An activist group that is against this safe and extensively tested technology claims it put pressure on this cereal manufacturer, causing it to make the change. However, it was probably a marketing decision made by the company to appeal to a relatively small group of people.

Most of the ingredients in the cereal are oats. No oats are genetically modified. Only a small amount of corn and sugar in this cereal are from GMO crops. So, the change in the cereal is really very small because the ingredients changed were a small part of the cereal.

The change may cause the cereal to cost slightly more because it will be hard to find sources of corn and sugar that are not genetically modified.

What is discouraging about this decision is that a small, but noisy activist group can put out enough misinformation to claim it caused the change. Now it may try to do the same thing with other foods, or worse yet, it may try to get legislation on the ballot to force changes that would endanger the food supply.

Truth be known, food has been genetically modified for centuries. It has been done through the slow process of plant and animal breeding. It has been done by selecting the best plants in several fields, cross-pollinating them and coming up with new and improved varieties.

In animals, it has been done by selecting the top producers and those with the most desirable traits and keeping the offspring from them.

In addition, established plants have been cross-pollinated with wild one that have beneficial traits desired in the domestic plants. This has brought about insect and disease resistant plants that have improved yields and increased the food supply.

Dr. Norman Borlaug, the famed plant scientist who has been given credit for saving thousands of lives, used plant breeding, or genetically modifying methods, to develop his disease and insect resistant varieties of wheat and rice. Today, since science has been able to identify the genes in plants and change them, the procedure is much easier and quicker.

Study after study and many government agencies have confirmed the safety of GMO foods. Most of the foods humans eat have some genetically modified ingredients in them because that is what has been done for centuries.

Most serious about all this is the activist groups; if they make enough noise and are successful enough, they will put the food supply in danger. Shortages could be possible and food will cost considerably more.

Given the pressure on American farmers to help produce enough food for double the population by 2050, every bit of technology is needed in order to produce the food. GMO technology is just one of the safe methods to increase the food supply and help keep costs low at the same time. To turn one’s back on good and safe technology would be an unfortunate thing to do.

Let’s base decisions on sound science and factual information, not fear and emotion. Avoid noisy activists with an agenda look for ways to play on people’s fears.

Parker is an independent agricultural writer.

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