If you purchase food, you’re likely aware of genetically modified crops – also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), GE crops or biotech crops.
There's a lot of misinformation out there about GMOs. I know because I'm a farmer.
Despite the fact that GMOs are proven safe, more and more grocery products are carrying labels indicating that foods are “GMO free.” These labels have a tendency to scare consumers rather than educate them on the importance and safety of this technology.
That's one reason I'm a volunteer with CommonGround Nebraska, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping people understand where their food comes from and the science behind modern agricultural production.
On my family’s farm, we grow corn and soybeans using GMO technology. Because of this, we are able to grow more crops with less resources. Our crops are more tolerant to drought and more resistant to harmful insects, reducing water and pesticide use on our fields. We can also better control weeds (which compete for water and nutrients) by making our crops resistant to herbicides. GMOs also greatly help in disease control. All of these things combined help us preserve the land by growing more with less.
Here's a deeper dive into the subject, to help you be an informed consumer.
Genetically modified organisms are crops developed through genetic engineering, a more precise method of plant breeding. Plant breeders take a desirable trait found in a plant in nature and add it to the DNA of a plant they want to improve.
A desirable trait may include plants that are more drought tolerant (requiring less water), more resistant to insect pests or diseases and more resistant to herbicides.
GMO plant breeding can even change the nutritional profile in crops, making our foods more nutritious to eat.
GMO crops must go through rigorous regulatory testing before they are allowed on the market. It typically takes 13 years for a new trait to be introduced to consumers. In the U.S., GMO technologies are thoroughly analyzed by organizations such as the EPA, FDA and the USDA.
Currently only 10 GMO crops are commercially available: corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, squash, potatoes and apples.
Yet food manufacturers mislead consumers and spread misinformation by adding “GMO free” labels on everything from salt to bottled water — items that wouldn’t ever include GMO technology (salt doesn’t have genes!).
Food companies are hoping the labels provide them with a marketing advantage and they’ll be able to sell these products at a premium, adding to the cost for consumers.
GMOs pose no risk to human health. They've been commercially available for well over 20 years, and in that time have not been linked to a single illness or death.
In 2016, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) had found “no substantial evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered crops and conventionally bred crops.” The researchers examined hundreds of scientific papers on the subject, listened to hours of live testimony from activists and experts before coming to their conclusion.
GM crops have been tested more than any other crops and have been proven safe to consume by both people and livestock. Also, GMOs have never been found in milk, meat or eggs originating from animals that consumed GMO grains.
The World Health Organization, American Medical Association, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, British Royal Society and others have all agreed that GMO crops are safe to consume. The great thing about this research is that it was conducted by a variety of industry experts and independent organizations.
The term GMO shouldn’t scare you. These technologies are helping our nation’s farmers contribute to a safe and responsible food system. GM technologies also help reduce food costs at the grocery store.
One of the greatest things about the U.S. food chain is the choices we have in products from across the country and around the world.
It’s important to note that we do have a thriving organic industry in our country, which is an additional choice for consumers.
I respect and appreciate consumers who choose to purchase organic products. But I want consumers to understand the science and safety behind GM crops. I feed my family with GM crops on my farm, and I can assure you that these foods are extremely safe for you and your family as well.
CommonGround is a grassroots organization launch a decade ago by the National Corn Growers Association and United Soybean Board to educate American consumers on food and how it's produced. More than 200 farm women from 21 states – including 32 from Nebraska – are part of the volunteer network carrying the CommonGround message. Stay informed here: