Tag Archives: agriculture

GMOs and Chemical Usage vs Organic Crops

Our nephew, Jeremiah, is a well rounded “farm boy” who is passionate about agriculture and preserving the land. He cares deeply for his family and we are so proud of his accomplishments during his high school career which will quickly be coming to an end in May. Too quickly. Where did the time go?  Recently, he asked a few of us to review an essay he had written for one of his classes. As soon as I finished reading it, I just knew it needed to be published on our blog.  He clearly and efficiently tackles a very tough topic in today’s food industry – GMO vs Organic.  I hope you find this information to be useful as you plan your grocery list and strive to feed your family the best food you can afford.  Please note, we support all family farmers whether they raise their food organically or conventionally.  We simply want to cancel out the “fake news” being spread about conventional farming methods. 

Jeremiah Gebhardt, guest contributor

GMOs and Chemicals Versus Organic

            This past Thanksgiving my family began a debate that seemed as if it would never end. The subject has always had an extreme importance to us. That debate just happened to center around if GMOs and the chemicals used during the plant’s life are truly bad for humans to consume.

GMOs are genetically modified organisms. They have been around for nearly thirty years and have impacted agriculture in many ways. Farmers have actually modified plants and crop production since 4000 BC, at least that’s the earliest recording of it from the Egyptians. In 1919 the word “biotechnology” was coined by Hungarian engineer Karl Ereky but it wasn’t until the 1973 were we able to successfully splice a gene from one organism and move it to another. In 1982 the first modern biotech plant was produced.  Technology simply allowed for the original process to become more precise and more efficient. As a farmer,  I believe that GMOs and chemicals are helpful and positively affect our lives and world today. They are able to help farmers produce higher yields in their crops which have helped with world hunger, lower ethanol and biodiesel prices, and help livestock farmers better feed their animals. On the other hand, others believe that genetically modified organisms and chemicals are unhealthy, add unnecessary toxins, and are harmful for our environment. The great debate is whether the positive influences of genetically modified organisms outweigh the potential health concerns and are the potential health concerns based on fact or fear.

The grand debate of farmers using GMOs has been going on for as long as they have been around. The opposing side’s claim of GMOs being unhealthy truly intrigues me. In his article “Ten Reasons to Avoid GMOs” Jeffrey Smith claims GMOs are unhealthy because of organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility.  He also states that GMOs are unhealthy because the science community has seen a higher increase of chronic illnesses, food allergies, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, and digestive problems. After making these accusations, Jeffrey Smith admits there is no research to prove that GMOs are the leading cause of this increase of disorders.  His only link to the rise in health concerns is the timing of an increase in GMO usage.  He does not have evidence to support his hypothesis.  If he cannot prove what he is claiming then what validity is there to his statement? It could simply be that technology advanced rapidly at this time causing GMOs to be made possible while at the same time the medical field gained the ability to better test and diagnose chronic pain and disease. Genetically engineered food undergoes substantial research and testing before reaching the consumer. In 2012, the American Association for the Advancement of Science released an official statement regarding genetically modified foods, stating “the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques is safe.”  In fact, some genetically modified food is even more nutritious than their non-GMO counterparts, according to Dr. Peggy Lamaux, a Cooperative Extensive Specialist at the University of California-Berkeley. She further explained, “An example is low linoleic acid canola oil that can reduce trans-fat content.”

Many people who are anti-GMO believe that genetically modified organisms add unnecessary toxins to maternal and fetal blood. There is a counter article to this concern titled “10 Studies Proving GMOs are Harmful? Not if Science Matters” by Layla Katiraee stating that they do not. Layla Katiraee points out that anti-GMO researchers reasons are incorrect, because their measurements were based on an experiment trying to find Bt’s Cry1Ab in plants not in humans. In order for the study to be correct, pregnant women would need to eat several kilos of corn in order for the Bt measurements to be found in the woman’s blood. There is also the thought that it would not be toxic to humans either way. For example, it is how chocolate is toxic to dogs but humans do not need to worry about the fear of chocolate being toxic. Even though they have found a small amount of toxicity in GMO plants, there is no evidence of the genetically modified organisms being more toxic to humans than organic food.

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The environment also benefits by using GMOs. In 2014, a company named PG Economics finished a study that concluded with finding positive environmental and sustainability impacts from GM crops. In the study, they used previous and new data, and compared the difference genetically modified organisms have made on the environment and how GMOs were able to grow more crops on less farmland. During this study, they found that genetically modified crops were able to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions from agriculture practices by using less fuel and additional soil storage with the reduction of tillage practices.  In 2012, carbon dioxide emission savings were equal to removing 11.88 million cars off of the road. Also with this study, they were able to prove that GMOs are able to grow more crops with less land. They found this very important because the amount of farmable land is declining significantly. They predict that in a 90 year time span we will have a third of the amount of acreage farmland per individual. This study proves a couple of the many positive effects of genetically modifies organisms that organic foods do not have.

Another area of concern for there being toxicity is in the chemicals that are applied to the crops such as Roundup. Many people who are anti-GMO and anti-chemical believe that crop farmers drown their crops, which would create extra toxicity in the crop. In an article covering this myth by corn and soybean farmer, Dave Walton, he puts how much chemicals farmers add to their fields into perspective. He states that corn farmers, on average, add half a gallon of herbicide spread out over one acre yearly which is roughly a football field. That would also equal to being one-third of a drop of chemicals per square foot. For soybean fields the amount of chemicals spread is even less. Farmers put on yearly an average of a pint and a half plus a couple tablespoons of herbicide per acre. This would equal one twelfth of a drop per square foot. The amount of chemicals added to a field is not near enough to add any concern of any toxins being added to the crops and especially the food that is presented at your table. Since chemicals added to GMO crops do not add near enough toxins to be more dangerous and more unhealthy than organic foods, genetically modified organisms do not lose the battle of having unnecessary toxins added.

The family discussion at Thanksgiving showed how the great debate over GMOs is often more based on emotion rather than on facts.  A simple fix for human illness is ideal, and when a fix cannot be found a quick cause to blame is often sought.  When emotion is removed and facts are focused upon, GMOs seem to be more positive than negative for our local community.  GMOs give today’s farmer the potential to produce more grain on less land, with no scientifically proven health concerns, and the bonus of helping the environment at the same time.  The facts show GMOs and chemicals are positive for farmers, consumers, and the environment.

By Jeremiah Gebhardt

 

References:

Smith, Jeffrey. “10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs – Institute for Responsible Technology.” Institute for Responsible Technology, 14 Mar. 2016, web.

Katiraee, Layla. “10 Studies Proving GMOs Are Harmful? Not If Science Matters | Genetic Literacy Project.” Genetic Literacy Project, 1 July 2016, web.

PG Economics. “Beyond the Rows.” New Study Shows Positive Impacts from GM Crops | Beyond the Rows, Monsanto Co, 15 May 2014, web.

Walton, Dave. “GMO Myth: Farmers.” Genetic Literacy Project, Genetic Literacy Project, 24 Mar. 2015, web.

Licklifer, Lauren. “GMO Foods – CommonGround.” CommonGround, findourcommonground.com/food-facts/gmo-foods/.

Aerial Application of Cover Crops

It’s a bird…..it’s a plane….it’s a plane dropping seeds from the air!

After postponing the application by one day due to wind, we finally got to witness the first aerial application of cover crops at our farm. It was an exciting morning in our area!  Early this morning Ryan B drove the seed over to the airport where he met the pilot and assisted with the loading.  The seed was a combination of rye grass, crimson clover, and tillage radishes.

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It takes a very skilled pilot to be able to precisely measure wind patterns, watch for streaking in the application and avoid power lines! Especially on this particular section of our farm…

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Once we received the text from Ryan that the plane was loaded, it wasn’t long before we heard the plane’s engine approaching the soybean field.  He made several passes at 100 mph.

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The seed is applied directly over top of the soybeans.  We are experimenting with this application style and with cover crops in general. The purpose and idea behind cover cropping revolves around soil health. This variety of grasses will ideally put nutrients back into the soil as well as create an ideal grazing pasture once the beans are harvested which in return also adds more organic matter to the soil. It’s a win-win if all goes according to plan!

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If you look closely you can actually see the seeds being released into the air in the above photo!  We were pelted with seeds!

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The piloted covered 200 acres this morning with the cover crop seed and it took 4 trips to the airport and back to reload. It was seeded at 17 lb per acre with a 41 foot wide pass.

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The beans are still several weeks away from harvesting.

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The grass seeds cover the ground in between the plants and will begin to take root, Lord willing.

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We will keep you updated on the progress of the crops! We look forward to monitoring this investment to see if it will become a continual practice of the farm.

Post any questions you may have below!  Thanks for sharing in this exciting development with us!

 

Today’s farm experience has been brought to you by,

Britt Farms

 

 

 

 

 

Planting – It’s a Whole New World for Today’s Farmers!

Randy has been planting corn…I took supper to him and was treated to a
ride in his tractor…

The idea of him planting seeds in a field that looks like this always concerns me….I keep thinking about the scripture that says, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.”

Matthew 13:3-7 NASB

In fact, the first time my farmers planted corn in a landlord’s field without tilling it first, I prayed the landowner would not check the field that spring!

I could not imagine how we could get a good stand of corn in a mess of weeds…

But in fact, the planter is tilling…but just enough to make the rows. One pass planting conserves the moisture in the soil, conserves fuel and does not compact the soil.

I was impressed! The seed is actually planted 1 3/4 inches deep! (So there…birds of the air and scorching sun!)

Son, Ryan, is taking care of the thorns and weeds (such as water-hemp, amaranth, foxtail, grasses and other broad-leaf weeds) with the sprayer. It can handle the seedcorn maggots, seedcorn beetles, wireworms, white grubs, corn flea beetles billbugs, thrips, grape colaspis, black cutworms, southern corn leaf beetles, chinch bugs, army-worms, stalk borers, European corn borer, southwestern cornborer, corn cutworms, grasshoppers, fall army worms, corn earworms, and corn leaf aphids that try to destroy our crops!

This is the way Randy fills the planter…it takes about 100 bags of seed-corn…80,000 seeds per bag. Anywhere from 24,000 to 36,000 seeds are planted per acre…depending on the type of soil.

Take a look inside the “cockpit” of the tractor…

  “The best way to describe a corn planter is ’16 machine guns shooting seed in the soil'”.

The planter monitor shows every seed planted tracking the performance of the planter…

Pictured below is the auto-steering system monitor…yep, my husband only touches the steering wheel at the end of the row…this system will even complete the turn and line up the planter again. Somehow…it remembers how the field was planted in previous years and will follow the same procedure. RTK and GPS provide this feature.

Row cleaner, tillage controls, individual row shut-off, controls to fold the planter for transportation and monitors the seed inventory…

Tractor performance monitor…

 More doo-dads to click…

 “Look, Ma! No hands!!”

Also notice the planter markers are not being used… GPS and RTK at work!

Conventional tilling methods lose precious moisture, compacts the soil and cost more per acre due to more labor and fuel consumed.

 Notice the straight rows!

Maybe I’ll catch a ride on the sprayer next time…

A Tribute to the Blue and Gold in Honor of National FFA Week

It was fall and the start of my freshmen year of High School. Excitement filled me literally from head to toe as I zipped up my new, blue, corduroy FFA jacket perfectly embroidered in gold with my full name.  This was a big night calling for “official dress” which meant no blue jeans!  Mom and I had gone shopping to find the appropriate length of black skirts; one went all the way down to my ankles and the other just past my knees.  Tonight I was wearing the knee-length one. We also purchased black hose, professional black dress shoes and a crisp white button up blouse.  For years I had dreamed of putting on my “official dress” and rushing out to win some contest or represent the local chapter as an officer just like my dad, older sister, brother-in-law, older brother and older (by one year) best friend had done before me. I had waited and waited….and waited while sitting through countless FFA banquets, speeches and waving at them in parades. It was the fall of 1998 and it was my turn.

The older classmen, as tradition calls for, dipped our hands in John Deere green paint and we recited the FFA Creed … “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds…” and just like that I was a Green-Hand in the Salisbury FFA Chapter. Secretly I hoped the paint would never ever fade.

(That’s my sis as a MO State FFA Officer in the second row far left!)

My grandpa surprised me with my dream SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) project when he pulled into the drive way with the five prettiest Hereford heifers you have ever seen! I had them eating out of my hands in no time and my dad helped me keep track of everything in my Record Book. I had so much fun learning about entrepreneurship. I also teased dad about how Mary, Laura, Carrie, Grace and Nellie (recognize those names?) stood out beautifully against my dad’s Black Angus cows. Remind me later to tell you about how God answered my prayers twice when Dad bred them to his Angus bulls! My dad couldn’t believe it!

(Here’s a hint! Hee hee!)

When my dad was in the FFA as a high school kid, the rules were different and their blue and gold corduroy jackets were seen as perfectly warm attire to do chores in! That was also back before women could join the organization….

Over the course of the next 4 years I was blessed with many opportunities to compete in contests including Livestock Judging, Sales, and Public Speaking. I zipped up my jacket to give a speech about the joys and trials of raising sheep to the MO Sheep Producers judges. One year later I zipped up my jacket and stood before the MO Farm Bureau Conference to speak on the importance of the Farm Bureau and how it had benefited our family farm.

I packed my jacket when our chapter went on float trips, traveled to both Kansas City and Louisville for the National Conventions (where I got to hear Danny Glover speak),  and when I toured with the MO Agri-business Academy. Through these travels I met kids in other blue and gold jackets from across the country that I would have never known existed let alone that they had a common background or interests as me.  All through High School you could find me in the Ag Department before, during and after school as well as on most weekends! The athletes were lifting weights and I was carrying feed buckets. They were memorizing plays while I was memorizing speeches. We both had important goals in mind; and we both knew it would take hard work and discipline to accomplish them.

My senior year had come and it was time to try for a State FFA Office to represent our Area. Once I knew I was on the team I would apply for Mizzou and study Ag Education.  I had dreamed about becoming a State Officer since I was 8 years old.

(The only reason I share this is to encourage another young dreamer.)

This interview called for “Official Dress” of course so I zipped up my faithful blue and gold corduroy jacket, prayed with my parents and headed off with my Advisor for what was sure to be the biggest night of my life to that point.

However… God had a different plan in mind. I soon learned that HIS plans are not always ours and His ways are actually higher than ours.

When they announced the girl’s name next to me as the new State FFA Officer from our area I was beyond devastated. We hugged, I said a brief “congratulations” and faked the best smile I could and then with a knowing look my advisor quickly rounded up our crew and we headed to the local McDonalds for milk shakes. I couldn’t go inside though…I couldn’t move. My heart was broken. Mr. Scheiderer sat with me in the car while I cried and cried and he cried with me. He told me how proud of me he was with such sincerity in his eyes. I then called my sister knowing that she had been praying for me.  When I told her through tears that I had let everyone down, she lovingly assured me that I did my best and that God simply had other plans that are good and perfect. She reminded me of my favorite verse,

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

It meant that through His strength I could get through this moment, this change in direction and this sudden uncertainty of the future.

God did give me strength and it wasn’t long before HIS plans became clear.  He showed me that Ag Ed wasn’t the plan for me and gave me a peace and a place to call home at HLG-U where I studied Communications (which I use daily with my job) and met the love of my life, Ryan.  I had been so focused on MY plans that I didn’t stop to see if they aligned with HIS plans. This trial taught me humility, gratitude and perseverance.

I put on my “Official Dress” one last time for our Spring FFA Banquet just before graduation and the Lord gave me the words of a popular Michael W. Smith song to include in my farewell speech. It encourages us to focus on the time God has given us to “drink of the deep and unlock the mysteries of all we can be.” We may not know His plans, but we can always trust they are good and perfect. Another favorite verse comes from Jeremiah 29:11…

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

That blue and gold jacket which now hangs proudly in my parents front closet means true, life-long friends. It also means an Ag Advisor who believes in his or her students and parents who sacrifice so that their children can be at every activity and cheer loudly with each achievement. It represents to me the many members of the community who attend the FFA breakfasts and football game BBQ’s, provide scholarships from their businesses, serve as “mock judges” when students practice for contests and faithfully purchase fruit baskets so that the local chapter can travel to the conventions.

(Ryan’s cousin Michael and his fellow team from the Silex, MO FFA Chapter)

FFA jackets then and today represent hard work, respect, leadership and first and foremost, an appreciation of agriculture.

…”I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds…”

(Written by guest blogger and our youngest daughter, Kara Edwards)