Tag Archives: organic

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/.

Pizza

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Last month a group of us went through a “detox” together. The 8-day challenge consisted of a specific protein filled diet, lots of water intake and some specific supplements (shake, pills and juice).  It was grueling at times but we came out the other side with a better taste for real food and a harsh realization of the bad eating habits we had developed over time. We all managed to lose weight and did so without following one particular suggested guideline. We ate beef. That’s right.  The menu for the week suggested NO RED MEAT due to….I honestly can’t tell you what their suggestion was “due to”.  They didn’t give a reason.  Upon further investigation I found a post on their “weight loss testimony” page where someone had asked if anyone had eaten beef during the 8-day cleanse and still lost weight. More than two dozen people had quickly replied stating that YES they had eaten red meat including steak, hamburger, roast, etc. and had STILL lost weight!  Several in my group also enjoyed red meat during the diet and we lost just as much as those who stuck with chicken, fish and turkey.  This only served to confirm what we already knew…red meat is not the problem.  Our seemingly inability to say no to sugar, caffeine and carbs IS the problem.  Red meat provides specific nutrients that many diets are lacking.  The battle against red meat is untruthful propaganda attacking conventional agriculture. Will I attack the company over this? Have I mentioned their name so we can smear them as beef producers? No. At the very most I plan to send them a respectful, kind letter sharing the facts regarding beef and that we still lost the weight while enjoying red meat.

Also, the packaging of the detox supplements stated they were “GMO FREE”.   Now as conventional farmers did we send the products back when we saw the labeling?  Did we take to social media to degrade the company and seek to prove them ignorant? No, we did not.  There are MANY different opinions regarding GMO labeling, usage and marketing. You can stir up more discussion and negative tones regarding our food sources and farming methods on social media than you can about ISIS and their treatment of women and children.  Why is that? Why do we get emotionally riled up over our abundance of food choices when our time could be more wisely spent raising concerns, praying and educating others about sex trafficking, homeless people, starving children and ransacked homes?

Imagine with me for a moment what it could look like if organic farmers and conventional farmers shook hands and decided they were all in it together.

Andy Barr wrote this in 2008 for Famers Weekly,

“GM may horrify organic advocates, but it could (after a rigorous testing and approval process) reduce chemical and fertilizer inputs and deliver health benefits. And wouldn’t a splash of glyphosate reduce organics’ carbon footprint?”

And you know what? That’s exactly what GM (genetically modified) seed has done. It has created a way for farmer’s to use LESS CHEMICALS!

Can we shake hands? I’m not talking about some happy place over the rainbow. I’m talking about the attacks on one another ending. I’m suggesting we recognize that each method has a place in this world and that we can support one another. We can agree to disagree for the sake of the bigger picture.  One method provides opportunities for families in the cities to watch how a seed comes forth from the soil, how the soil content matters and how that plant can produce a delicious tomato. This movement called “organic farming” has created roof top gardens in the middle of New York City. It has provided another option at the grocery store and it has given job opportunities through weekend Farmer’s Markets to those who longed for an environmental occupation.  On the other hand, conventional agriculture continues to feed millions upon millions of families across the globe through their effective and safe methods.  Family farms have been able to stand the test of time thanks to these proven techniques and people are given a healthy yet more affordable option in each city. We can argue if GMOs are safe. We can argue if not killing the bugs, worms and diseases on the plants is safe.  What we can’t seem to argue about it is how to best support one another in agriculture. We each have our markets. There is room for both parties under the same tent.

Still not convinced?  Check out Unfounded Frankenfood Fears by Steve Forbes, Editor-In-Chief Forbes Magazine.  In this article he states,

“One shudders to think of the global misery that would have ensued had these forces (antiprogress extremists) been around in the 1960s, when Norman Borlaug spearheaded the breakthroughs dubbed the Green Revolution, which enormously increased crop yields, particularly in India. There and elsewhere more than a billion lives were saved, people who would otherwise have been lost to hunger.  Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Today he’d be attacked as an antinature technomonster.”

Let’s choose our battles wisely.

The other night my mom made this flavorful, “clean”, pizza!  May be a great addition to your weekend menu! Below is her recipe. Bon appetite!

 

Garden Pizza

Pizza

 

  • Crust of your choice (I like Food Nanny’s)
  • Roll out crust to fit 16 inch pizza pan
  • Layer with:
  • Drizzle with olive oil (rosemary or basil infused is good!)
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese slices
  • Hamburger, cooked and crumbled
  • Fresh arugula leaves
  • Fresh basil
  • Cherry tomatoes (or whatever you have)
  • Drizzle with more olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Bake in hot oven (475*  5 – 10 minutes)

Have you been organically misled?

When I asked a grocery store employee in Columbia, MO where the stick carrots were he directed me to the organic section without a second thought. I smiled and let him know that I prefer my veggies to be non-organic and asked where that aisle might be. With a look of confusion he pointed and sure enough there was a small area on the other side of the produce displaying the carrots I was in search of.  The employee was simply used to person my age, specifically a mom, purchasing organic in that city.  But is it really healthier? Am I doing my family a disservice by feeding them conventionally raised foods?

It is interesting to me when I hear about people eating organic or GMO free because it is the best for their family and because they want their families to be healthy. I want your family to be healthy too. I want you to live a long and beautiful life. Guess what…I also want MY family to be healthy and MY family to live long, beautiful lives. As farmers who raise GMO crops and crops with pesticide, we are not doing so with a blind eye or hard hearts. We actually have not only OUR families BEST interests at heart, but also YOURS!  If we didn’t believe our crops were nutritious and healthy and SAFE we wouldn’t serve them to our children.  The same beef, corn, wheat and soybeans we are selling to you are the same ones we eat as well as a family.

This quote written by  with The Genetic Literacy Project jumped out at me today,

I could certainly afford to pay up to 50% more for organic food for my children to eat, but I refuse to. I decline to pay the premium for organic food because I cannot justify it when comparable conventional foods (including those with GMOs) are just as healthy and nutritious, and arguably more environmentally friendly.

What’s The Genetic Literacy Project? Is Monsanto behind it?  No, Monsanto nor any other “big wig” seed company or agricultural entity is funding it.  This project is an independent biotechnology research group affiliated with STATS and Sense About Science. Click HERE to read her full article.

Here’s another portion of an interesting article I came across this week…

One thing they {consumers like you} will not read on any label is a new finding from Academics Review, a group of scientists dedicated to testing popular claims against peer-reviewed science.

The scientists’ conclusion based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported recall information: Organic foods are four to eight times more likely to be recalled than conventional foods for safety issues like bacterial contamination. Nor will consumers see anywhere a reference to the body of peer-reviewed research finding that organic foods are no more nutritious than foods produced by conventional agriculture.

Why are consumers so misinformed? This is not an unimportant problem. It’s dangerous. The very people most likely to seek out organic food for its purported safety — the elderly, pregnant women, parents of young children and people with compromised immune systems — are most at risk from organic’s higher risk of contaminants, including deadly e-coli.

– JOHN R. BLOCK was U.S. secretary of agriculture from 1981 to 1986. The lifelong farmer now is senior policy adviser to the law firm of Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC in Washington, D.C.

Food for thought! This much thinking makes me hungry…

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Combine Burgers 

These are PERFECT for taking to the field for the men while they work!

Ingredients:

1 can Crescent Rolls

1 lb of hamburger

3/4 C shredded cheese

2 T Worcestershire Sauce

Onion

Lowery’s Season Salt

 

1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Brown hamburger using onion, sauce and season salt (and anything else that sounds tasty to you!)

3. Pinch together crescent rolls on baking sheet to make 4 rectangles from the 8 triangles.

4. Spread cooked hamburger on dough (about 3-4 T per rectangle)

5. Sprinkle with cheese.

6. Roll up dough to form a burrito-ish crescent burger.

7. Bake for 15 minutes.

8. Wrap in foil and take to field with ketchup and mustard for dipping!

 

Chipotle Commercial vs. Feeding the World

Great truth and perspective on this commercial from fellow farmer’s wife, Kristin Reese:

While the short video from Chipotle has been out for a while now, I just watched it today. The video vilifies large farms and encourages viewers to buy from local small farms like ours. I have had mixed feelings about Chipotle for a few years. While I support and advocate for consumer choice when it comes to food, it has become my tag line that “Local is great but bigger is better.” When I say bigger is better I mean it from a global viewpoint. I am thankful for customers who support smaller local growers like my family. We have a niche market to feed a sector of people who can afford to pay a bit higher price for their food. But there are those customers who must watch their dollar more closely and maybe cannot or choose not to buy as much local food. By going to a grocery store to buy meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables, you still support a family farm somewhere. Many people do not realize that 98% of all farms in the U.S. are family farms. Whatever decision you make for your family, I feel very confident in saying either is JUST FINE and even more importantly SAFE.

This time of year, my children love strawberries, berries and fresh vegetables. Our Ohio climate does not support the growth of these year round, but a farmer somewhere is producing this product and I am grateful because my children can have a balanced diet year round.

When it comes to animal agriculture, our weather can be very difficult on livestock. Those animals raised inside have a safe and climate controlled home. Chipotle also encourages people to buy meat that is organic and antibiotic free. My son Parker is prone to ear infections. When he is under the weather I take him to a Dr. If the Dr. says we need to treat this infection, then of course I want to do what is safe and best for my child. We use the proper medication for the correct length of time prescribed by the Dr. I certainly do not want to use medication if my child is not sick. If his body becomes used to it, then when he needs it, the medication will be ineffective. I think we live in a very clean home but yet sometimes Campbell and Parker get sick. This is the same with animals. We do our best to keep the animals in a clean environment so that they can remain safe and healthy.

Antibiotics cost money and producers avoid using any medication unless absolutely necessary. If a medicine needs to be used, there are stringent guidelines for each type of medication that must be followed and documented. I know from personal experience that sometimes animals get sick or injured, and I know my standards of care are very good. It is in the best interest and safety of the animal to treat that infection or illness so that they can continue to thrive and be healthy.

 From a logical farming perspective we must continue to advance our farming practices or we will never come close to supplying enough food for our expanding population. There is only so much farm land that can be used to grow our food. We cannot create more farmland so we have be the best stewards of our land and produce the safest and largest amounts of product from what land we do have. Both large and small farms need to work together to feed our ever growing population.

As far as the golden burrito, I will still enjoy a chicken burrito with no beans, sour cream, cheese, lettuce and guacamole every once in a while. I will not be thinking about it being organic or antibiotic free. What I will be thinking is that a farmer worked very hard to produce the grain that the animals ate and another farmer worked equally as hard to raise the animal. So whether large or small, organic or not, local or in another state, and even if it’s from Chipotle, if you enjoyed a good meal today thank a farmer.