Minnesota Farmer

Modified, Why label

As expected my earlier post on GMO’s drew some comments from long time readers.  These comments have me off on a totally different path than I had first expected in my second post.

So here it is, let’s talk labeling, that after all is the real reason that California’s prop 37 is being promoted.

When farm folks produce certified organic labelled produce they are held to a much stricter set of regulations than non-organic producers.  It means that a farmer has limited his use of certain practices to produce an organic product, and has the documentation to prove it.  The consumer is assuming that the farm products they are buying that are labeled organic are different from non-organic produce and are willing to pay more for it.  Modern science has not proven that there is a physical difference in the same products raised differently.  There is an emotional difference however, and if it makes a difference to you in how your food is produced, great, go for it.  I am fully in support of my organic farming friends getting paid more to produce food for you.  Just remember, they do a lot more work to produce organic foods and deserve to be paid for that extra work.

I do not however find the same need for labeling of GM products.  Why is that?

First off, there are so many different kinds of GMO’s that it is hard to be sure you are using a genetically modified product.  Crops have been modified to resist insects, to metabolize certain chemicals or to produce different types of growth.  The is no one way to prove that what you have is genetically modified.  Some modifications are indeed introductions of genes from other organisms, but others are merely a rearrangement or enhancement of genes that are already there.  Do you paint all genetic changes with the same brush?

Many find genetic modification offensive because they see it as being forced upon them by Big Agriculture, mainly Monsanto.  Yes, Monsanto did produce the first commercially used farm products, but they are not the only company that makes use of genetic modification.

As far as I know every seed corn and seed soybean company in the U.S. is using GM methods to produce seed for tomorrows needs.  University experimentation in production for tomorrows needs are also gong on.  The reason they are using GM methods is because they can produce new seed varieties so much faster than by older methods.  This has allowed them to fine tune their search for products that are economically viable.  The corn and soybean varieties we used on our farm were able to survive this years drought, perhaps the worst drought in my life, and still produce close to a normal crop, that is a direct product of GM methods.

Are we gong to label all GM products as being the same?  Do we place the enhancement of seed production or a better root system in the same category as chemical matabolization?  I find a great difference in these genetic manifestations.  We need each plant to produce more, and thus a bean that has more seeds in a pod is wanted.  A plant with a better root system will still produce a crop in drought conditions.  These are needed changes in plant growth.  Do we label them bad because of how they were developed?

To label a product as genetically modified and have some assume it is bad is just not sound science.  I say no to labeling.

So here is part 2, expect more soon.



2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Michael,
Thank you for this piece. It is very informative. I would like to take excerpts from it for a follow up article I write on GMO and modern agriculture.

Comment by Len Rosen (@lenrosen4)

As always, this is my opinion, held up by my fallible memory. You noticed that I neither quote nor site no one.

Comment by Michael

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