On April 25th, I was fortunate enough to tour Monsanto’s research center in St. Louis,Missouri, with a group of Mom’s dedicated to learning about food and farming. We boarded a plane early in the morning, and hit the ground running. I was a nervous wreck…not just because I hate to fly, but also because I felt intimidated, and I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of the million different questions that were bouncing around my head. I was worried that even if we asked the truth, we wouldn’t get it, it would be smoke and mirrors in an attempt to appease our concerns.
I am happy to report…..I was WRONG. Much to my surprise, they were MORE than transparent, and they answered our questions with incredible knowledge of fact, incredible displays of science, and incredible rebuttal to fiction. I left,feeling more overwhelmed than ever, but now, it was because nearly every argument I had set out to have, had been laid to rest. And really, who likes admitting that they’re wrong?? Certainly, not ME.
So, where do I start ? How do I begin trying to educate my readers on a topic as hot and explosive as biotechnology ?? How do I break it down to its basics, in hopes that you will keep reading ? Willing to put your opinions aside ? As many have expressed, quite loudly, when I signed up for this tour, I had sold my soul to the devil. I assure, I have done no such thing. I went with an open mind, and I listened, and I talked, and I learned. I sat before four incredibly intelligent women, also Mothers, give me the facts on GMO technology. I set aside my pre conceived notions and embraced the science behind the madness. I went in with a willingness to get both sides of the story. And guess what I heard ? I heard the things no one talks about on the internet, the things that no one reads (even though they ARE out there….check out http://www.GMOANSWERS.com ) I learned answers to questions I was afraid to ask, I learned that ever so valuable lesson, that NOT everything you read on the internet is true. Who knew ?
Our Q & A panel
SO…let’s get down to brass tacks….shall we ?
What exactly ARE GMO’s ?? Those in the field, prefer the term biotechnology, but tomato, tomAHto…..In essence, GMO’s in plant agriculture in the most basic of terms, means intentionally taking a gene for a trait you want or need from one plant and inserting it into another. Are you asking yourself BUT WHY ? I did…..and the answer was both complex and simple at its core. It all boils down to what’s best for the farmer : Farmer’s select GMO’s to aid in things such as pest control (this means LESS pesticide is sprayed topically, which means less drift, less use, less impact), GMO’s help to protect from extreme drought, disease and they also allow a farmer to plant more food on less usable soil. Remember, only 1/4 of the Earth has available land and 1/2 of THAT is unusable. So more for less, goes a long way. GM crops also help a farmer with soil conservation by allowing to take a no – till approach, this is important because it takes over 100 years to create 1 inch of topsoil. It simply cannot afford to be lost.
There are only eight crops that are available from GMO seed : Field corn, Canola, Soybean, Alfalfa, Cotton, Sugar beets, Sweet corn, Summer squash and Rainbow papaya. My favorite little factoid ?? Without biotechnology, the papaya would be EXTINCT…no more…gone forever….and I don’t know about you, but man….I would MISS IT. Eating a ripe papaya is like taking a mini tropical vacation with each bite.
You see, genetically modified crops have been around long before a scientist ever thought of gene insertion. 10,000 years ago, yes 10,000….humans began crop domestication using selective breeding, Every fruit, vegetable and grain that is commercially available has been altered by human hands. EVEN ORGANIC. How about that ??
And in the 1700’s farmers and scientists began cross-breeding plants within a species Without crop domestication, Brussels sprouts, Romanesco cabbage, Broccoli, Kale and Bok Choy would not be available for our dinner plates, as these all are genetic relatives of wild cabbage !! It has always been done. It’s just that now, it’s done more precisely.
I truly could go on and on, but at the risk of boring you to tears, I won’t. I promise.
I asked many of you, what questions do you want answered ? And the question that came up most was….ARE THEY SAFE ??
The simple answer….Y E S.
The more complex one: Biotech crops are the same as their non – GM buddies !! Nutritionally as well as broken down to its most basic structures. GMO foods have been in the marketplace for 17 years. They have been found, through repeated testing to be NO different from their NON GM counterparts. GM crops are subjected to more testing than any other new crop variety, therefore, we know more about them than any other crops that have been developed over the past few CENTURIES. GM crops are assessed by two, and sometimes three Federal agencies: the FDA, USDA and EPA. They don’t reach your grocery cart until they have been deemed safe and nutritious.
So, what does biotechnology hold for the future ?
It has been demonstrated that this technology can increase the amount and stability of pro-vitamin A, iron and zinc and improve the digestibility of sorghum. What is so important about that ? It is anticipated to benefit Africans who rely upon sorghum, which is normally deficient in key nutrients.
Another example ? Golden Rice.
Golden Rice is another biotech crop which is nutritionally improved. The amount of beta carotene has been increased and could provide half the daily required provide HALF the required pro-vitamin A for a 1 to 3-year-old child. That can save lives.
But the most important example ?? Biotechnology can help us meet the growing demand for food, despite the influences of drought, poor soil, and B U G S. More full bellies.
To me, helping to produce more food, and improve the crops that those in developing countries rely upon, well, that has the power to change the World.
That is worth its weight in science !!
I encourage each of you to read , to research, to ask honest questions and open your mind to honest answers. The future truly is now.
Check it out !!!
*** lunch and travel within St. Louis, provided by MONSANTO ***