Cheers to another great year of farm visits, conversations and digging into the truth behind how food is grown and raised in South Dakota! Thank you for joining us on this journey. There are just so many fun things to discover while making the farm-to-table connection.
Before we say sayonara to 2018, we’re taking one last look back at five of our top stories and recipes of 2018. Read on to see if yours made the list.
5. The Sustainability Story of a Fifth-Generation Farm
Since 1896, David Struck’s family has been farming and caring for their land in Wolsey, South Dakota. Today, three generations work together to grow soybeans, corn and wheat. The best part is, they aren’t alone! About 98 percent of farms in our state are still family owned and operated. “There’s a perception that we’re running big corporate farms out here that don’t care about the environment or about people, but that’s very untrue,” said David. Read more.
4. Cozy Up with Oksana Silchuk & Potato Chicken Noodle Soup
Nothing warms the soul on a chilly day like a bowl of homemade potato chicken noodle soup. Our fans loved snuggling up with Oksana Silchuk as she channeled her Ukrainian roots to create her favorite comfort food. Along the way, she shared her gratitude for initiatives like Hungry for Truth, which keeps her connected to farmers who grow and raise food her family and yours. Warm up with the recipe.
3. Crockpot Beef Bourguignon for Moms on the Go
Looking for a recipe that tastes homemade and doesn’t require a ton of prep? Courtney Hansen, South Dakota cattle farmer and mother of two, has you covered. When she isn’t helping her husband with calving, she’s making quick and easy meals like crockpot beef bourguignon. Read more about her farm and get the recipe to make your family dinner in a snap.
2. Farm-to-Fork Dinner Unites Rural & Urban South Dakotans in Conversations Around the Table
We love getting farmers and families together to talk about important topics like farm sustainability, pesticide use and food safety. It’s even better when it happens around the table. This past summer, 180 South Dakotans joined us at the Country Apple Orchard near Sioux Falls for our third annual Farm-to-Fork dinner to learn the truth about what happens on today’s farms. Get the scoop on conversations, delicious local foods and what attendees learned.
1. Millennial Farmer Goes High-Tech For Sustainability
In our top story, we explored how young farmers are using their college degrees and love of technology to transform their farms. Morgan Holler is just one of several millennial farmers who is leveraging data and adopting technology to make his family business more sustainable for the future. Find out how he’s growing food safely to feed his family and yours.
Those are just a few of the adventures we had in 2018. Look for answers to your questions and find more recipes. Start your new year off right by signing up for our e-newsletter. It’s an easy way to get new stories and recipes delivered to your inbox each month.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.
South Dakota farmers may have planted a record soybean crop this year, but the growing season and harvest have been challenging to say the least. Late planting coupled with a dry summer, unusually damaging hail and then rain and snow in October forced local farmers to take advantage of every sunny second in the combine to harvest a projected 277 million bushels of soybeans.
What’s the view from the field? Luckily we know a pint-sized crop reporter who has the 4-1-1 on all the soybean action near Andover. Dane Horter is back – with the help of his dad John – talking about harvest and sharing insights on how planting GMO soybean seeds and cover crops helps their family farm improve sustainability and protect yields.
Plus, we find out how second grade is going, whether or not Dane has a girlfriend and which football team he’s rooting for. Don’t miss out on all of this and a truck high-five!
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.
If farming is like football, harvest is a soybean farmer’s championship game. They’ve clocked countless hours planning, preparing and nurturing their plants to provide nutritious food for South Dakota’s families. Now, it’s time to discover the results. Since farmers are always thinking ahead, and looking for ways to improve, it’s also a time for them to evaluate how their strategies worked and make even better plans for next year.
Last fall, we chatted with David and Miriam Iverson as they prepared for harvest on their farm in Brookings County. As combines began rolling this season, we checked back in with the family to see what updates they made and how they’ve paid off.
“We’ve had a really good growing season this year, and overall the crop looks really good,” said David. “When thinking about changes and improvements moving forward, we typically consider factors like the resources that will be needed, harvest costs and balancing the workload.”
For South Dakota soybean farmers, sustainability means doing the right thing for the environment and continuously improving the land for future generations. That’s why farmers evaluate their practices each season and make adjustments accordingly.
The Iversons made a few changes this year, such as increasing the amount of soybeans they planted and cutting back a bit on corn. They also decided to dabble in a new soybean variety and planted 300 acres of non-GMO high-oleic soybeans for the first time. High-oleic soybeans provide a source of vegetable oil for the food industry that is low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat and trans-fat-free.
Since they’re food-grade soybeans, the high-oleic variety is managed and harvested a little differently. Extra elbow grease is needed to clean out the combine, trucks, grain bins and augers before they’re harvested, and farmers have to use a slightly different crop protection strategy. However, their premium price is worth the extra effort. David said they’ve grown well on his farm so far and he may look to plant more next year.
The Iversons also use tools like soil sampling to determine which crop nutrients they’ll use for the next growing season.
“Once everything is harvested, I work with an agronomist to pull soil samples. We do this when we’re ready to rotate crops because the requirements vary for different plants,” explained David. “We send our samples to a lab, and they send back a full nutrient analysis so when a field is changing from soybeans to corn, we know exactly what that corn crop will need in the upcoming year.”
By working with experts to determine specific nutrient needs, David can be efficient with fertilizers and only apply exactly what is needed. Preserving crop and soil health is important for sustainable farming because it supports the longevity of the land, minimizes waste and maintains a healthy environment for future crops to flourish in coming seasons.
“Sustainability to me has a few different legs,” shared David. “One is maintaining soil health. There’s a lot of agronomy that goes into that aspect. There’s also the economic part of it. Improving the soil helps economically, and to be sustainable long term, you have to make decisions that financially benefit the farm.”
David’s family has passed their farm down for four generations and have achieved success through the changing times by implementing new techniques and best practices.
“The biggest aspect in recent years has been adding technology like autosteer and yield mapping,” said David. “That data helps us make better crop decisions and improve parts of the farm that are producing less.”
Today’s technology helps farmers interpret harvest and yield data of past years to grow safe and healthy food in the future. Whether reflecting on this year or planning for the next, harvest is special time for soybean farmers. Find out how another South Dakota farmer plans for the future by reading Matt Bainbridge’s story.
GMOs continue to be a hotly debated topic, especially when it comes to the safety of the food we feed our families. While you may be undecided about GMOs, the scientific and medical communities have deemed them to be just as safe as non-GMO crops after more than 20 years of research and review. Even Bill Nye the Science Guy, who once questioned their environmental impact, has changed his position and is an advocate.
Many South Dakota farmers choose to plant GMO crops because of their advantages in the field, but the fact is GMOs benefit our lives in some pretty cool ways. Let’s examine a few of the facts.
GMOs Save Lives Through Medicine
The same technology used to create GMO crops in the 1990s started in the medical community in the 1970s. Scientists used genetic engineering to make biopharmaceutical drugs from bacteria. In fact, the very first GMO approved for use in 1982 was insulin, which is currently used by 1.25 million Americans today to manage type 1 diabetes. To date, genetic engineering has led to the development of more than 100 drugs used to treat cancer, arthritis, hemophilia and seizures.
GMOs Benefit Consumers
The fact is genetic modification has been happening in nature for centuries. The sweet potato is just one example of a new food created by its genes mixing with bacteria in the soil. It wasn’t until recently that scientists developed a way to precisely edit gene sequences to create apples that resist browning, soybeans with improved nutritional content and rice with increased beta carotene to help combat vitamin A deficiency. While South Dakota children get plenty of vitamin A, Golden Rice has the potential to save the lives of 1.15 million children annually around the world who suffer from the lack of this essential nutrient.
GMOs Help Protect Our Environment
GMO technology helps farmers improve on-farm practices to be more environmentally sustainable. According to a study by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, the use of biotechnology in soybeans, corn and cotton has decreased soil erosion by 93 percent, herbicide runoff by 70 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 326 million lbs. across the U.S. since the mid-1990s. Protecting the environment is important to everyone in South Dakota. We all need to work together to preserve it for the next generations.
GMOs Keep Produce on Our Shelves
Without GMO technology, we probably wouldn’t have papayas anymore. In 1992, papaya ringspot virus was discovered in the Puna district of Hawaii where 95 percent of the state’s papayas grew. Three years later, the crop was in a state of crisis and would’ve been wiped out on the island if scientists hadn’t bred disease resistance into the papayas. Yellow summer squash and zucchini are other foods that would be difficult to find in produce sections today if they hadn’t been genetically modified to withstand diseases. Scientists are also developing orange trees that resist citrus greening, plum trees that resist plum pox virus and potatoes that resist potato blight to keep these foods stocked on produce shelves.
Regardless of your thoughts on GMOs, what you feed your family is ultimately your choice. The most important part of a healthy diet is eating a blend of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins while limiting sugars and fats. Living a healthy lifestyle benefits everyone, and that is something we can all agree on.
Have a GMO-related question for a South Dakota farmer? Leave it in the comments below. Here are some resources you can use to learn more.
Have you ever wondered why many farmers use GMOs? Researching the question online might lead you to believe that they don’t have a choice when it comes to the seeds they plant. In fact, farmers often choose to plant GMO seeds because it helps them be more sustainable, more efficient and preserve their land so they can pass it on to future generations. We decided to go right to the source to get answers.
“The safety and quality of the crops I raise are very important to me and my family farm. I know the science and research behind the products I use on my farm shows they are safe and sustainable. Being able to produce more with less natural resources and crop protection products is a decision I feel good about.” – John Horter, farmer from Andover
“GMOs play an important role in farming today. In fact, if my dad hadn’t used GMO crops in the summer of 2012, he most likely would not have had a corn harvest at all. We received record-low rainfall that summer, and his corn survived because of its drought-resistant genetics. If he had not used GMO seeds, his corn and much of the entire corn crop in the country would have died, wreaking havoc on the food and renewable energy systems.” – Amanda Eben, livestock specialist from Rock Rapids, Iowa, who is active on her family farm
“We choose to use GMOs on our farm because we believe in their value; not just increasing our yields and product quality, but also the added value they bring to the food industry. The USDA, FDA and EPA all require extensive testing of GMOs before they are released into the marketplace, taking an average of 13 years. Because of these modifications, we can grow crops in areas where we couldn’t before. For example, we can plant drought-resistant corn in years where we are concerned about the water we need to feed a growing crop.” – Morgan Kontz, farmer from Colman
Now you know many farmers choose to plant GMOs because the technology allows them to grow food safely and improve their on-farm sustainability. It’s great to have choices both in the field and in the grocery store. What other questions do you have about GMOs? Let us know by leaving your question in the comments.
Learn more about the safety and process of creating GMOs by reading Where Do GMOs Come From?
Walking through the aisles at your local grocery store, you may have wondered how many of the foods you eat contain GMOs. For as much as you hear about them online and in social media, you may have questioned if GMOs are safe. The quick answer is there are only 10 GMO crops approved and grown in the U.S. today, many with nearly 20 years of research proving they are safe to eat.
Let’s start with the basics: What is a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism. The term refers to plants that have been bred through a process called biotechnology, which adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve certain characteristics like disease resistance or drought tolerance.
Some benefits from GMO crops are easy to spot, such as healthier soybean oils for cooking, apples that don’t turn brown and potatoes that resist bruising. Others are less apparent, but help farmers grow food more sustainably. Since the introduction of GMO soybeans more than 20 years ago, farmers have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent.
The number of GMO crops is relatively small because they require a significant investment in research to ensure their safety. Each GM seed variety takes an average of $136 million and 13 years to bring to market. Learn more about the approval process here.
So which foods made the list? You may be surprised to learn that wheat, rice, milk and most fresh fruits and vegetables are not GMOs. Here’s what’s approved:
GMO corn was first planted in the mid-1990s as a way to use less pesticides. Today, about 89 percent of field corn in the U.S. is a GMO variety. While most of the corn is processed into feed for animals, it can become corn syrup and cornstarch, which are found in many foods you find at the grocery store.
GMO soybeans have been around just as long as corn and for many of the same reasons. Pest-resistant soybean seeds allow farmers to grow more and improve their productivity. In 2016, approximately 94 percent of the U.S. soybean crop was genetically modified. However, most soybeans are processed into animal feed.In the grocery store, soy can be found as vegetable oil used in mayonnaise, dressings, margarine, cookies, cakes and snack foods. High-oleic soybean oil used in some foods is high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and contains no trans fats. Tofu and edamame are produced from food-grade soybeans and are mostly non-GMO.
GMO cotton accounts for about 89 percent of the total U.S. cotton crop. Its main benefit is the ability to protect itself from a pest called the cotton bollworm. Most cotton is used for textiles and clothing, but a small portion is processed into cottonseed oil for food use.
About 90 percent of the U.S. canola crop is genetically modified. Canola oil is used in cooking.
Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the U.S. Farmers feed it to beef cattle and dairy cows. Milk, butter, cheese, beef and many more foods come from these animals, but like other types of animal feed, alfalfa doesn’t affect the foods that end up on grocery store shelves. Alfalfa’s genetic modification protects it from the herbicides sprayed during the growing season.
About 55 percent of the U.S. sugar supply comes from sugar beets and approximately 95 percent are grown from GMO seeds that help protect them from diseases. A high percentage of this crop is grown near South Dakota in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and Minnesota.
The GMO papaya was originally designed to protect the crop from ringspot virus, which nearly wiped out the entire crop until the creation of a GMO variety. Today, 75 percent of Hawaii’s crop is genetically protected from the disease.
Squash and Zucchini
GMO varieties of these delicious garden vegetables were developed in the mid-1990s to defend against the cucumber mosaic virus, zucchini yellow mosaic virus and watermelon mosaic virus. Though the actual acres grown in the U.S. are small, the yellow straightneck, yellow crookneck and green zucchini squash are genetically modified.
The Arctic apple by Okanagan Specialty Fruits™ is the newest GM food set to arrive at select stores in 2017. It took 20 years to bring the flavor and freshness of these non-browning, golden apples to produce aisles. Learn more about their journey to harvest by watching this video.
Innate potatoes were developed with consumers in mind. These GM varieties resist bruising and black spots, reducing the potential for post-harvest potato waste by up to 400 million pounds per year. Innate potatoes are also healthier than regular potatoes. They are also better for the environment because they’re grown using 20 percent less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
Continue learning about GMOs and their safety by checking out these resources:
How much do you know about GMOs? Take the quiz.
Are GM foods safe to eat?
Read this study “Will GMOs Hurt My Body?” from Harvard University, which features research from South Dakota State University: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/will-gmos-hurt-my-body/
Have questions about GMO labeling?
It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and green is everywhere. He may not be Irish, but that doesn’t stop local farmer, Jeff Thompson, from going green on Saint Patrick’s Day, or any other day for that matter. Sustainability is something he implements daily on his family farm near Colton.
“I farm some of the same land my grandfather purchased in 1877,” said Jeff. Thanks to advancements in research and technology, Jeff grows more food using less crop inputs than his grandparents.
It’s a trend that’s been on the rise as the family farm has changed hands through the generations and one Jeff plans to continue. Focusing on growing food in a sustainable way means someday he can pass the family business to his nephew who is just starting to get involved.
What are some of the ways Jeff goes green? One of the basic practices is rotating corn and soybean crops to make sure the plants don’t deplete the soil of important nutrients. This is like what many gardeners do to keep their seedbeds healthy and productive. He also enriches the soil with manure from a nearby dairy.
Soil sampling is another important part of his sustainability plans. He uses the information to create digital maps of his fields, uploads them into his tractor’s precision technology system and then applies just the right amount of fertilizer needed to grow his crops. Similar technology in his planter and sprayer ensure he doesn’t waste seed or overspray.
“Today’s farming technology helps me use just the right amount of seed and crop inputs to reduce waste,” said Jeff. “My planter has row shutoffs so when I turn, it stops dropping seeds where I already planted. The same is true for my sprayer. It also has an automatic shutoff to keeps me from overlapping pesticide applications on the end rows.”
Like most farmers in South Dakota, Jeff plants seeds developed through biotechnology that are resistant to the pesticides he sprays. This way he kills the weeds while the seeds flourish. GMO seeds also require less water, meaning they can tolerate dry weather to reduce or eliminate irrigation.
Sometimes sustainability involves doing less.
Conservation tillage helped Jeff cut his fuel usage and protect his most valuable resource: the soil. While tillage helps to create a good seedbed for planting, too much can lead to soil erosion. In the fall, he leaves cornstalks and soybean stubble in his fields to prevent the land from washing or blowing away. By spring, he can either plant directly into the stalks or make one quick tillage pass before he plants. Doing less tillage helps him keep more soil in his fields and fuel in his tank.
He has also reduced his liquid petroleum usage by upgrading his corn dryer to an energy-efficient version. He uses the dryer in the fall to reduce moisture in his corn before storing or selling it. Since building it two years ago, he has cut his liquid petroleum use in half.
Jeff’s not alone. Today, 63 percent of U.S. farmers practice conservation tillage, up from 36 percent 20 years ago. According to a report released by Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, farmers have also reduced soil erosion over the past 30 years by 47 to 67 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 42 percent depending on the type of crop grown.
So, as you celebrate going green today, remember to tip your hat to farmers who are growing your food in a sustainable way every day.
Have questions for Jeff about his pesticide use or other sustainable farm practices? Leave them in the comments below. Learn more about how farmers go green during planting season by reading Paul’s story.
Even if you’ve heard a lot of talk about GMOs, you might still wonder why farmers choose to grow them and how they actually help crops. We have three examples showing how GMO technology helps farmers and all of us have a safe and healthy food supply.
Want to know more about the process of creating a GMO? Read all about it here. If you have any questions about why farmers use GMOs, be sure to leave them for us in the comments.
Todd Hanten would put his wife, Monica’s, cooking up against anyone’s in a contest. She’s been honing her skills on their Goodwin, South Dakota farm for about 30 years.
“I’m pretty sure that’s why my employees continue to work here. They enjoy Monica’s cooking,” jokes Todd.
The Hantens both grew up on farms and developed strong ties to the land. In fact, Todd’s family has lived on the same farm for more than 100 years.
It’s obvious they love the lifestyle, which includes growing crops and caring for their 900-head of cattle. They encouraged their children, Brittany and Brock, to spend a few years working off the farm with the hope that someday they may return to continue the family legacy. It should also come as no surprise that they get asked questions about the food they grow and how they care for their animals.
They point out that it’s great to have so many choices when it comes to food. Despite operating a dairy for many years, Monica says she occasionally enjoys almond milk. However, she also understands how having so many choices, labels and terms on food packages can be overwhelming.
During trips to the store, Monica checks nutrition labels and seeks out foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar. She’s learned over the years that words like “natural” can make something seem premium or healthier, but that it contains no real value. “Hormone-free chicken” is another example. Hormone use is not allowed in poultry at all, so there’s no reason to pay extra for that label. She and Todd have also done their homework on GMOs and feel they are safe and healthy for people and animals.
“We choose to grow biotech crops because of the science in the seed,” explains Todd. “Seeds with these traits allow us to grow more food on the same amount of land in difficult weather conditions like drought. Many times, the traits help us grow crops in more sustainable ways, like using less products to control insects and weeds.”
The Hantens have seen the benefits firsthand. They know that, in addition to the agronomic value GMO crops offer farmers, there are also direct benefits for consumers, like soybeans with an increased nutritional profile or non-browning apples that last longer. They put food with genetically modified ingredients on their own kitchen table with pride.
Monica and Todd encourage people to ask questions and have conversations with farmers about how their food is grown. One great resource for those who live in South Dakota is the Hungry for Truth initiative and its website hungryfortruthsd.com. It features farmers and families who can help separate fact from fiction when it comes to food, animal care and farming.
“It’s an opportunity to learn more from real farmers,” explains Todd. “We enjoy having honest conversations about these topics because we all eat, we all care about our families, and we’re trying to do our best to make healthy choices when it comes to food.”
We’ve heard many different ideas about GMOs over the years. Some people think they’re some new creation made in a lab, and others say they’re made with chemicals and syringes. We’ve even heard the term “Frankenfood” used to describe GMOs. So just how are GMO crops developed? Read on for a step-by-step guide to the process.
Step One: Identify a Helpful Trait
Plants get directions from their DNA for growth and development. DNA is made up of thousands of genes, so first, researchers look for a gene that delivers a desired trait, like the ability to resist harmful pests. One of the first GMO crops approved for commercial use was made from a naturally occurring soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. The gene produces a protein that kills European corn borer larva, a bug that poses a serious threat to corn plants.
Step Two: Find the Switch
Once they find the right gene, scientists choose specific “switches” or regulators so the genes are expressed in a way researchers want. Senthil says it’s like a lawn sprinkler system that is told when and where to turn on and off.
Step Three: Insert Gene Into Plant
After the switches have been identified, geneticists insert the gene into the plant, often using a machine called a gene gun. There are many methods researchers can use, but the goal is to transport the new gene and deliver it into the cell nucleus.
Step Four: Plant Growth
Once the traits have been inserted and the plant grows, the seeds it produces will contain the new genes. Those seeds are then planted and grown in a specialized greenhouse or in other controlled environments.
Step Five: Obtain Approval
If a new variety shows promise, the plant needs to get USDA, FDA and EPA approval before it can be grown commercially. On average, every GMO plant is tested for 13 years before it is approved for farmers to use. The approval process is rigorous and includes testing on birds, mammals, beneficial insects, fish, frogs and other organisms to ensure the crops are safe and have no adverse effects.
All scientific, peer-reviewed research by independent and government health organizations shows that GMOs are safe for people, animals and the environment, and that GMO foods are just as nutritious as their non-GMO counterparts. You can rest assured that whatever food choice you make, it will be a safe one for you and your family.
There you have it. No Frankenfoods, no syringes, no creations from the lab, just precision plant breeding. What questions do you have about GMOs? Leave them for us in the comments and check out these links for more information:
A new Hungry for Truth TV commercial hits the screen this week, and it’s all about GMOs and making sure kids get nutritious options.
The commercial features local farmer Bradee Pazour from Pukwana. “Now more than ever, moms are concerned about what they’re feeding their kids. As a farmer, I think it’s very important to share with others the safe and efficient practices we use in food production on our family farms.”
“Hungry for Truth supports choice,” said Marc Reiner, farmer from Tripp and volunteer for the initiative. “We believe everyone should have the choice of what to feed themselves and their families. Research shows GMOs are a safe and nutritious choice, and we want people to feel comfortable in that knowledge when they make decisions about food.”
Cited in the spot is a May 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available GMO crops and conventionally bred crops, and no conclusive evidence of environmental problems tied to GMO crops.
Coming up on the blog, we’ll be interviewing Bradee, the star of the commercial. If you have questions for Bradee, write them comments and stay tuned to the blog to find your answers.
When you enjoy a tasty treat like cookies, cakes or crackers, chances are good those foods were cooked with soybean oil. Soybean oil’s neutral taste, abundant supply and nutritional profile make it a great fit for the food industry, and now new GMO soybeans are giving the food industry a more nutritious option with high oleic soybean oil
High oleic soybeans are a GMO crop that deliver oil with lower saturated fat than conventional soybean oil and contribute no trans fats to products. High oleic soybean oil also delivers three times the amount of beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids as regular soybean oil.
In the mid-1990s, when trans fat labeling was first required on the Nutrition Facts panel of food products, consumers started to demand healthier choices and companies looked for alternatives. Farmers recognized the need to deliver a better option that consumers and the food industry wanted, and worked with researchers and scientists to develop an innovative option called high oleic soybeans. High oleic soybean oil comes from specialty soybean varieties that have a better balance of healthy fats and don’t require partial hydrogenation.
While high oleic soybean oil is only available for the food industry at the moment, as demand increases and a shift to healthier eating becomes a bigger priority, more and more oil will be available. We all want to eat healthier and to make good food choices. High oleic soybean oil is one example of how GMOs are helping us get there. It’s another example of how biotechnology can have direct benefits to consumers, just like the new Arctic Apples, which are bred to resist browning.
If you’re interested in learning more about high oleic soybean oil, check out www.qualisoy.com for current nutritional information and research. Learn more about high oleic soybean oil from Morgan, in our latest episode of Across the Table.
The following is a guest blog post from farmer Dawn Scheier. Dawn and her husband, Patrick, grow corn and soybeans in Salem. Patrick is the fourth generation of farmers in his family.
In our country, we are blessed with a plethora of choices when it comes to food. GMO, non-GMO, organic, non-organic, grass-fed, grain-fed, vegan, vegetarian: Whatever your preference, you can find it. The best part about all these choices is that no matter what you choose, you can rest assured it is a safe choice for you and your family.
To give you a good picture of just how harmless GMOs are, it helps to know what makes a food or crop genetically modified and what that means for us. The term “genetically modified organisms” doesn’t mean there are foreign organisms injected into your food. The “organism” refers to a cell. All food has cells, which are no longer living by the time they are harvested.
Genetic modification is basically a faster version of selective breeding, something farmers have done for centuries. Depending on the desired outcome, a gene is added to the crop from bacteria, a virus or a different variety of fruit or vegetable. That tiny change in the crop’s DNA results in huge positive results, like resistance to insects or non-browning apples or potatoes.
GMOs also have the potential to improve lives beyond non-browning apples. Golden Rice is a variety of rice genetically modified to increase levels of vitamin A. This variety has great implications for people in 122 countries affected by vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to blindness. Genetic modification also rescued a whole papaya crop from dying out. Twenty years ago, the papaya crop in Hawaii was almost wiped out due to ringspot virus until one scientist had an idea. He took a gene from one part of the virus and applied it to the papaya’s DNA, making it immune and saving the entire fruit population for Hawaiian farmers.
Over the years, farmers – myself included – have seen the benefits of growing GMO crops and have adopted them at rapid rates. Our family started planting them as soon as they became available 21 years ago. They make it easier to protect crops from the elements and predators like insects and weeds. They help us to use fewer resources like water or chemicals. As a farmer, I take my responsibility to grow safe, healthy food very seriously. As a mother, I am confident in the science that says GMO foods are a safe and nutritious choice for my family.
Hungry for Truth is a great local resource that focuses on the connection between food and farming in an unbiased way, supporting everyone’s right to choose the best options for themselves and their families. Better yet, you can reach out to a local farmer and talk to them about why they do what they do. Everybody eats food. Learning more about what goes on before it hits grocery shelves can help all of us make informed decisions and a better connection to the food on our plates.
With all the buzz about GMOs, it seems like they are everywhere, but did you know you’d actually only find eight GMO crops currently commercially available in the United States?
Alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soybeans, squash and sugar beets are all commercially grown in the U.S. Of those, papaya and squash are the only two whole foods you’ll find in the store today. Others can be found as an ingredient in different products.
Regardless of whether a food is a GMO or non-GMO, you can rest assured your choice is safe and nutritious. In fact, a new report that reviewed more than 900 independent articles and research studies about GMOs just reconfirmed their safety.
Want to learn more about GMOs? Check out these additional sources:
- Hungry for Truth: New Report Supports GMO Safety.
- Hungry for Truth: The GMO Approval Process.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Food from Genetically Engineered Plants.
- World Health Organization: Frequently Asked Questions on Genetically Modified Foods.
Looking for an easy way to learn more about other hot topics in food and farming? Check out our other helpful infographics:
On May 17, 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published a new report called Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects. The report reviewed more than 900 independent articles and research studies about GMOs. Chances are you haven’t had the chance to read through the entire 400-page report, so we broke down exactly what you need to know.
What did the study find?
The mission was to take an objective look at the information around GMO crops and food today. The report examined human health, economic, social and environmental effects. Here’s what they found:
• Currently available GMO crops do not impact human health concerns and critical diseases.
• GMOs are not linked to any negative environmental effects.
• GMO crops yield better because of increased built-in weed and insect resistance. This also means they are a more economical and environmentally conscious option, which is a huge win for farmers and consumers.
• Areas with GMO crops also exhibit increased insect diversity.
• When farmers switched to GMO crops, herbicide use declined initially, but those decreases weren’t sustained over time.
• The committee expects increased pest resistance and more effective nutrient usage in future GMO crops.
What does this mean for me?
This report confirms that food made from GMO ingredients is safe for you to eat and farmers to grow. GMO crops have been grown in the U.S. for more than 20 years and have been rigorously tested, so you can rest assured these crops are just as safe and nutritious as conventional crops.
In fact, 97 percent of soybeans and corn grown in South Dakota are GMOs.
Hungry for Truth supports choice and allowing consumers the ability to buy a variety of products at the grocery store, as well as farmers’ choice of what to plant in their fields.
Interested in learning more?
Check out these additional sources to ensure you know the facts about GMOs.
• Hungry for Truth: How do GMOs Affect the Food I Eat?
• Hungry for Truth: The GMO Approval Process.
• U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Food from Genetically Engineered Plants.
• World Health Organization: Frequently Asked Questions on Genetically Modified Foods.
Do you have concerns about GMO foods? There’s a lot of misinformation out there about which foods are healthy. We asked Charlotte, a local registered dietician, how biotechnology – the process by which GMO plants are bred – affects the food we eat.
Charlotte explained she has feels safe and confident serving her family food produced from biotechnology. The technology only affects the way the food is grown and has no impact on the taste, nutrition or safety of that food. So whether it’s GMO or non-GMO food, you get an equally safe and nutritious product.
More on GMOs:
Have questions for Charlotte or other farmers about GMOs? Leave them below.
The topic of GMOs seems to be everywhere these days, leaving many of us to wonder, what does that mean for me? A lot of people wonder if they’re safe, how they’re tested and if they should feed them to their families. The truth is GMOs are safe and GMO development involves many years of research and development.
In farming, a process called biotechnology is used to develop GMOs. Biotechnology adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve a favorable characteristic, like resistance to insects or the ability to grow with less water. Just like you have a choice of what to feed your family, farmers have the choice of what kind of seeds they want to plant.
From the first discovery of a trait to the time it’s ready for market, a GMO plant is tested for 13 years on average. In addition to the individual company, scientists in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency test and study these traits. With all that testing and development, you can rest assured that GMO foods are a safe choice for you and your family.
Want to learn more about the safety of GMOs? Don’t just take our word for it. Hear more from the FDA, International Food Information Council, American Medical Association and the World Health Organization.
You may have heard the news that five major food companies announced plans to label their products that contain GMO ingredients to comply with a Vermont law going into effect on July 1. We have the answers to your most frequently asked questions here.
What are GMOs?
GMO crops are plants that were bred through a process called biotechnology, which adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve certain characteristics, like resistance to insects or the ability to grow with less water. Farmers have planted GMO crops for at least 20 years, and people and animals have consumed food from GMO crops all that time.
How did we get here?
In May 2014, the governor of Vermont signed a bill into law that requires foods produced with genetic engineering to be labeled as such, going into effect July 1, 2016. Maine and Connecticut also passed similar bills, but those won’t go into effect until more states pass labeling laws.
The U.S. House of Representatives then passed a bill in July 2015 that created a national system for labeling that would override any state labeling laws. The bipartisan bill was intended to ease the confusion of potentially different labeling standards for every state, creating a cohesive system across the U.S.
The bill was sent to the Senate where, after plenty of debate, it failed with a vote of 48-49. Now some say there isn’t much chance a bill will be passed before Vermont’s law goes into effect.
Why didn’t the Senate’s vote pass?
Debate ensued about whether the national labeling law should be voluntary or mandatory and how those labels should appear on packaging. Some said a standard icon – like the USDA organic label – should be created, while others suggested something like a QR code that consumers could scan to find the information about their food. Ultimately, a compromise was not reached before voting.
Which companies have committed to GMO labeling?
Major food companies including Campbell, ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg and Mars have all announced plans to label products that contain ingredients produced through genetic modification. All these companies are against the Vermont law, but say they have no choice but to follow it.
In a recent NPR interview, Jeff Harmening, executive vice president of General Mills, said, “We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers. Consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products.”
What does this mean for me?
In the next few weeks, you’ll likely see GMO labels on some of your food. At Hungry for Truth, we support choice and think it’s important to be informed about food choices.
Remember, the Food and Drug Administration has never required GMO labels in the past because years of research and testing have shown there is no nutritional or safety difference between ingredients from GMO crops and those that have been raised by conventional methods.
As an initiative from the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Hungry for Truth cannot legally take a stance on GMO labeling laws. However, Hungry for Truth supports choice. Knowing that foods produced with or without GMO ingredients are equally safe and nutritious means you can rest assured that whatever choice you make will be the right one for you and your family.
- Grocery Manufacturers Association Position on GMOs
- General Mills: We Need a National Solution for GMO Labeling
- Food & Drug Administration Guide to GMO Food Safety
Have other questions about GMOs? Leave them in the comments.