When the days are short and temps are cold, flavorful warm drinks are not a want, but a need. This crockpot cider recipe pairs the comforting flavors of apple and caramel with warm spices like cinnamon to fill your mug with feel-good vibes. So grab a few apples and plug in the crockpot! It’s time to get cozy.
Fortunately, the apples you’re reaching for already have a pretty solid shelf-life, but a new variety is taking their long-lasting qualities even further. Arctic® apples are a new GMO variety with less than 10 percent of the enzymes that cause conventional apples to brown as they age. With these improved traits, Arctic apples don’t produce the unappealing discoloration that contributes to food waste. GMOs can do more than boost the lifespan of apples, though. They also help farmers be more sustainable in the field, provide improved nutritional content for crops like soybeans and even save lives through medicine.
But enough chit-chat. It’s time to give this cider a whirl. Find the full recipe below and watch the video to see the simple steps in action.
If you want another warm drink to try, check out this caramel pumpkin soy latte!
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.
“The phrase ‘You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl’ is more accurate than you might expect,” says Kristin Harms. She and her husband recently returned to the small town of Leola to help run her parent’s cattle ranch. For Kristin, ranching isn’t just about raising safe, delicious beef. It’s as much a family tradition as celebrating the Fourth of July with this tasty fruit pizza.
“From the time I was a kid, I watched my parents care for their livestock and the land with pride and purpose,” Kristin said. “Even though there were times I thought I might venture outside of the agricultural industry, I always seemed to find my way back.”
Kristin’s family takes great pride in raising beef sustainably. For ranchers like Kristin, sustainability means continuously improving the land, leaving it better than it was found. Kristin and her family practice rotational grazing, which means their cows nibble on grass and clover in a different part of the ranch throughout the summer. This is healthy for the animals and also helps maintain the natural grasslands.
You might be surprised to learn that farmers also use genetic information to help raise animals more sustainably. For Kristin’s family, that means being thoughtful about mating cows with desirable traits. This leads to better milk production, easier calving and, ultimately, healthier cattle. This means that they can raise safer, healthier, tastier beef using less resources.
While breeding cattle for desirable traits does not create GMOs, the same concept applies to soybean farmers, who plant seeds that have been genetically modified. These seeds not only help farmers produce more food with less resources but also help protect the environment. The use of GMO seeds in soybean, corn and cotton production has reduced soil erosion by 93 percent across the U.S. since the mid-1990s, according to a study from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.
“We all have families that we want to keep safe and healthy, and part of doing that is making sure they have access to nutritious food,” said Kristin. “Taking care of others is incredibly important to the farmers and ranchers of South Dakota, and the only way to do that is to be ethical and sustainable.”
Ranching is all about family, and what better way to celebrate summer than gathering your loved ones around the grill with a delicious meal? No backyard bash is complete without dessert. Try Kristin’s favorite red, white and blue fruit pizza to make your Fourth of July one to remember.
“My mom has always been a fabulous cook. Now that I’m a mom, she’s passing on her stellar recipes and cooking skills or at least trying to,” Kristin said, laughing. “I’m pretty lucky to have a mom like her who shows me how to be a good mom and how to work my way around the kitchen.”
Gather your family and get cooking with Kristin’s fruit pizza recipe. For another dessert option, try a festive make-your-own s’mores bar.
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.
For Kevin Deinert, farming is all about family. The 30-year-old farmer grows 2,500 acres of soybeans, corn and alfalfa, and raises beef cattle alongside his dad and brother on their family farm in Mount Vernon.
“I went into agriculture because I wanted to keep up our family legacy,” Kevin said. “I now farm the land I was raised on and enjoy playing a small part in feeding and leading my community.”
Kevin was recently chosen to serve on the South Dakota Soybean Association board as part of a national young farmer-leader program. The group encourages young farmers to take on leadership roles in their communities while empowering them with the tools they need to have conversations about today’s farming practices with their neighbors.
One topic many people find interesting is how and why farmers use pesticides. Farmers use pesticides to protect against the weeds, insects or plant diseases that might threaten the safety and quality of their crop. Farmers like Kevin can leverage technology to understand exactly what pesticides to use in his fields and in what amounts.
“We’re not spraying more than we need. We formulate a specific recipe for each field and apply no more, no less,” he said. “Some people might not know that farmers have to be licensed to buy pesticides and must take classes to ensure they’re using the products correctly.”
Using pesticides correctly means using very little product. It takes about a coffee cup’s worth diluted in water to cover an entire acre, which is about the size of a football field. Many soybean farmers have also reduced their pesticide use by using seeds that are genetically modified to protect against harmful insects. GMO soybeans have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
The Deinerts also believe that taking care of the soil can help stop problems before they start. Kevin and his family practice no-till farming and use cover crops to enrich the soil and make sure they’re growing quality crops from the get-go.
“I farm with my brother and my dad. The decisions we make affect our family and community,” Kevin said. “So I hope people know that when we make decisions for our farm, we think about their families as well. We’re out there to do good for everyone and grow safe food that everyone can enjoy.”
For Kevin, a newlywed, being a good steward of the land is about much more than growing great food. Sustainability means continuously improving the land, leaving it better than it was when he found it.
“Farming is not just a year-to-year deal. We look many years down the road,” he said. “We’re trying to preserve our land for years to come so that we can pass it on to our children and their children after that.”
Curious about how farmers like Kevin safely apply pesticides? Get the scoop on plant protection from another South Dakota family farm.
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.
At Hungry for Truth, we don’t just love sharing farmer stories and recipes, we also enjoy connecting with some of our biggest fans. We recently chatted with Staci Perry, a mom of two and baking blogger – Random Sweetness Baking – from Brookings. She explained how Hungry for Truth serves as a resource for her when it comes to GMOs, food labels and what really happens on today’s farms.
She sweetened up the conversation with delightful Maple Marshmallow Mash-Up Bars. We’ve shared the recipe below.
What is important when it comes to choosing food for your family?
The most important thing is that I have a choice. I choose to educate myself about farming practices. I choose to listen and seek out information on both sides of debatable topics like biotechnology (GMOs) and crop protection.
I don’t let the national media dictate what I should or shouldn’t be eating. It’s my responsibility to learn and decide. Initiatives like Hungry for Truth and local farmers are excellent resources for information about how my food is grown and raised.
Why are you a fan of Hungry for Truth?
I couldn’t bake without the work farmers do. I rely on farmers for ingredients like sugar, flour, cream cheese, eggs, milk, whipping cream and butter. Even the soybeans they grow are used in cooking oil. Try baking your family’s favorite treats without ingredients from a farm.
I also appreciate the events they host. I’ve met some amazing farmers like Peggy Greenway and learned something new at each one. It’s fun to hang out with people who are passionate about food and farming.
Have you ever had any misconceptions about farming or food?
I used to think about farms as large and corporate without the human aspect. But now I’ve toured farms and met real farm families who care about growing healthy food and protecting the environment. The technology they use to preserve the soil and care for their animals is amazing! Farmers have certainly embraced technology in ways I never thought of.
I was also completely against GMOs a few years ago due to what I read online. Now I know more about the testing GMOs goes through before they’re approved and am more open to food choices that contain the technology.
I encourage anyone who has questions or concerns about agriculture to follow Hungry for Truth and get the facts from farmers.
How have your shopping habits changed?
I pay more attention to food labels. I believed it meant something when a package of chicken breasts was labeled as “hormone free.” Or, if a package wasn’t labeled as hormone free, I thought it was not as good, or unhealthy for my family. Now I know it’s just advertising. Federal regulations don’t allow added hormones in poultry or pork.
This conversation is a great example of why South Dakota soybean farmers started the Hungry for Truth initiative, to encourage people to learn the truth about how food is grown and raised by asking farmers. Here’s a story from one of Staci’s favorite farmers, Peggy Greenway, explaining how she sustainably raises animals on her farm.
Now let’s warm up your kitchen with Staci’s gooey mash-up bars. Yum!
If one thing is true about South Dakotans, we love making memories outside with our families. One of our favorite places to visit in the fall is the Country Apple Orchard in Harrisburg. Kevin Kroger, general manager, knows exactly what that’s like since he’s been working at the orchard with his own family for 12 years.
“All of my eight children pitch in, even my youngest,” said Kevin. Kevin’s stepfather and grandmother are the primary owners, making it a true family affair.
“The first year was a little sticky, but every year it gets easier,” he said. “We learn more and get better. We know we are investing in success with 100 acres of prime South Dakota farmland.”
Running a farming business has been a trial-and-error process. Kevin’s family felt that firsthand when they began maintaining their trees. “We were hit with a hard frost right off the bat. It was hardly the optimal season to start with an orchard,” he chuckled. “We almost went without enough apples that season. Now we can’t grow enough of them!”
That’s great news for Americans everywhere, who eat an average of 55 pounds of apples annually. In addition to pruning their 4,500 trees, the Country Apple Orchard sprays their apples with linseed oil before they blossom to ensure a plentiful harvest of healthy apples for families to pick and enjoy.
“No one likes biting into an apple with insects in it,” Kevin said. “Like other farmers, we only spray pesticides when the apples need it.”
While the Kroger family doesn’t have a typical South Dakota farming background, Kevin did walk beans as a child. That means walking through soybean fields and picking weeds for Sioux Falls area farmers. It’s a chore many seasoned farmers remember, but is no longer needed on most farms thanks to technology.
“I was exposed to hard work in the older days of farming, and I didn’t think I wanted anything to do with it,” Kevin said. “Now, with technology, it’s so much easier and much more enjoyable.”
Today’s farmers use different types of technology, including GPS, drones and computer-generated soil maps to grow healthy food more efficiently. Over the past 30 years, soybean farmers grew 46 percent more soybeans using 35 percent less energy thanks to technology and more sustainable farm practices.
Being more efficient means farm families might have a little extra time to enjoy an afternoon at the Country Apple Orchard. Kevin and family pack weekdays with school field trips and weekends with festivals. Even Santa takes a break from his work at the North Pole to stop by and say hi before the busy holiday season.
“In today’s world, it can be really hard to slow things down,” he said. “Here, families go on wagon rides, pick apples and pumpkins, and enjoy delicious local foods. Slowing down to take in the outdoors makes family time more memorable.”
Cooking together is another way to create memorable moments. Try out one of these recipes with your family this fall.
Not many farmers can say they’ve cultivated their South Dakota land for nearly 90 years. But then again, Eunice McGee of rural Colton isn’t your typical farmer. Affectionately known by her friends and neighbors as the “Iris Lady,” Eunice not only tends a flower garden with 140 varieties of rare irises, she’s also pretty good at growing corn and soybeans on her family farm.
“I’ve been farming since I was 10 years old. I used to drive a team of horses alongside a one-row corn picker with my father. I’d stay with the wagon until it was full,” said Eunice, who turns 97 later this year. “Now I use my iPhone to check the farm markets to decide when to sell my crops. I think I’ve seen more changes in farming than anyone else around here. We just continue improving.”
With her eyes on the future and her knowledge of the past, Eunice embraces farm technology and new practices while staying committed to being a good neighbor and growing safe and healthy crops.
Though it was hard to give up the horses, she was the first woman in her area to purchase her own tractor, a move that caught the banker off guard. She also began planting GMO corn and soybean seeds when the technology became available because they require less water and pesticides to protect the plants. She said that, despite all the changes she’s seen in farming, she still feels safe eating food that’s grown and raised on farms.
Today, her son-in-law Tom Langrehr and neighbor Dan Fladmark tend to the day-to-day field work while her daughter Deb Langrehr takes care of the bookkeeping. Eunice actively maintains massive gardens of irises, tulips and day lilies, delivers equipment parts to the field and is the key decision-maker when it comes to managing the farm. Her neighbor, Jeff Thompson, enjoys stopping in to see the flowers, finding out how her crops look and discussing market trends, which Eunice has at her fingertips.
Every year, she determines which seeds to plant, where to plant them and when to sell her crops. She also works with the local co-op to spray pesticides when needed and harvest her soybeans and corn because she doesn’t own a combine. There’s no doubt farming is in her blood, and she has her grandfather Lars to thank for it.
Lars Berven came to the United States from Norway in the late 1800s with hopes of finding land and starting a family. After a brief time in Wisconsin, he headed west and settled on 160 acres in Sioux territory. All he had to do was plant crops and tend to them for a year and the land would be his for free. The natives were friendly and eventually named the farm Minnewawa Farm after the “gentle waters” that flowed in a nearby creek. That was 1875.
By the time Eunice came along in 1920, her father had taken over the family farm and grown it to 320 acres. She farmed alongside her grandfather and father as they expanded to the 805 acres she manages today. When she got married to her late husband JC in 1943, they moved to a new farm just two and a half miles away. In addition to growing crops, she also raised chickens for eggs and maintained a garden full of vegetables over the years.
“I just love being outside,” said Eunice. “Farming gives me the opportunity to be outdoors with the animals and nature.”
Another thing she loves to do is cook meals from scratch to feed the combine crew who harvests her crops. Typically, the crew pushes through harvest without breaks, but not on Eunice’s farm. She gets them out of the field with mashed potatoes and gravy and sends them home with their favorite pies.
“The world is so fast paced these days. On our farm, we take meal breaks to slow down a bit, enjoy our blessings and talk to each other,” said Eunice. We couldn’t agree more. Conversations around the dinner table are one thing that should never go out of style.
Enjoy reading stories about real South Dakota farmers? Here are a few we think you’ll like:
Even with all the fun memories we’ve made this summer, we’re still talking about the fun we had on the farm for the Farm-to-Fork dinner on June 15. It was a great night and the perfect setting to have conversations about how food is grown and raised in South Dakota. What did people talk about? We asked Sioux Falls school board member and mother of three, Cynthia Mickelson, to share a little bit about her experience.
Why did you attend Hungry for Truth’s Farm-to-Fork dinner?
My husband Mark and I received an invitation last year, but were unable to attend. Afterward I checked out Hungry for Truth online and I loved it! The initiative does a great job of proactively communicating with families. We were so excited to be invited again this year.
What kinds of questions or fears do you have about food?
As of now, none, but I used to! The hysteria over GMOs hit when we lived in the suburbs of Chicago and I totally fell for it. I read a lot online and thought I will never feed my family foods made with GMO ingredients. I thought they were some sort of poison. But, after I researched them further and realized that GMOs have been around for more than 20 years, I learned just how safe they are and there was nothing to worry about.
What conversations did you have at the Farm-to-Fork dinner?
One conversation that stood out was with a Yankton farmer who is having issues expanding his family hog facility. He had pushback from people in the community and it’s kept them from growing their business.
Policies and perceptions about growth like this are interesting to my husband and me. We feel strongly about farmers being able to expand their operation if they wish. People think it keeps some big corporate farm from coming to town, when it actually keeps the little family farms from growing. From our interactions with farmers across South Dakota, we know no matter the size of the farm, farmers take care of their animals.
What do you think about the dinner?
The dinner was so nice! The farm was beautiful, the decorations, the food, everything was wonderful. It was even nicer than some weddings I’ve been to! It was also neat to see the diversity in the operations – there were pig farmers, cattle farmers, soybean farmers, everyone! Agriculture across the country, but especially in South Dakota, is so interconnected—pig and cattle farmers rely on soybean farmers to provide quality feed for their animals, and we rely on pig and cattle farmers to raise high quality, safe meat for us to eat. Everyone at dinner had the chance to ask questions and learn about food right from the source. It was the perfect environment for open dialogue, and it was great to see this community become more comfortable with their food and who raises it. I think we can all learn something from farmers. Hopefully I can come again next year!
See what Cynthia and so many others enjoyed about the Farm-to-Fork Dinner with these blogs about past events.
For many South Dakotans, summer time includes having fun on the water. Whether it’s a road trip to the lake or a quick dip in the river, it’s a tradition that’s great for escaping the heat and creating memories that last a lifetime. The same holds true for farmers like Colin Nachtigal who lives near the Missouri River and enjoys fishing, kayaking and swimming on hot summer days.
“When we’re out working on the farm and it gets hot, we jump in the river for a quick dip,” he said. “I’m excited to teach my 18-month-old how to swim in it someday.”
While Colin doesn’t get to be on the water in summer as much as he’d like, he does spend most of his time on the banks of the Missouri working with irrigation pumps. He, along with his dad, two uncles, brother, and six cousins, grow corn, soybeans and wheat and raise beef cattle along the river. He’s part of the fourth generation to cultivate the land and thinks of the Missouri River as more than just a swimming hole.
“Some of our land is irrigated, and the water comes right from the Missouri River. Our rural home’s water system uses water from the river, so we also drink it,” said Colin.
He uses sustainable farm practices to ensure the water is safe for his crops, animals, family and neighbors who depend on it. The Nachtigals blend reliable practices from the past and innovative technology of the future to prevent soil erosion. This includes GMO seeds, minimal tillage and using equipment that puts crop nutrients, like fertilizer, in the soil.
“Minimizing tillage, or no-till, means that we’re leaving the soybean plant roots in the ground after harvest to hold the soil in place. Putting the fertilizer into the soil instead of on top helps the plants use it more efficiently. Both reduce erosion and keep the river clean,” explains Colin. He also uses GMO seeds that require less pesticides. If he does have to apply pesticides he waits for the right day.
“We’re always looking to improve on the ways of the older generation. Learn from them, but also try new ways to take care of the land and water,” said Colin. “Hopefully one day my daughter will be part of the family farm and grow food for people in South Dakota. In the meantime I’m looking forward to making more memories with her on the river.”
Summer isn’t the only time of year to make lasting memories. Learn how South Dakota farmers spend time with their families all year long by reading these blogs:
On July 8, South Dakota families stopped by the Hungry for Truth tent during Family Fest in Sioux Falls for fun family activities. Kids and parents beat the heat in the shade by playing with trucks and tractors in sandboxes, spinning the “ag” wheel of fortune for a chance to win a prize and climbing into a John Deere tractor compliments of Kibble Equipment.
More than once the horn honked and the hazard lights flashed thanks to curious fingers inside the tractor cab. One lucky mom even walked away with a new KitchenAid® mixer that was given away at the end of the day. South Dakota farmers, Josh and Kara Kayser and Jerry Schmitz spent time talking with attendees about what it’s like to grow healthy food on their farms.
“A few parents asked questions about hormones in meat and if they should worry about GMOs,” said Jerry. “I enjoyed hearing the kids answer the questions about where some of their favorite foods come from. Quite a few knew the two top crops grown in South Dakota are soybeans and corn!”
In South Dakota, we’re lucky that families have choices when it comes to the food they buy. Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to know that food you find at the grocery store is safe and nutritious. For example, food made from GMOs have been proven safe to eat, that the meat you buy in the grocery store is virtually hormone free and that farmers care about growing healthy food for your family.
Have questions about how your food is grown and raised? Leave them in the comments and a farmer will get back to you. In the meantime, take a few minutes to meet some South Dakota farmers who grow your food.
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?
SPOILER ALERT: Cuteness overload!
It’s time for our latest episode of Across the Table. Host Melissa Johnson from Oh My Cupcakes! shares some of her favorite kid-friendly cupcake toppings with local farmer John Horter and his son Dane for a fun, springtime activity. Plus, Melissa talks with John about why sustainability matters so much in farming.
As a fifth-generation farmer who wants to pass on the farming tradition to his kids, John knows how important it is to take care of his land so he can leave it for future generations. From using new technologies to implementing advanced farming practices, farmers like John continually find new and more effective ways to ensure their farm is in better shape than they found it.
Watch the full episode to find out about how John uses some of those technologies and practices, like GMOs, responsible pesticides use and conservation practices, on his farm.
If you can’t get enough of Dane’s cuteness, you can watch his adorable harvest crop report from last fall.
Don’t forget to check out our other Across the Table episodes here.
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.