Is Our Sweet Corn GMO?

CornAs you may or may not know, we are pre-selling our annual sweet corn and purple hull peas that will be ready in July. The corn should be ready mid-July and the purple hull peas will be ready around the end of July.

Since we are getting the “GMO” question a lot, I decided to go ahead and write a short post about GMO crops. So is our corn GMO? Take a minute to read about genetically modified organisms (GMO) and genetically engineer organisms. The answer about our corn is below.

First of all we need to define a couple of phrases. The phrase “genetically modified organism” or GMO is what everyone uses but this phrase is not accurate. All greenhouse and field grown crops are genetically modified organisms. Genetic modification refers to any sort of modification to a plant that includes breeding as well as biotech methods. Heirloom plants are a result of genetic modification from cross breeding open pollinated varieties that produced that specific plant. Hybrid plants are another example of genetic modification.

Genetic engineering (GE) or transgenics is the phrase/term that most people mean when they say “GMO”. Genetic engineering means using biotechnology to manipulate a organism’s genome.

Here are some points to consider (Source: Inside Grower “The Real Story Behind Genetic Engineering” by Jennifer Duffield White, January 2014):

  • Most GE crops are field grown crops.
  • The most common GE crops in the US are soybeans, corn, cotton and canola.
  • The GE corn is not corn with animal or human genes. Most commercial GE crops fall into these 2 categories:
    • Tolerant of glyphosate (RoundUp)
    • Production of insecticidal proteins derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a microbial insecticide which occurs naturally in the soil and is approved for organic production.
  • GE crops tested and scrutinized constantly for safe consumption. Critical Reviews in Biotechnology published in 2013 which is an “overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research.” They analyzed and categorized 1,783 scientific records, published from 2002 to 2012, on GE issues. Their overall conclusion: “We can conclude that the scientific research conducted so far had not detected any significant hazard directly connected to the use of GM crops.”
  • Eating transgenic DNA will not give you the personality of a bacteria. The European Commission concluded in 2010 that eating transgenic DNA does not differ from any other DNA present in food, nor does ingesting it carry a higher risk.
  • There is no scientific evidence of toxic or allergic effects of GE food. Transgenic proteins go through an evaluation process to test for toxicity, stability, in-vitro issues, allergies and so on.
  • Companies, farmers and procures are labeling their crops as non-GMO when there are no GMO or GE crops available that are approved to be grown. They are promoting their products as “safe” when there are no “un-safe” products available and in doing so they are preying on public fear and perpetuating the supposed dangers of a GMO or GE product.

So to answer the question, yes we do grow a GE corn that has the Bt gene added. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) by itself is approved for labeled organic production. So by inserting the gene that produces the all natural insecticidal proteins into the corn, we get a corn that has a gene that produces a natural Bt proteins that helps the corn have fewer worms in the ears.

Last week I heard a presentation from a member of the University of Arkansas Agriculture Department. This gentleman has spent nearly 40 years doing field trials and evaluations that look for dangers to our food sources. Chemical companies support this type of research that the USDA uses to determine whether or not a certain chemical is safe to use on field crops. He mentioned how closely the crops are monitored and tested to make sure that they are safe for consumption.

He also made a statement that stuck with me. He said that we can’t feed the county with non-GMO crops.

What is not understood is that with out our advances in crop yields that are due to GMO from both breeding and genetically engineered crops, there would not be enough food to feed everyone. If you don’t believe me, try growing a garden of heirloom vegetables and try to feed your family completely from just your garden. I think you would be surprised at how little each heirloom plant produced and how many of them succumb quickly to a disease.

In my opinion, GE crops are safe and necessary for farmers to continue to produce crops that are both plentiful and affordable. There will be a lot of do not agree with me and that is entirely up to you. However, I caution you to thoroughly research and validate where you are getting your information. I recently read an outlandish and ridiculous article about the dangers of GMO crops. No where in the article was any links to research supporting their claims.

Today as I searched for an image to use in this post, I can across a graphic of the Top 10 GMO Crops which included tomatoes. By the definition of GMO above, yes there are a lot of GMO tomatoes in production that have been bred for disease resistance and higher yields but there are no GE or transgenic tomatoes in production in the US. The point is that while this graphic was correct by the literal definition of GMO, it was misleading by implying that we all are eating transgenic tomatoes when there are no transgenic tomatoes currently on the market.

There are dangers and concerns with GE crops and the producers are well aware of them. They are taking extraordinary precautions to make sure that there are no un-safe crops being grown. There are numerous trials, studies and research that are currently ongoing to ensure the safety of the food we eat.

We hope that you will enjoy some corn with us this summer but we also understand if you are not comfortable with a GE corn. If you do want some of our sweet corn and purple hull peas, you can order by calling us at 479-474-1125 M-F between 8 am and 4 pm.

Thanks and have a great week!


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