GMO Decisions

Side Note: WOW! I can not believe Monday is Christmas. Where has this year gone? I Have many things to thank God for. We have had a few health concerns on both sides of the family but with those scares we have hope. The lord is watching over us. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas.

Good afternoon Picking Wild Flowers! A couple months ago I wrote a blog post about “Lets Talk Organic.” My love for agriculture has made me passionate about the issues that surround us all. FOOD!! We all eat. We all need food. We all have an opinion. I tried to stay pretty neutral last time but I received a note from a reader indicating that I just made things more confusing. I honestly believe in all types of agriculture. Diversity drives our world. Diversity of businesses drive the economy, diversity of schools/colleges drive education, diversity of people drive society, and diversity of farming methods drive agriculture. But because I want to be clear and concise, I will write this post with personal thoughts and opinions.

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Monday I presented a lesson called GMO Decisions to a class of Linn-Mar high school students. The purpose was to expose students to modern agriculture issues, scientific solutions, and the outcomes of those decisions, while discussing the sciences of biology and biotechnology.

I approached the students with the question- If you could solve any food problem what would it be? So I will ask you the same question. If you could solve any food issue what would it be?

Okay let’s start with the basics. What is a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism. GMO is not a thing but rather is process. There are only 9 GMO crops currently on our grocery shelves. Arctic Apples (non-browning) have been approved but they are not commercially available yet.

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I view GMOs as the modern form of plant/animal breeding. Think back to the very beginning of domestication. Dog breeds are a product of selective breeding. Growing up we had Missy and Duke. Missy was an Australian Shepherd+ Blue Healer. Duke is a Yellow Lab+ Husky mix. Both of our dogs are a product of crossbreeding.

Lets step forward in time. We now have advanced breeding. Identifying traits on the gene level that are desired. For example, artificially inseminating cattle. We pick out a bull based on the pedigree. Will the bull be easy calving? Will the calf have horns? etc.

Is seedless watermelon a GMO? No, seedless watermelon is produced through crossbreeding + Colchicine. Colchicine is a naturally occurring flower chemical that intervenes with normal cell division. When added to seeds the female eggs produce twice as many sets of chromosomes. When we pollinate the new flower with an original flower we get a watermelon with three sets of chromosomes resulting in a seedless watermelon. Seedless grapes and bananas are the result of cloning and that may sound scary too but cloning plants is pretty easy. Many plants can be propagated by taking a cutting or by growing an offshoot.

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Grafting is another form of selectively growing food. Grafting is the process of transplanting a scion (desired fruit) to a stock plant (desired trunk/size). One student stayed after to ask me a few questions about grafting. Why do we graft? I answered with, “It takes years to grow a tree and trees grow to be very tall. By grafting we can decrease the height, thicken the trunk, or grow certain trees in climates they might not be native to (palm trees in Utah).” She also asked why people seem to fear GMOs but they don’t fear grafting. Grafting is similar to selective breeding. Joining two physical things. We fear things we can’t see and we can’t see GMOs but we can see a graft on a tree trunk.

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There are many benefits to genetically modifying-

  1. Disease resistance
  2. Increase in production
  3. Less food waste
  4. Environment tolerant
  5. No nutritional difference
  6. Insect tolerance (resulting in less pesticides)

Three ways to genetically modify-

  1. Silence a gene (turning off the light)
  2. Moving a gene (transporting a gene to a different spot on the chromosome)
  3. Adding a new trait to the gene sequence

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Now lets debate- LABELS

I am in favor of labels. I believe we have the right to choice but I only believe in labels if they are going to create clarification. Labels that are misleading make me so mad!! For example, diet pop! Diet pop is not healthy!

I have added a photo of Himalania Fine Pink Salt to this post. Why do you think I might be a little mad about this NON-GMO label? Salt does not have DNA meaning it can not be genetically modified. Every fine pink salt product you pick up is GMO free so why add the label? We are creating a fearful society!

This might be my longest post yet but stay with me! I have one more label to share with you. Take a look at this photo. It also has a NON-GMO label. Why might I be frustrated with this label? And it is not just because we raise cattle 😛

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Here is my frustration… How do we breed? Lets talk about the birds and bees. Meiosis is the process of cell division that creates eggs and sperm. We need both sets of chromosomes to create an offspring. Now tell me, how do we digest food? The DNA in our food is digested into 4 nucleotides and the protein breaks down into 21 amino-acids. Does our set of personal traits change when we eat a salad? No! Genes are passed down from our parents. GM food will be digested the same way Non-GM food is digested. Same goes for livestock. Just because a cow eats GM corn or soybeans does not mean it now becomes a GMO. Animals digest and breakdown food similar to us. Genetic makeups do not change by digesting food. Do you see livestock listed above as a GMO product? I don’t… so I don’t think meat/animal products should be labeled unless it contains a direct GMO food ingredient.

I am a christian. I believe whole heartily that God is leading my path and he has chosen me to teach agriculture. Want to know my honest opinion? GMOs are so cool! Science is cool! It is amazing the things we can do! God has provided us with the tools, motivation, and curiosity to explore his master piece. It is with his help that we even grow food! It is with Gods help that we have advancements in medicine! It is with Gods guidance that we trust in him with all that we do. I have experienced Gods love greatly this year.

Thank you for reading! Opinions are my own and do not represent the opinions of Linn County Farm Bureau.

Merry Christmas!

 

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One thought on “GMO Decisions

  1. Morgan—great question about solving food problems! If I could solve an issue it would be fair access to food for peoples throughout the world. A tough one, to be sure!

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