October 10, 2013

The Many Benefits of GMO's

Consumers are more cautious than ever about what they choose to eat. Some people prefer to eat  foods that are generally labeled "USDA Organic", while others choose to eat Genetically Modified food. American's are fortunate to have a choice between which type of food they choose to consume, sadly along with these choices there are generally many misconceptions, many focused on GMO products. Today I will talk about some of the benefits of GMO's and hopefully work to clear up some misconceptions.

GMO's have been around for 10,000 years! That seems like a tall tale, however it is not. Every crop that is grown today has been selected based on human selection and breeding, so much in fact, that modern crops barely resemble their wild ancestors. The only difference between the present breeding and 10,000 years ago is that we have improved technology that can make this natural selection process much faster. Before technology came about selecting for superior crops was done by visual selection. This process was slow and took whole growing seasons to accomplish. Plant breeders would have to select the best crops at the end of a growing season and then selectively breed them to other plants and then wait to see what happens. Now thanks to biotechnology we can observe single DNA variations in a laboratory, select the genetically superior traits, and transfer those traits to other plants. Essentially we are still doing the same process as we have always done, we are just accomplishing results faster than ever before.

90% of all crops grown in the United States are GMO crops and this is understandable because of the many benefits that GMO crops present for farmers as well as the environment. The most well known benefit of GMO crops is that we are experiencing higher yields than ever before. More and more citizens are choosing to move to a more urban setting, this leaves a fewer number of people that are willing to produce food for everyone in the U.S. and many people around the world. Another problem that agriculture is overcoming with higher yields is the fact that there is fewer acres of land available to produce food on. The world population is continuing to grow so farmers must work to produce more food on fewer acres and the only way this is possible is with improved yields.

The second major benefit of GMO crops is that they require fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. This means that for every American citizen fewer chemicals are being put into plants and the ground which means your food and water is safer than ever. For years agriculture was known as a major polluter, but thanks to GMO's we are able to "clean up our act" and provide a safer environment for everyone.

The last major improvement to modern agriculture that has come along, thanks to GMO crops, is what agriculture refers to as sustainability. Water conservation has evolved because of GMO crops. We can now grow more food and save more water doing it, thus providing a better environment for the generations to come. Along with water conservation has come the development of soil conservation. No-till farming is now a common practice, this type of farming helps to reduce soil erosion that occurs in fields.

Sadly all these benefits have not come without criticism from the consumers. Many people question if these crops are safe to eat and feel that they should be labeled. The law clearly states that food companies are required to label foods that are substantially different in composition from similar foods. GMO foods are amongst the most tested foods in all of history and after extensive research it has been proven that there is no nutritional difference between GMO and non-GMO foods. This means that legally, GMO's currently have no reason to be labeled as different. That is because they are not different they are only bred to grow more efficiently. Labeling of GMO products would only bring about more confusion for consumers.

Hopefully after reading this post people will realize that GMO technology is quite possibly one of the largest technological advancements the world has ever seen. Thanks to improved production the average American farmer now feeds 155 people. Without this, the average farmer would only feed somewhere around 10 people and as a result America would have to import large amounts of food thus leading to an even larger budget deficit. So next time you are taking a road trip across the Midwest remember to thank a farmer for providing you with a safe, reliable, and homegrown food source!    

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