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Posts Tagged With: GMOs

There Should be Something Wrong with my Cat

My goats are fine.  My chickens are healthy.  There isn’t even anything wrong with my cats.  But there should be.

Why GMOs won't kill you

If you know anything about GMOs you probably know about the study done in Europe where the mice that ate GMO corn all grew horrible, appalling tumors.  For a thousand reasons that don’t matter for this post, this study was bad science and worse journaling.  But from the sound of that article you’d expect anything that ate Genetically Modified Organisms to be dropping dead of cancer constantly.

So it might interest you to know, they are not.  Dropping dead I mean.

Happy, healthy chickens eating GMO feed  {DaddysTractor.com}

Why should they be sick or dying?

Well, thanks to the Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow program (ALOT) I am now part of, I recently heard that in 2014 nearly 90% of the corn, soybeans, and cotton produced in the US is genetically engineered.  A vast majority of that corn and soybeans don’t go directly to people for eating, but to animals as feed.

Animals have been eating genetically modified feed for 20 years.

Happy, healthy chickens eating GMO feed  {DaddysTractor.com}

And none of mine have tumors.

In fact, Forbes recently reported that farm animals have eaten over a trillion GMO meals.  And there are no farmers reporting an increase in tumors.  The article’s title even states that the debate about GMOs is over.  If they were harmful we would be seeing it.  And we’re not.

My guess is the debate is nowhere near finished.  The fact that the journal which originally published the previously mentioned mouse article retracted the study won’t get press.  I’m guessing you didn’t have any idea it was poor science, much less that it was torn apart until they actually had to say “never mind.”

Meanwhile, perfectly healthy animals all over the country are eating a safe, affordable food.

They’re probably even glad to have it.

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Categories: Animals, Food | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

6 Things to Know About Wheat and Gluten

If you haven’t gone gluten-free yet, you’re simply not with it.  In fact, for every person diagnosed with Celiac disease, 20 others are choosing a gluten-free diet!  But aside from being the hottest trend, what is the real story about wheat?  If you’re working on a healthier new you for the new year (or if you left those goals back in January!!) here are six things you need to know about wheat.

What are organics? Resolve to learn about your food in the new year!

1.) Wheat contains vital nutrients.  If you truly have Celiac disease then skipping gluten 100% of the time is crucial.  However, avoiding this food source is going to leave you missing nutrients, like B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber.  You’ll need to plan carefully to add these elements back into your diet in other ways.  Going gluten-free needs to be carefully considered, not jumped into lightly.

2.) Gluten-intolerance is not caused by GMO wheat.  How do I know this?  There is no GMO wheat.  Wait for it.  Someone is going to tell me Monsanto just doesn’t want me to know about it (Is it you? You know you want to!) but if wheat farmers who buy, plant, and harvest the wheat don’t have access to GMO wheat then where would you be getting it?!

growing wheat

I love growing wheat in the fields around our house. It’s so pretty!

 

3.) The post that went viral about farmers spraying their wheat with Round-Up before harvest is over-reaching.  To say the least.  The post says farmers spray wheat before harvest to increase yields, but this account of a fellow farm wife tells her story of wheat harvest in the north.  What you need to know is there are farms that benefit from this practice, but it’s done according to regulations.  More importantly, only about 5% of the wheat in the US is harvested this way.

4.) Scientific studies don’t support a gluten-free diet.  A double-blind study in Australia showed people felt better when they thought they weren’t eating gluten, but their bodies had no measurable difference.  Their bodies did have differences when their diets cut out FODMAPs, which are confusing substances found in all sorts of foods, from apples to beans to, yes, wheat.  The moral of that very difficult article was to be tested if you think you are intolerant of foods.

Where Does Your Pizza Come From? {DaddysTractor.com}

5.) If a test reveals that you are gluten-intolerant it’s also important to know that a gluten-free diet is only effective if it is completely gluten-free.  So avoiding wheat “most of the time” is a pointless effort.

Generally, eating healthier is the way to feel better.  If cutting wheat means skipping the white bread in favor of some carrot sticks, well, that may be part of the success of gluten-free food.

6.) But don’t be fooled. Read the labels on gluten-free alternatives.  Some of the additives they use to recreate the natural texture or taste of wheat are high in cholesterol or low in nutrition.

So what’s your take?  Is bread on the menu tonight?

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Organic vs GMOs- What Are They?

Have you ever entered the conversation a little late and had to bluff your way through a discussion like you knew what was going on?  Maybe you’ve heard the talk surrounding a news story but never learned the bases for it all.  And then sometimes you’re the person talking in acronyms and using insider phrases while others nod their heads.

I’d guess we all do some of both.

A few weeks ago I posted about Cheerios and their switch to becoming GMO-free.  To write this post I did some research on the General Mills website and read the comments of many people on both sides of the issue.  I also read some comments by people who didn’t seem to have a side in the issue because they really didn’t understand the issue at all.  That got me wondering. How many people are bluffing their way through this conversation? So if you missed the original news story, I’ll try to break it down for you.

GMOs vs Organics- What Are They? GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms, which means their DNA, their genetic code, has been selected on purpose.  Many argue that farmers have been modifying plants since nomads stopped following animals herds and stayed in one place long enough to grow a crop.  Farmers could look for the best plants, plants that had characteristics they wanted in their crops, and choose that plant to gather seeds for the next season.  Interestingly enough, it wasn’t always just plants that grew the most food (although yeah, that one is popular!) but crops with strong stems or the ones that did best in the climate.  Back when crops were gathered by hand it was even a good thing if the grain fell easily from the stem– something we try to prevent today!  Its not a great leap to suggest that none of the seeds we have today have the DNA they had 7,000, or even 150 years ago.

Obviously, that’s not what all the GMO fuss is about.  Today scientists have the ability to map the genetic code of organisms from potatoes to people.  Using all kinds of technology– as well as vocabulary, that is way beyond my educational training (although I did try to explain it in this post) it is now possible to choose the bits of code you want and put it into a seed on purpose.  That is what a GMO is.

. GMOs vs Organics- What Are They?

Interestingly enough, being organic has almost nothing to do with being a GMO and here’s why.  Creating GMOs is a massive undertaking.  We’re talking time, money, facilities, brain power.  For that reason and many others there are only eight GMO products you can buy today– corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beet, canola, alfalfa, and papaya, with rice right around the corner. (If you’ve overheard some of the GMO debate you might have heard that China has banned GMOs, but they actually have GMO sweet peppers and tomatoes there.)  Meaning everything else is organic?

Well, no. Organic isn’t related to the DNA of the seed, but rather the way the seed is cared for as it grows into a mature plant.  Modern farming practices involve protecting plants from insects and weeds with products that are sprayed or applied to fields and crops.  Organic refers to the types of products used.  A common misconception about organic foods is that they are grown with no products at all, but unless you either grew it yourself or talked in detail with the farmer who did, this is probably a false assumption.

GMOs vs Organics- What Are They?

If you farm for a living you’re going to need a product to sell.  And no one wants to buy apples with worms, no matter how organic they are. The USDA (that’s United States Department of Agriculture) certifies food as organic.  You can go to their website to see the list of approved products organic farmers can use.  Some products are the same as non-organic farming, but require the farmer to receive training about how to apply the products.  It can also take several years to qualify as organic, since products used on the soil in previous years can count against the organic certification.

So generally speaking, pretty much any plant can be grown “organically,” while only a few plants are GMOs.

GMOs vs Organics- What Are They?

We grow GMO, non-organic beans on our farm, but we use farming practices like growing rye grass as a cover crop to enhance the soil and prevent weeds.

Since this is my blog and I get to write about what’s interesting to me, I’ll add that one goal of GMOs is to create plants that don’t need to be protected from insects because they have their own resistance in their genetic code.  Just an interesting side note! Well, there you have it– the highlights of GMOs and organic foods.  The food debate might well be one of the most important we have in this century.  And now you come to the table informed. 🙂

Categories: Food, Science | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

The one and only, Cheerios

Its only 8:00 AM and I’ve already fought two battles today.  The first I fought with extension cords, bales of straw, and more Carhartt than any person not employed by the company should decently wear at any one time.  The second I’m fighting with a laptop, cell phone, and Instagram account.  It is the battle of public opinion.

Some days you win.  Some days you loose.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

We buy the bulk “2 Box” kind from Sam’s Club.

Modern agriculture recently lost a battle with General Mills, the company behind the one and only, Cheerios.  On January 2nd the company announced we will be seeing new cereal boxes in our grocery story aisles stating that the original Cheerios are now GMO free. This frustrates me on several levels.

First because, as General Mills points out, there are no GMO oats.  The switch involves a small amount of corn starch used in the cooking process and the gram per serving of sugar.  Its a relatively small change on their part that will generate a massive amount of negative opinion on ours.  Definitely frustrating.

Secondly, General Mills themselves states over and over that GMOs are safe.  They link to factsaboutgmos.org, The World Health Organization, The European Food Safety Authority, and the USDA.  But they won’t stand behind this science they apparently believe in.

Third, this Q&A statement from Cheerios mentions “investments” in the new process– places to store the corn starch and sugar etc., and I can’ help but infer that General Mills didn’t do any of this out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather to make a profit.  This leads me to believe that I, as the consumer, will be paying for the “investment” each time I load up my cart at Sam’s Club.  Perhaps my family budget can afford this, but surely you will allow me to stretch my imagination and guess that others cannot.

And this is, perhaps, my greatest frustration.  This is such a first world problem.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

I let my kids pour honey on the original type. Its less sugar than Honey Nut and I used to feel good about letting them eat it.

Only people will full stomachs can be picky about what they put into them.

Mind you, I’m grateful I can be this choosy myself.  I want my kids to have good nutrition, safe food, even adventurous diets.  But what about the mom who just wants her kid to have enough to eat.  Or the mom who wants her kid to have anything to eat.  Because to me, that’s what GMOs are about.  Once they’ve been proven safe, and I’ve done my research and feel they are (Read here and here), GMOs are the ONLY route I can see that leads to full stomachs for a population of some 9 billion people.  Its safe.  Its affordable.  And its possible.  The technology of our past won’t get us there.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

Brett will pick Cheerios over pancakes some days. Whose crazy kid does that?!

So will I keep buying Cheerios?  Dunno.  But I may look around at some different brands and see what my family will eat, because today I feel that General Mills isn’t supporting me and my farm.  They aren’t supporting ag’s efforts to feed the world.  And somehow I think that could have been profitable for them too.

We lost this battle.  The world can’t afford for us to loose the war.

Categories: Food, Technology | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

GMOs– A Study that is Harmful to Pigs

They will give just anyone a blog.  Believe me.  So I’m giving you the moral of today’s post now.  Don’t believe everything you read.

I’m writing this in response to comments made back when I first brought up the topic of Monsanto, so my same disclaimers apply. And like before, I’ll try to be as unemotional as I can be, but I warn you now, I’m going to vent just a little.

Back when I first posted about my meeting with Monsanto’s President several people sent me links.  Studies, news reports, websites, blogs– all citing the dangers of GMOs.  Because I like to know all sides of a story I clicked on all of them.  I read several twice.  Then I did something a little crazy.  I checked for sources.

I was amazed at how many articles had no sources.  At all.  Other sources I questioned because I couldn’t be sure, based on the report, if I was getting all of the information.   And despite these scientific inadequacies, people are reading them.  Reposting them.  Believing them.

Here’s an example so you can see what I mean.

GMOs-A study that is harmful to pigs {DaddysTractor.com}

This headline appeared on the Chicago Tribune website on June 11.  “Scientists say new study shows pig health hurt by GMO feed.”  It begins by listing the qualifications of the study– a good first step.  It tells us which scientific journal published the findings, who did the study, how many pigs were in the study, and what they did to the pigs.  It then publishes a whole paragraph of ratios comparing stomach inflammation of two groups of pigs.  So far so good.

But then the problems begin.  The only links are by Google and AdChoice.  I had to go elsewhere to find the actual report.  And yes, I really read it.  Um, most of it.

Here’s what I found.  168 pigs were divided into two groups.  One group was fed GMO feed, the other non-GMO feed.  When they were market size they were slaughtered and their organs were examined.

There was no difference in the size or health of the living animals.  The study states that the only difference at all was in the size of the uterus and the amount of stomach inflammation.  One veterinarian looked at all the stomachs of the pigs and gave them ratings of nil, mild, moderate, or severe stomach inflammation.

In the category of severe stomach inflammation there were 9 non GM fed pigs and 23 GM fed pigs.  That’s pretty bad and is obviously the biases for the article.  However, if you keep going you will see that there are 29 non GM pigs in the moderate category and only 18 GM pigs.  Now its 38-41 with some kind of inflammation.  Lets add in the mild category with 31 non and 23 GM and you have totals of 69 to 64 and there are actually more sick non pigs than GM pigs.  Finally, the nil category with 4 non and 8 GM, with grand totals of 73 non and 72 GM.

And then lets look at a few other categories.  11 non GM fed pigs had heart abnormalities, and only 5 GM fed pigs had them.  So where is the headline “GMOs prevent heart problems”?  6 non GM pigs had liver abnormalities and only 3 GM pigs did.  Still no headline.  And 3 non vs. 2 GM pigs had spleen abnormalities.  (Whatever that is.)

But here’s where my emotional neutrality will end– what in the world did the scientists do that made all these pigs so sick?!  168 pigs and 145 had inflammation?!  16 had heart abnormalities?!  They had a mortality rate of 13-14% overall, which they try to say is “normal” but my farm friends tell me 3-6% is more like it.  This sounds like horrible treatment of animals in my opinion!

Back to calm.

I also found an article (the author is sarcastic, but generally reasonable) which explains the authors, funding, and other behind the scene details.  He writes that while the study specifically states that there are no conflicts of interest, one of the authors  sells non-GMO grain.

I am not a scientist.  I’m guessing most of you aren’t either.  Neither are the journalists for the Chicago Tribune.  However, it looks to me as if someone, somewhere along the way, wanted headlines.  Negative headlines.  Maybe because negative headlines sell? or because they want GMOs to be bad? or they want to sell non GMO grain?  Not sure.  But after reading the study I believe you would have to be looking for that headline before you could find it.

This isn’t the only out-of-proportion article I’ve read.

But there are hundreds of studies you’ve likely never heard of.  GENERA, a project to catalog properly peer-reviewed, legitimately published, scientific studies about genetically engineered plants, lists more than 600 independent studies.  And no, I didn’t read them all.  Not even mostly.  You could, if you’d like, read each one to see how GMOs have been shown to be safe.  Over and over and over again.

Don’t bother writing about it though.  It doesn’t make good headlines.

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

My Meeting with Monsanto’s President

On Thursday of this past week my husband Brian and I had the opportunity to meet Monsanto’s President and CCO, Brett Begemann, as a part of the Agriculture Leaders of Tomorrow program.  We also toured the research facility in St. Louis, MO and got to take a peek behind the scenes at the greenhouses and test chambers.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

Mr. Begemann talked with us for a while about Monsanto’s acquisition of 20/20, the company that make the precision planting equipment you’ve seen us use on the blog.

If you are a regular follower I’d like to explain now that this post will take on a bit of a different flavor.  Usually I post information suitable for children—this might be information you as an adult read, then teach to the children in your life as you see fit.

Secondly, I’m writing this article to inform you.  You are free to believe anything you like.  If you disagree with me we don’t have to stop being friends.

AND I’m not being paid by anyone or any of that.  Soooo, let’s begin!

Thursday afternoon we toured the Monsanto research facility in St. Louis, MO.  In less than two hours we were briefed on the most advanced technology in the world.  It was amazing.  And yes, some of it was overwhelming.

It started with a basic understanding of DNA.  We’ve probably all seen pictures of the double helix strand.

My meeting with Monsanto President

All the information in a cell is recorded here in a code of ATs and GCs.   Its actually a lot like the binary system of 0s and 1s your computer understands.

In 2003 Scientists completed the Human Genome Project, which was a massive effort to read all these codes, record them, and share the information with the private sector.  This created a map of the ATs and GCs in human DNA.  The order of these codes determine what proteins are produced.  Each protein does a specific job, such as determining your eye color or hair texture.  Read this sort-of basic explanation of genetics from Wikipedia if you’d like more in-depth information!

Scientists have similarly mapped the DNA of some plants.  They have identified certain proteins and the jobs they do within the plant.  At the research facility we watched a presentation that explained the arrangement of proteins as a neighborhood.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

Each strand is a street and on each street are houses for the proteins.  Not every lot has a protein house, however.  Scientists used to think these were empty spaces and filled with “junk” but now they understand how much they don’t understand because the data in these empty lots seems to be very important to turning the proteins on and off.  For example, your DNA is the same in every cell.  But only the DNA that causes your eyes to be blue is actually “on” in your eyes.  Your skin is not blue, neither is your hair.  But that information is still in every skin cell, its just “off.”

So scientists know some proteins’ job is to control the yield of a plant.  If they can place this protein next to the correct empty house the yield of the plant increases!

The thing that struck me here was that DNA is different in every plant, just like it is in every person.  We all have a different combination of proteins that make us the different people we are.  At some point the DNA randomly goes together and you create an albino person.  At some point the DNA randomly goes together and my dark-haired husband and I have a red-haired son.  At some point the DNA can form a plant that yields like crazy.  But you really just have to get lucky.

Modifying the plant on purpose allows you to put proteins where you want them instead of waiting and hoping they will arrange themselves on accident.  

The odds of nature creating a seed with the exact combination you want are infinitesimal.  Just my opinion, but genetic modification doesn’t seem so scary when I realized it could have happened.   Not would have, but could have.  But I view this as learning from God’s design and using it to be better stewards of the land, better stewards of our money, and better human beings to the millions of starving people in this world.  But more on that later…

So some of our corn, soybeans, beets, etc., are modified for better yield, for stronger stalks that don’t fall down in a storm, for drought tolerance, and some are modified for herbicide tolerance.  That’s Round-Up.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

So here again our guide helped me understand what was really going on in a Round Up ready soybean.

The goal is to kill all plants in a field expect soybeans (or whatever you planted).  How do you kill a plant?  Well, Brett and I did an experiment on that back in our Plant Thematic Unit.  Plants need air, water, nutrients, and sunlight.  And while you can’t really control those in a field, sunlight is actually used for the process of photosynthesis which involves, you guessed it, proteins.  The chemicals in Round Up are so specifically designed that they can target the exact protein needed for photosynthesis.  (Actually its the messenger.  It kills the messenger.  I find this funny.  But irrelevant.  Right.)  The Round Up ready plant genes are relocated to new housing to protect their photosynthesis process.  Now farmers can plant more food in less space because instead of needing to drive equipment into the field to till the weeds under, they can spray Round Up.  Plus sensitive plants like corn produce lots more without the competition weeds provided.  And unless you have photosynthesizing genes in your DNA, Round Up isn’t a human problem.*

Furthermore, it is this amazing information about proteins that is being used to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, cancer, Asperger’s, so much more.  I find it interesting that we cheer these projects, yet decry GMOs.

Maybe it is because the effects of cancer are felt here, in our own backyard.  Hunger isn’t an issue we deal with in the US.  At least, it isn’t today.  Currently our own hunger needs stem more from a lack of money than a lack of food.  It just isn’t true everywhere you go.

But maybe we’ll be singing a different tune in another 30-40 years, because today’s population of 7 billion is expected to reach 9 billion in that short of a time frame.  In the next few decades farmers will need to produce more food than ever before.  They will do this with less land than we farm now and probably less water.  They will do this or we will be hungry.

 

 

**I welcome all comments, but please be courteous to all.  I will remove any rude or hurtful replies.  Also, this is a blog for children, so please keep it clean.

*I will be posting more about our meeting soon, but please understand there is SO MUCH to say about GMOs and Monsanto I could not possibly cover it all, especially in one post.   🙂

Categories: Science, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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