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Q:
Is squash genetically modified or is it just because of pesticide use that make it unsafe to eat?
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A:Expert Answer

Thanks for your misguided question, Edith! I tease you a bit because you include a statement in your question that squash is unsafe to eat, which I simply cannot leave alone or fail to point out. Squash is safe to eat as always, whether GMO or not, assuming that the farmer who grew the squash you eat has not violated any of the guidelines regarding the application of pesticies. The use of the pesticides represents an extremely low risk to health that is far more than outweighed by the health benefits of eating squash, or any other fruit or vegetable. The GM and non-GM versions of squash are equally nutritious, and there are no additional risks associated with eating GM squash (for that matter, there are no additional risks to eating heavily vrius-infected squashes, except that they are ugly).

 

The assumption in your question that all produce that is grown with the assistance of pesticides is unsafe--well, I have to hedge on that just a bit. Perhaps there is a very slight increase in risk of pesticide exposure if there are pesticide residues on the fruit (because the farmer applied a strong pesticide too close to the harvest date, or applied a pesticide which is not approved for use on squash--both of which are illegal) that you do not wash off. In my experience, I've met hundreds of squash farmers all of the world, and I believe those farmers when they tell me that they follow the guidelines for pesticide use.

 

There are some locations I've worked in where I'm less confident that all farmers follows those guidelines, but those locations are all outside of the USA and Mexico (where nearly all of our squash here in North America comes from). If you are the kind of person who worries about very low levels of risk, or don't believe that GM products are actually safe despite their rigorous testing and universal approval by experts who have studied this, then you have the option of avoiding all GM products and most pesticides by choosing USDA Certified Organic products.

 

For me personnally, I like the idea of eating fresh produce grown without insectidies, but I don't really enjoy paying much extra for those products because I think the level of risk is so very low. I am impressed when I find farmers who grow high quality squash without the use of pesticides or GM hybrids. My threshold for what I will pay for an organic versus non-organic squash product is a 2 percent price differential, meaning I'm willing to spend an extra 2 percent of my own money to get organic products if they are of equal quality (mostly because I want to give my respect to the hard work of the organic farmers). Fortunately, I rarely use that guideline. I get most of my squash from the fields where I work, and I frequently enjoy cooking GM and non-GM squash, whichever is closest at hand.

 

When it comes to sweet corn, my personal risk math is quite different. I know that conventional sweet corn farmers must use very high rates and frequent applications of insecticides to make a crop in most seasons, and I know that GM product (Bt sweet corn) needs far less insecticide use, so for sweet corn I would actually avoid anything but GM products because the risk of pesticide exposure (mostly in the environment, not the actual corn I eat), and I personally would pay 10 percent more from my own pocket for GM sweet corn. I avoid organic sweet corn because I really dislike finding half a worm on my corn cob.

 

I recommend that each person think carefully about how much risk they are willing to accept, and to set for themselves a price differential they are willing to pay for certified organic products, if they feel that the risks do exist.

Topic: Safety, Health, and Nutrition  1 Comment | Add Comment