GMOs & Farmers

By • October 13, 2017

This post was originally published on GMO Answers' Medium page.

 

GMOs have proven to be safe to eat and beneficial for the environment. They continue to play an important role in the future of our food system and planet. (Image Credit: GMO Answers)

From the beginning, GMO Answers has always encouraged consumers to participate in conversations about GMOs when it comes to making decisions about the food they eat.

Each October, GMO Answers celebrates “Get to Know GMOs Month,” sparking the conversation in a new way by diving into the most common questions and misconceptions about GMOs. This year’s Get to Know GMOs Month is dedicated to finding new ways to engage consumers about GMOs and biotechnology, specifically related to innovation in the field.

From concerns about the safety of GMOs, their impact on the environment and how GMOs are made, understanding the basics and science behind genetically modified crops is vital to ensuring a sustainable future for all.   

Get the Facts on GMOs

GMOs are safe for people and animals to eat, as the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) confirmed in a 2016 report. They provide many benefits to the environment, including reduced carbon emissions, improved soil health and water conservation. And contrary to what many may think, GMOs are not new. GMOs are created through a modern plant breeding process, where a desired trait, like disease resistance, is taken from one plant or organism and transferred to another. This technology has been around for decades and farmers have selectively cultivated plants for thousands of years.

Even more, GMOs and biotechnology play a crucial role to help sustain our planet’s future. GMOs are one of modern agriculture’s many innovations that allow farmers to grow more food with fewer resources.

How You Can Get Involved

Last year GMO Answers conducted a nationwide survey to gather consumers' top ten questions about GMOs, then hit the streets of Washington, DC, to engage people about GMOs. We found that most people were aware of the benefits GMOs provide the environment and food system, but there is a lot more to learn.

 

This year, to drive online engagement, GMO Answers launched a Facebook quiz that tests your knowledge about GMOs, as well as our GMO Innovation Contest – an online video contest designed to encourage anyone to "Get to Know GMOs" by identifying food and environmental challenges that could be solved using biotechnology. More information about the Innovation Contest can be found at InnovationContest.GMOAnswers.com.

GMO Answers’ mission has always been to engage with the public in these crucial conversations, and we’ll continue to answer any questions about how our food is grown. This October is the time to learn the facts and Get to Know GMOs!

By • October 12, 2017

The following is an excerpt of a news story on the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) website on the whole genome sequencing of the white Guinea yam, an important staple crop in Africa. 

In many parts of West Africa, food is not considered food if it is not yam. This explains why yam—also called the “king of crops” in Nigeria, exemplified in Chinua Achebe’s classic novel “Things Fall Apart,” is such a prized food with immense cultural importance.

Yam is a major food source in the tropics providing food and income for some 60 million people.

Despite its importance, relatively little is known about the white Guinea yam (Dioscorea rotundata Poir.), the dominant African yam, at the genetic level. Unlike other staple crops such as wheat and rice, the white Guinea yam is not widely cultivated, leading to its branding as an “orphan crop.”

“The more we understand about the white Guinea yam, the better we will be able to help improve the crop, and help maintain this integral source of nutrition and income in a region undergoing the world’s most rapid population explosion—especially as the demand for yam is currently overwhelming—much more than what we are able to supply,“ said Dr Robert Asiedu, Director for West Africa, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Yam Breeder for about 20 years.

To help improve the white Guinea yam, an international team of scientists from IITA, the Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Science (JIRCAS), the Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre (IBRC), Japan, and the Earlham Institute and The Sainsbury Laboratory of the United Kingdom, has finally revealed the full genome sequence of this poorly understood but vitally important crop.

To read the entire story, please visit the IITA website

 

By • October 11, 2017

The following is an excerpt of a blog post by registered dietitian Rosanne Rust at the blog Chew the Facts about the new non-browning apple arriving in selected stores this fall

Soon, there will be a new apple in town. It tastes great, and won’t brown. The first question that many people ask is “Why would we need a non-browning apple?” So let me start there…

Have you ever cut into a perfect looking apple to see that it’s brown and soft inside? Have you ever sliced a bunch of apples for a fruit tray, and even though you squeezed lemon juice on them, some of them still turn brown? Would you like to chop apples into your salads without them turning brown? Have you ever spent time packing lunches for your children in the morning, only to find the bag of sliced apples come home uneaten at the end of the day?

Arctic Apples® won’t do that. Having a non-browning apple on the market will not only curb food waste, but it opens up opportunities for new recipes utilizing apples. Apples are great sources of fiber, vitamins C, and potassium.

  • Fewer apples wasted (currently about 40% of apples grown are wasted)
  • Less water and fuel
  • Higher quality apples reduces loss

To read more about these apples and how they can help with environmental and sustainability issues, please visit the Chew the Facts website

 

By • October 10, 2017

The following is an excerpt of a story from the news service AFP reporting that scientists have genetically engineered corn to produce a specific protein. 

US scientists have found a way to genetically engineer corn to produce an amino acid contained in meat, boosting the nutritional value of one of the world's most important crops.

The process involved inserting a bacterial gene that causes corn to make methionine, a crucial nutrient for the health of skin, nail and hair.

Researchers said the discovery could benefit millions of people in the developing world who depend on corn as a staple, and could reduce animal feed costs, according to the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal.

"We improved the nutritional value of corn, the largest commodity crop grown on Earth," said co-author Thomas Leustek, professor in the Department of Plant Biology at Rutgers University.

"Most corn is used for animal feed, but it lacks methionine -- a key amino acid -- and we found an effective way to add it."

To read the entire story, please visit the AFP website

 

By • October 09, 2017

The following is an excerpt of an article in the MIT Technology Review about the launch of a new non-browning genetically modified apple. 

The modified Golden Delicious apples were developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a privately owned company acquired for $41 million in 2015 by the Maryland biotech Intrexon. Other divisions of that company are already marketing genetically modified salmon, cloned cattle, and self-destructing mosquitoes.

The company plans to sell the apples as bags of pre-sliced fruit but say they will not be labeled as “produced with genetic engineering” and will not come with any other packaging identifying them as GMOs. Instead, as allowed under a 2016 labeling law, there will be a QR code that links to a Web page with detailed information on how the apples were made.

“We didn’t want put ‘GMO’ and a skull and crossbones on the package,” Neal Carter, Okanagan’s founder, said this week, during a presentation in San Francisco.

A package of golden delicious apple slices. The fruit has been genetically modified so they don't turn brown.

The GM apple is notable partly because Carter, an apple grower and farming innovator, independently developed it and won regulatory approval to sell it. Most GMOs have been developed and marketed as seeds by large corporations like Monsanto or DuPont and involve large-acre crops like soybeans and corn.

Using a technique called gene silencing, Carter and his research team engineered the apple’s DNA to produce less polyphenol oxidase, or PPO, the enzyme that causes the flesh to turn brown. Carter says slices of the engineered apples can stay free of browning as long as three weeks.

To read the entire article, please visit the MIT Technology Review website

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SOCIAL TILE: Get to Know GMOs

By • October 04, 2017

The following is an article published in CropLife magazine highlighting how farmers and companies can better explain complex issues by reaching out to consumers' emotions. 

According to book author Michele Payn, Principal at Cause Matters Corp., the U.S. agricultural industry has a serious negative perception problem with the general public. “The anti-agricultural community has a very loud voice, especially on social media,” said Payn, speaking at the 2017 Mid America CropLife Association meeting in Kansas City, MO. “I don’t understand for the life of me why agricultural companies don’t do a better job at fighting back against this.”

And while Payn acknowledged that some agricultural entities have tried to refute anti-agricultural sentiment, many others have remained relatively quiet on the subject. “And when you sit in silence, we all lose,” she said.

Part of the challenge in reaching the general public is the fact that less than 2% of the U.S. population knows anything whatsoever about agriculture and how it operates. “Most consumers have never shaken hands with a farmer,” said Payn. “But based upon what they might know, they probably trust farmers. They don’t trust farming, however.”

To reach this audience with agriculture’s positive message, said Payn, agriculture proponents must try to “get into their shoes” when making their case. “My challenge for you here, if you really want to translate farm practices to Suzy Q. Consumer, is to get out of your work boots, get out of your offices, and get out of your comfort zones and think about making this argument differently,” she said. “Most of these consumers only want to keep their children safe and protect them from something they have been led to believe might harm them.”

To properly do this, Payn suggested that pro-agriculture advocates attempt to try a different approach to connecting with the general public. In most cases, this means moving away from the fact-laden arguments that the industry has tended to rely on for the past decade or so when preaching its point.

To read the entire article, please visit the CropLife magazine website

By • October 04, 2017

The following is an excerpt of a blog post from the editor in chief of the magazine Cosmos explaining how the documentary Food Evolution focuses on evidence-based science. 

In this post-truth era it has never been easier to pick and choose the information that will confirm your own bias.

But societies need to find common ground if we are to solve the most-pressing problems of our time, like feeding the population without destroying the planet.

Science is key to advancing the narrative. That is the message of the documentary Food Evolution, directed by Scott Kennedy and narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Last Wednesday (20 September), after a public screening to an audience of about a hundred in Canberra, I participated in a panel discussion along with Rob Furbank, an expert in plant photosynthesis at Australian National University; Tony Mahar, CEO of the National Farmers’ Federation; Andrew Campbell, CEO of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; and the director himself, Scott Kennedy, via video link. The moderator was Adrienne Francis at ABC News, Canberra.

Kennedy has participated in many such panel discussions since the movie’s release in June.

It is inspiring to see a movie maker attempt to break through the silos of peoples’ preconceived truths. In the final question of the evening, Kennedy was asked how he rated the success of the movie. “The fact that you’re here,” he answered.

I encourage everyone to see the movie.

To read the entire post, please visit the Cosmos website

By • October 03, 2017

The following is an excerpt of a guest column by Jason Defisher in the Kansas State University Collegian about the benefits of GMOs to crop production. 

There are so many acronyms in our food these days. MSG, FDA, A&W and other scary abbreviations can make choosing what food to buy difficult for young adults.

One of the most controversial food-related choices is whether we want to buy foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Unfortunately, there are many consumers who have an unfounded fear surrounding the creation and use of GMOs for food.

The main arguments I have heard against the use of GMOs are that there are dangerous chemicals being put into food crops and the science behind the modification is risky and imprecise.

To an uninformed consumer, these arguments could seem to be true. However, the reality of genetically modifying organisms is very safe.

The process of genetically modifying a crop is similar to cutting and pasting text while typing a paper. Desirable genes are taken from one healthy organism and carefully placed into a target organism to improve its genetic code. The process must be very exact, as any imperfections will result in failure.

To read the entire article, please visit The Collegian website. 

QWhat percentage of sweet corn acreage in the United States is planed in Bt corn? This was asked in 2015, but has the percentage changed?

What percentage of sweet corn acreage in the United States is planed in Bt corn? This was asked in 2015, but has the percentage changed?
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