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The Facts And Controversy About GMOs

The Facts And Controversy About GMOs

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The controversy has been going on for years; dividing farmers, scientists and politicians. So we wanted to know more about what Genetically Modified Organisms really are, and how they affect our health.

First, the basics: genetically modifying something simply means taking a gene from one species, and putting it into another.

The U.S. Agency of Agriculture say 93% of soybeans and 88% of corn is engineered with this technology. That means from cereal, to chips to cookies--or any other products containing corn syrup, canola and soy--the vast majority of processed foods on grocery shelves contain GMOs. But since labeling isn't required in the U.S., there's no way to know for sure.
The controversy has been going on for years; dividing farmers, scientists and politicians. So we wanted to know more about what Genetically Modified Organisms really are, and how they affect our health.

First, the basics: genetically modifying something simply means taking a gene from one species, and putting it into another.

The U.S. Agency of Agriculture say 93% of soybeans and 88% of corn is engineered with this technology. That means from cereal, to chips to cookies--or any other products containing corn syrup, canola and soy--the vast majority of processed foods on grocery shelves contain GMOs. But since labeling isn't required in the U.S., there's no way to know for sure.

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Published by: Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance on May 15, 2014
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06/10/2014

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Steph Machado ()
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05/12/2014 03:50 PM
 
05/14/2014 12:33 PM
 
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Are you happy that GMOs are nowrequired to be labeled inVermont?
The Facts About GMOs: The ScienceBehind the Controversy
MONTPELIER - The controversy has been going on for years; dividing farmers, scientists and politicians. So we wantedto know more about what Genetically Modified Organisms really are, and how they affect our health.First, the basics: genetically modifying something simply means taking a gene from one species, and putting it intoanother.
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 YesNo
 The U.S. Agency of Agriculture say 93% of soybeans and 88% of corn is engineered with this technology. That meansfrom cereal, to chips to cookies--or any other products containing corn syrup, canola and soy--the vast majority of processed foods on grocery shelves contain GMOs. But since labeling isn't required in the U.S., there's no way to knowfor sure.
Seeing for Ourselves
We visited two Vermont farms that couldn't be more different. One uses GMOs, the other is against them.In Vermont, 96% of dairy farmers use GMOs--like Bill Rowell, who plants GMO corn at his dairy farm in Franklin County."We're producing a quality product, with something that science says is quite acceptable," Rowell said. There's one big reason so many farmers like Rowell have jumped on the GMO bandwagon: efficiency."We use the seed that's genetically modified because it produces a greater yield. It's been developed to be drought-resistant, it uses less pesticides, less herbicides,less fuel, less labor," Rowell said.In other words, it's a sort-of insurance policy against attacks on his crop."We have to battle the weather, we have to battle a variety of different insects, pests, rootworm, cutworm, that sort of thing." And he pays a pretty penny for that peaceof mind. A bag of GMO seed corn retails at $375, and can plant 2.5 acres of corn. A non-GMO seed bag of the same size costs less, but Rowell says it would yield himless crop."You'd reduce your crop by as much as half," he estimated.Organic farmer Jack Lazor disagrees."I think my yields are just as good as anybody who's using GMOs," he said. Lazor has literally written the book on organic farming. The Organic Grain Grower (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1603583653/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=31650324997&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=16496287468536118222&hvpone=29.38&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_7dkuf0grwi_b)is a product of decades of experience at Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Vt. "I grow corn and beans and small grains, wheat, barley, oats, spelt." His dairy farm uses the traditional method of crop rotation, which promotes biodiversity."Your soil is teeming with life, and for me, I don't think GMOs are really about promoting life in the soil."
Meet our Scientist
We enlisted the help of Dr. Deborah Neher to sort out the facts about GMOs. She chairs the Plant and Soil Science Department at the University of Vermont, and has
 
published papers on her GMO research."GMO is a technology, and as a technology itself it's neutral," she explained. "It's really how one goes about using it that makes a difference." The biggest negative Neher has found with GMOs has little to do with what we eat. Rather, she says when plants are engineered to be identical and resist certainspecies, a new pest could wipe out an entire crop."That's my biggest concern, is we're really narrowing this genetic base, and making it vulnerable," she said, agreeing with Jack Lazor's philosophy. "So we're not able toadapt to new invasive species."But Neher says not all GMOs are bad."A number of medicines are made with GMO technology, for example the injectable insulin that diabetics use. That's been made through this technology since the1980s, and I don't think anyone would argue that's a bad use of this technology." Plus, GMO farmers can use less pesticides and herbicides, and Neher says research shows those chemicals have a greater negative impact on the soil than the GMOs do."That convinced me, and I'm a skeptic," Neher said.When it comes to actually eating products that contain GMOs, Dr. Neher says no studies have proven or disproven the effect of the product on people."As far as the human body, I think the jury's still out," she said. "I don't know that we know for sure." The Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization don't know for sure, either. The FDA does not label all GMO products as safe--but says theyevaluate the safety of each individual product before it goes on the market (http://www.fda.gov/food/foodscienceresearch/biotechnology/ucm346030.htm). The WHOalso says safety should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. (http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/)
Science or Sentiment?
Professor Neher remembers the first day of a class she taught called "Plants and Society.""I started the class with a poll: who's for GMOs, who's against GMOs? The 'against' far outweighed the 'for'. Then we spent the class talking about what it was," Neherexplained. "Here's the gene, you're maybe changing a gene, or some genetic component of that. By the end of the class I took the poll again, and it had flipped theopposite." The story outlines what Neher describes as a popular anti-GMO attitude that's not completely based on facts."I mean, they've replaced science with sentiment," Bill Rowell said of Vermont's popular anti-GMO faction. "You can't do that."Still, the majority of European countries have chosen to ban all or some GMOs, and many other restrict the crop.We asked Rowell if he feared there could be a ban in the U.S. "If we replace science with sentiment, there could be anything," he said.

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