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The Stigmas Surrounding GMOs

The Stigmas Surrounding GMOs

Union Avenue Community Garden

As a self-proclaimed homesteader and the manager of a HUGE community led garden in Chicago, Illinois, I am often stopped by folks who see that we are planting a massive array of vegetables and fruits, and one of the first things out of their mouth is “Great job! It’s so nice to see someone working on eating CLEAN and UNPOISONED food that they’ve grown themselves!”

Let’s understand that those sentiments aren’t ill intentioned, for the most part, but they do imply greater implications. Including that any foods with GMO ingredients are harmful to your health, and the environment.

Now, I’m not here to change any minds. If you prefer an organic lifestyle, and that’s working for you, then so be it. If you’re a proponent of GMOs and that works for you, then so be it. My plea to you, the reader, is to acknowledge the fact that there are very LOUD voices on both sides of the aisle presenting consumers with very conflicting information.

Several years ago, I had the chance to participate in the Illinois Farm Bureau’s, Illinois Farm Families Program. It allowed those of us who aren’t surrounded by farmland to visit working farms and better understand what a day in the life of a farmer looks like. We had a chance to speak with both organic and conventional farmers who provided information from both viewpoints. I learned several things, despite my existing knowledge of GMOs through my background in science including:

• Most farms aren’t owned by a corporation trying to push the status quo on consumers. In fact, they are often family-run operations that have been in their families for several generations. And they are entrepreneurs just like I am. The sacrifices they make to grow food for others is amazing.

• There are currently ten GMO varieties –The non-browning arctic apples are on the horizon. One GMO variety most people use daily; cotton. The other eight are: alfalfa, corn (field and sweet), soybeans, canola, sugar beets, papaya, potatoes, summer squash and apples.

• GMOs are not processed food. Processed foods may contain one or more of the eight GM crops, or they can be made with organic or other non-GM ingredients.

• Farmers do not use genetic modification to increase crop size, create seedless varieties, etc. These crop traits are created through good farming practices, cross-breeding or hybridization.

• Hybridization is often confused by consumers with genetic modification. Think of it this way:YOU are a hybrid. YOU have all the best parts of both of your parents, and that allows you to be the best person you can be.

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