The Potential Benefits of GMOs

cowI almost felt defeated when I read a post in the blog, Science-Based Medicine, regarding the rise of pseudoscience in the medical field. (If you don’t read this blog, check it out. It is the most intelligent source of industry news and facts that you will find, except this blog. 🙂 )

The author, Clay Jones, laments about the state of pseudoscience in the context of 2016 predictions. He wrote,

“Quackery has become fully entrenched at this point and the outlook is bleak for those of us who strive to do something about it.”

Oh, my. It is equally sad when discussing other sciences, including the science of genetically-modified products or GMOs. Readers of this blog know that the evidence supporting the continued use and development is overwhelming, with the support of authoritative voices like the WHO, JAMA, AAAS, etc. It beats Dr. Oz or the Food Babe any day.

The matter deserves another review. Let’s look at the developments going on now that will make it harder to turn a blind eye to the benefits of GMOs.

Benefiting the Farmer

A study published in the journal, PLoS ONE, offers compelling evidence supporting GMOs. A meta-analysis of 147 original studies revealed that GM technology not only reduced pesticide use, but it also increased yields. These benefits translated to a 68 percent increase in farmer profits.

Now before you get your panties in a twist, let’s consider the facts. First, it isn’t all about corporations profiting. In fact, the opposite is true. According to the US Department of Agriculture,

“… family farms represent 97.6 percent of all U.S. farms and are responsible for 85 percent of U.S. farm production.

So, the ones benefiting from GM technology are the small family farmers who use it. It is also the farmers in developing countries. Excuse this soapbox moment, but isn’t this idea of denying authorization of GMOs a first-world self-indulgence, a luxury, if you will?

Many people bitch about how expensive it is to eat healthy. Here is a way to bring good healthy food to the masses and some of the elitist liberal crowd want to deny them of the simple pleasures of good health and a full belly? Please. Soapbox moment ended.

Healthy Food for the Masses

This is one argument of the opposition I cannot fathom. As a study from Ghent University points out, GM technology offers a tool to provide better nutrition to the people who need it. Again, liberals speak of food security and food waste.

Here is an opportunity to provide people who face the real possibility of nutritional deficiencies and their consequences hope for a better tomorrow. How can anyone deny them good nutrition based on a pseudoscience-backed belief?

What’s the Beef?

Another area of GM technology involves animal feed. Let’s begin with the context. Meat consumption is increasing. And the environmental costs of livestock production will continue to have a greater impact. GMOs offer a solution with animal feed.

The technology that increases yield plays into a more streamlined solution to reduce environmental costs of livestock production. The increased yields also offer a safeguard to protect crop production for human consumption.

GMOs are another tool we can use to ensure that no one goes hungry. It provides an efficient and cost-effective means to fulfill this goal, with the added benefit of reduced environmental costs. It’s time to kick the pseudoscience bogey man to the curb and embrace science and its benefits.

photo credit: Cow via photopin (license)

GMO chocolate

GMOs, the Fun Side

GMO chocolateI think Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott, said it best when he penned,

“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

And that is exactly what the anti-GMO crowd has done. But the stakes are about to get higher. GMO technology, after all, is not just staying in the corn field.

We All Eat GMOs Every Day—And We Love It!

To read the rhetoric, you could easily be deceived about the scope and availability of GMO products. The truth remains that it ubiquitous. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to avoid it. According to the US Department of Agriculture, about 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy grown in the United States are GMO products.

You can surmise that it shows up in most all processed foods. But it’s not limited to pasta and cookies. If you eat cheese, you are eating GMO products most likely. And we all love cheese, don’t we?

If you’re not familiar with the cheese making process, it goes something like this. Milk needs to coagulate so the yummy bits and whey separate. Producers use rennet, or specifically, the enzyme, chymosin, to move things along. This enzyme is found in the bovine stomachs.

Despite the fact that upwards of 33 million cattle are slaughtered each year, we needed other ways to produce chymosin to keep up with cheese demand. We now have chymosin or rennin to fulfill our needs, with a little help from our GM-organism friends.

Oh, But You Do Love It

Recent technology is taking GMOs into a new realm that even the most staunch anti-GMO activist may be hard pressed to deny. Apparently, we are in the midst of a looming chocolate shortage. Demand and the unpredictability of the crop itself are stacking the cards against free-flowing chocolate. GMO chocolate to the rescue!

The process of developing a GMO is complex. The complexity fuels some of the angst individuals may experience. But complexity doesn’t make it bad or evil. Trying putting together a cell phone with its raw materials.

The process has begun with DNA sequencing of the cacao plant. This is the first step toward finding solutions. From there, researchers test and test and test. That’s where we’re at now. One day, your chocolate chip cookie may contain GMO chips—and that would be a good thing, especially if you love chocolate.

The alternative is to let the market play out the sequence of events. Expect chocolate prices to skyrocket in return. Chocolate may not be as essential to life on the planet as corn or soybeans. However, it speaks to an important point.

Embracing Technology

Technology is our friend. It helps us solve problems. The stigma heaped onto GMO foods is only a political ideology with no basis in science or facts. It is a living-breathing example of the confirmation bias and appeal to ignorance fallacy at work. The bogeyman isn’t hiding here.

The most perplexing thing to me about this whole drama about GMOs is the disturbing dĂ©jĂ  vu going on here. I mean, haven’t we seen many cases of ignorance and fear of the unknown behind several sad events in our collective past? It’s time we let go of the make-believe demons interfering with ways to feed people nutritious food. Chris DR
photo credit: Shokomonk jalapeño split via photopin (license)

GMO broccoli

GMOs and Feeding People

GMO broccoliYou’d think this would be a no-brainer. We have technology that can help us solve one of the most heartbreaking and devastating things known to mankind. Yet, the anti-GMO crowd turns its collective back on a means to fight starvation and nutritional deficiencies.

Technology Solving Health Problems

Gluten-Free Wheat

Despite the anti-GMO rhetoric, research continues with GMO foods. Some exciting developments are in the offing. I have a personal stake in what may come of research by the Kansas Wheat Commission.

The commission is providing funding to identify the DNA sequence of wheat, i.e., gluten, that triggers gluten intolerance in celiac disease patients and those with food sensitivities.

Celiac disease causes the body to produce antibodies specific to gluten. Once ingested, the body attacks the small intestine where most food is absorbed. This condition leads to a myriad of nutritional deficiencies—and their associated consequences—as damage impairs nutritional uptake.

If researchers can identify the specific protein fragments involved, it is the first step toward improving health outcomes in these individuals. Imagine having to vet every single thing you eat or drink for gluten. You can’t just pick up anything at the grocery store, the gas station, any restaurant, or even any friends/family’s home. Welcome to my world.

Reducing Cholesterol

On another front, imagine buying a product that could reduce LDL or bad cholesterol levels. You can if you live in England. There, you can buy enriched broccoli under the name Beneforte.

Human trials with the product showed a 6 percent reduction in LDL. It does this by increasing levels of a naturally-occurring chemical (Ooo-ooo, chemicals!) called glucoraphanin in the broccoli. High LDL levels are a risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

Nutritional Deficiencies

There are other examples of research that has led to significant discoveries. Scientists have developed potatoes and apples with reduced bruising and browning. There is also rice with higher levels of vitamin A to combat these nutritional deficiencies.

Science is providing the solutions to fundamental health problems. Yet, the anti-GMO crowd continues its baseless crusade. Instead, we have the likes of the Food Babe calling out chemicals as bad. Hey, sweetheart, we’re all made of chemicals.

A Modern-Day Solution

It’s important to take GMOs in the proper context. It is not witchcraft. It is not disgusting or unnatural. It’s science evolving and finding solutions. It’s the 21st century means of solving our problems.

And the problems we face in the future are not all about the sobering issues of our day. They also involve ones that touch our hearts. Next time, I’ll discuss the GMO solution that may be the Achilles heal for the anti-GMO movement. Chris DR
photo credit: Broccoli via photopin (license)

GMO corn

GMOs and Food Waste

GMO cornWhether or not you accept anthropogenic-caused climate change, you probably realize that we face tough issues in the years ahead. Food security and sustainability in the light of a rising global population are weighty matters. And one of the tools we have to manage it is GMOs.

GMOs and Technology

It’s important to keep a basic principle in mind when discussing GMOs; we have to look at is as a technology rather than a cause. The reason you can go to the grocery store and buy just about anything you want is because of technology. Technology makes food processing possible.

Take livestock management, for example. Through technology and science, effective and efficient management is possible. Farmers have selectively bred cattle to produce a leaner animal. The average beef roast has 30 percent less fat than it did just 10 years ago. With over 33 million beef cattle slaughtered each year, you know that there is some heavy-duty technology behind the industry.

GMOs and Crops

California’s drought has acted as a huge wake-up call. It is costing the state billions of dollars—if just in drought relief. This is why technology such as the DroughtGard corn is imperative. It is the only commercially available GMO corn that is drought resistant.

And other eco-friendly GMOs exist. To offset heavy pesticide use, scientists from the Max-Planck Institute in Germany have gone straight to the problem with an anti-pest potato plant. The plants are able to withstand attacks by the international superpest, the Colorado potato beetle.

These two products make a strong case for the environmentally-friendly options that GMOs have to offer. Plants that require less water? Plants that negate the use of pesticides? To can development of such products based solely on principle (the science that says otherwise doesn’t exist) take foolishness to a whole new level. That, my friends, is food waste.

GMOs and Food Waste

GMOs offer one solution to the growing problem of food waste. Consider these numbers gathered by the Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) in Great Britain. The United States alone wastes 60 million metric tons of food each year. Technology, specifically GMOs, offer a means to reduce the waste.

But improved efficiency is not the only benefit from using GMOs. Next time, I’ll look at the emerging technology to make healthier foods. Chris DR
photo credit: DSCN1383 via photopin (license)


Learning from Others’ Mistakes

witchesGreat Britain is learning a painful lesson with GMOs. The government’s Science and Technology Committee is urging Great Britain to take back control over its agricultural practices and allow GMO crops. In a report released by the committee, MPs admonished contrary views as based on “values and politics” not science.

The Safety of GMOs

And they are absolutely correct. The overwhelming evidence supports the safety and efficacy of GMO products. When you have the WHO, AASA, Royal Academy, and the AMA on your side, you have a strong case. The situation in Great Britain deserves notice here in the United States.

They now realize that GMOs are necessary to increase crop yields. In the United States, we are in danger of putting millions of people at risk of starvation because of a growing loud but naive voice concerning the safety of GMO foods. The repercussions are greater for the United States because of our massive exports. Millions may suffer for the sake of a misguided ideology that is not based on fact nor science.

Science versus Public Opinion

GMOs stands as a testament to another issue where the general public thinks they know more than the scientists who study, research, and know the stuff. The disconnect is evident from the results of the Pew Research Center survey.

Of the scientists polled, 88 percent considered GMOs generally safe versus 37 percent of the general public. The ignorance is astounding given the stakes. It would one thing if there was a degree of uncertainty, but none exists. Rigorous testing and numerous studies have corroborated the inconvenient truth that most scientists know: GMOs are not the bogeyman.

If Not Science, Then What?

If we cannot base decisions on facts, then what do we base them on? Feelings? Hunches? Premonitions? That didn’t work well in Salem in 1692; it shouldn’t work now. We should know better.

Call it a defense mechanism, but it is a common occurrence. When faced with uncomfortable facts, some individuals flee. If they don’t flee, they reach for untestable constructs or worse yet, mysticism to defend their beliefs. As if we believe that birds fly!

Great Britain is in a tough spot. Closing the door on these misguided values won’t be easy. Hopefully, the United States will not slip down that slippery slope into the abyss called ignorance.

Like it or not, we need companies like Monsanto. We need companies who research and develop products like GMOs that can help solve the greatest challenges to humankind. Without them, food insecurity will threaten our very existence. Chris DR

photo credit: Pez Witches via photopin (license)