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Response to 'Let's talk local'

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 10:13 a.m. CDT

From Vicki Allen


The March 21 edition of the Creston News Advertiser ran an article, "Let's talk local." While I am a farmer and supporter of local foods, I believe in choice; if you want to partner with a producer to purchase your food locally you should be able to and you should have a choice of organic- or conventionally-grown food.

But, I was troubled by many of the wild assertions in the article, which would actually take choice away from millions, including scary claims that try to link genetically modified (GMO) grains, tumors in mice and fluctuating pheasant populations. As a farmer in Union County I am very aware of the reduced pheasant population, but have never come across a single, documented study that made a connection between GMOs and pheasant population. So, I made some calls.

I first contacted Chuck Gipp, director of the Iowa DNR, and asked him if he was aware of a study claiming a link between GMO crops and pheasant populations; I wanted to know if this was something the DNR was promoting. Gipp's emphatic answer was "no!" Gipp says the two main reasons we have seen a reduction in pheasant population is loss of habitat and five years of unfavorable weather for pheasants.

I did a little more digging into this issue and found an interesting article on the internet titled, "Scientists Savage Study Purportedly Showing Health Dangers of Monsanto's Genetically Modified Corn." The article was written by Jon Entine of Forbes magazine, Sept. 20, 2012. The article references a study done by French researchers who claim to have found that rats fed a diet of GMO corn suffered tumors and multiple organ damage. Wendy Harwood, senior scientist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK,reviewed the study and concludes, 'The findings do not contradict previous findings that genetic modification itself is a neutral technology, with no inherent health or environmental risks. These results cannot be interpreted as showing that GM technology itself is dangerous."

As another researcher noted, for nearly 20 years, billions of animals in the European Union and the United States have been fed soy products produced from genetically modified soybean, mainly from Latin America. Yet, no problems have been reported by the hundreds of thousands of farmers, officials and vets.

Another very interesting article on the benefits of genetically modified foods was "Genetically Engineered Distortions" by Pamela C. Ronald and James E. McWilliams, published May 14, 2010. Ronald and McWilliams claim many life-saving benefits of GMO crops, and "appreciating this potential means recognizing that genetic engineering can be used not just to modify major commodity crops in the West, but also improve a much wider range of crops that can be grown in difficult conditions throughout the world."

Genetically modified grains have played a huge roll in reducing hunger and improving health in third world countries! Iowa farmer Norman Borlaug is the most famous advocate of genetically modified crops; his work saved more people from famine than any other person in the world.

There is a place for genetically modified foods and organically grown foods. People should have a choice and as a farmer, I'm happy to provide many. But the reality is, most of the world needs the improved yields and nutritional benefits that only GMOs can provide. Let's not use scare tactics to persuade people; let's give them the scientific facts and let them decide.

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