Thursday, February 20, 2014

GMO's - A Plea for Reason

One of the best parts of being a member of Country Natural Beef is the annual meeting where we meet and mix with our retail partners. Whether it’s a regional director for a mega-store like Whole Foods, or a meat cutter at a small independent like Overland Market in Lake Tahoe, these men and women sit in our circle and help us work through issues, big and small, that affect our shared industry.

This year the message they carried to us from the front lines was this: our customers are asking for meat produced without the use of GMO's (genetically modified organisms). Plain and simple - either we do it or someone else will.

At first I was on board; GMO’s scare me. But then Seth encouraged me to take a look at the other side of the issue. Turns out that genetically modified crops can do a lot of good. The use of Round Up Ready corn, for example, means less tillage passes through the field, lessening erosion and preserving soil health. GM crops, manipulated to resist a single pest species, don't need to be sprayed with toxic chemicals that kill the good bugs along with the bad bugs. Other attributes including drought tolerance, improved yields on depleted soils, and higher nutritive values help fight hunger. In our world today, with climate change on top of exhausted soils in developing countries, to refuse this promising technology seems selfish.

So, just as I had gotten my mind around this information, I ran across an article on Monsanto’s latest food producing technology. They know that consumers won’t tolerate GM foods in the produce aisle so they’re reinventing traditional crossbreeding. They cross two plants showing desirable traits, sift through the offspring and then fast forward by growing only those plants that display those traits. What nature would have taken thousands of years to accomplish, they do in just a few years. The fruits and vegetables they create are - you name it - sweeter, more nutritious, have a longer shelf life, smell better, etc. They've even developed an onion that won’t make you cry! And they’re doing it without genetic modification.  

So what does it all mean? Does resisting GM technology lead to positive research in other areas? Can I endorse genetic modification as a valuable tool in some cases, but still market a product that shuns its use?

Rather than making a black or white determination, I believe in a case by case evaluation of food production technology. Tell me how it affects soil health. Tell me if there’s a plan to protect wildlife habitat on the field's perimeter and biodiversity of the total resource. Can it be used to help subsistence farmers in developing countries? Will it keep families on the land? Let’s get the questions right and then we can make sense of it.

Meanwhile back at the ranch -

calvey heifers on feed (yes it's non gmo!)

Jesse and Gary to the rescue when we got stuck

No comments:

Post a Comment