Welcome Our Grad Student from West Texas A&M University, Zahra Shihabuddin!

Agriculture graduate student from West Texas A&M Univeristy, Zahra Shihabuddin, joins us to learn more about our mission at Connecting City to Farm. We are thrilled to have her as part of our team! 

Zahra grew up in Mombasa, Kenya then her path led to pursue a college education in Canyon, Texas. At WTAMU she earned a Bachelors degree in Plant, Soil, and Environmental Science, and is currently working toward her Masters degree in the same field of study at the same university.  Her exposures at WTAMU have been so inspiring and rewarding that she states, "being part of the agriculture community is one of the best decisions I have made in my life."

She's passionate about the agriculture community, knowing that the world's population depends on their work. Zahra wrote an essay expressing her analysis and research on GMOs. Having close ties to developing countries, Zahra has seen hunger and poverty in different ways than many Americans. She sees great value in genetic modifications motivated by her knowledge of the significant hunger problems our world faces. We're intrigued by her experiences, perspective and enthusiasm for the monumental task of feeding our planet's growing population, and wanted to pass along her conclusions to you.

Welcome, Zahra! We're grateful to know you! You are a bright spot in the future of agriculture.

Zahra in the AgriLife research plots at West Texas A&M University. 

Zahra in the AgriLife research plots at West Texas A&M University. 

Why are GMO’s important to you?

By: Zahra Hafidh Shihabuddin

GMO is an acronym for genetically modified organisms, according to University of California, San Diego, “When a gene from one organism is purposely moved to improve or change another organism in a laboratory, it is also sometimes called “transgenic” for transfer of genes,” this is done to develop plants that are insect, draught and freeze resistant and or tolerant. Furthermore, these plants’ produce are made to be of the best nutritional value for us (the consumers), farmers around the world work extremely hard to ensure that we have a constant and sufficient food supply all year round. 

There is a direct relationship between genetically modified food and the world’s growing population. It is important to recognize that the rapid increase of people translates to a more rapid demand for food, fiber and feed considering the significant decrease in arable land.

According to Leaver’s presentation (2014), FAO, World Bank Statistics show in 1960, approximately 2.5acres was sufficient to feed two people; 45 years later the same amount of land could feed four people, “As a result 1 in 6 of the world’s population, is hungry today, and we have to increase food production by 70-100% by 2050”. In addition, it is foreseen that, in the next 25 years the same land will feed five people and also the world will have 9 billion people at the same time (Leaver, 2014). 

Genetically modified food is important to us because a small portion of land can produce a large amount of food given the appropriate environment. However, the trending question remains “What is the difference between genetically modified food and organic food?” According to USDA (2016), organic food should be grown avoiding most synthetic materials for instance, pesticides and antibiotics using agricultural methods that conserve the environment. This does not mean that no pesticides are used! Genetically modified food is grown using synthetic pesticides, but it is important to remember that all pesticides are regulated and will not pose a threat to human health. Pesticides are used to protect our crops from insects and weed pressure, they have a time frame in which the toxicity reduces and disappears. Genetically modified food and organic food do not have much difference except that organic food is more labor intensive, not economical at large scale and the quality of the product is not assured juxtaposed to GM food.

Another thing to consider while obsessing over organic products is being aware of what is actually genetically modified and in the market. Many companies take advantage of buyers who perceive organic products as “safer” and “healthier”. An example from a study done by genetic literacy project, “a search of avocado oils from AvoHaus showed a 250 ml bottle of organic non-GMO Project certified avocado oil was $15, while a conventional extra-virgin avocado oil bottle of the same size was $12.50. An 8 oz. bottle of Non-GMO Project avocado oil was selling for $12.75, while a conventional bottle of avocado oil was selling for $7.35 for 17 oz.—interestingly there are no GMO avocados” (Porterfield, 2016).  

In conclusion, genetically modified food is produced for the benefit of the growing population, to ensure that everyone has sufficient nutritional food. This is the same for organic agriculture however considering the cost, labor and time it takes to produce organically in contrast to genetically modified is a decision we must be vigilant in making. 

References

  1. "GMO." GMO. University of California San Diego, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2016. 
  2. Leaver, Chris. "The Challenge of Achieving Food Security and Sustainability For Nine Billion." LinkedIn Slide Share. 12 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Aug. 2016. 
  3. "Organic Agriculture." U.S. Department of Agriculture. N.p., 02 June 2016. Web. 23 Aug. 2016. 
  4. Porterfield, Andrew. "Differences between Non-GMO and Organic: More Profits for Farmer, More Costs for Consumers | Genetic Literacy Project." Genetic Literacy Project. N.p., 27 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 Aug. 2016. 
  5. "World Population Growth Charts --- MORE Than Exponential." World Population Growth Charts --- MORE Than Exponential. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2016. 

 

 

 

 

How Do I Get my Kids to Eat More Vegetables? Do I Need to Pay for Organic Food Only? And Other FAQs from the "Christian Parenting" Magazine.

I am often asked questions like how do I get my kids to eat more vegetables? and do I need to pay for Organic Food Only? I recently had the privilege of writing for an online magazine called Christian Parenting to answer these questions and other FAQs. The editor, Kelly Matthews, conducted an interview and split the content into a few different topics.  You can read the first one highlighting Farm Camp here:

Kelly asked me how I get my kids to eat more vegetables.  She made my tips look so good!

The next question Kelly asked me was one that I discuss with fellow consumers very often:  "Do I have to buy organics to be healthy?"  Read the article below to learn why I am so confident in my answer which is "No way!"  

Certified Organic Products: Facts and Myths

I had a conversation with my friend Emily Thomas recently about the common myths of certified organic products.  Emily is a terrific girl and a dear friend.  She hosts a weekly podcast highlighting the struggles of motherhood and how we can link arms and encourage one another.  

Emily Thomas of  Mom Struggling Well

Emily Thomas of Mom Struggling Well

Understanding Brings Relief

Emily had seen a little of my journey on social media but we hadn’t had a chance to visit in person about it.  I saw her at a conference and had the opportunity to tell her what I had discovered about modern agriculture.  I shared the freedom I now feel in the grocery store because I am confident in my food choices.  She was very interested and began inquiring.  I was happy to share the 5 things I assumed about Certified Organic Products before I dug past the food labels to find relief in understanding.

my kids

my kids

#1 Organic Is Healthier

I had assumed that organic products were healthier, but I learned that after many independent scientific studies, no nutritional differences have been found between organic and non-organic foods.  Since it’s not healthier or better for me, that means I couldn’t be poisoning myself or my kids if we eat non-organic produce.  Relief.

a congenitally grown corn crop   photo credit:  Morgan Baugh

a congenitally grown corn crop

photo credit:  Morgan Baugh

#2 Organic Is Better For The Environment 

I had assumed that organic farming was better for the environment, but I learned that it is actually much more demanding on our natural resources like water, land and climate.  Because organic farmers are limited in the kinds of nutrient management practices they can use based on their 30 year old regulations, the yields in organic fields are significantly lower.  As a result, more acreage is required to produce the same amount of yield that a conventional farmer can produce.  This unnecessarily removes chunks of prairies, forests and wetlands from natural habitation.  More water is required because the weeds are competing with the crops.  Tilling is a common practice to try to reduce these weeds, but scientists now know that breaking up the soil is a major way Green House Gases are released into the atmosphere.  Additionally, more fuel is burned as a result of the increased number of passes tractors have to make over each field.  Armed with modern scientific discoveries and the freedom to use a broader repertoire of farming practices, conventional farming is more sustainable for the environment.   Since these practices are more eco-friendly, I have confidence to purchase non-organic.  Relief.  

conventionally grown rice being loaded into a truck

conventionally grown rice being loaded into a truck

#3 Organic Labels Describe The Food

I had assumed that the Certified Organic label was an indication about the actual food that I consumed, but I learned that it's really just a label that indicates what type of farming practices were employed.  Again, in order to sell under the Certified Organic label, farms must adhere to regulations set 30 years ago by the USDA.  Science, medicine, technology, transportation and so many other industries reflect ever-changing improvements, and conventional farmers do too.  Their food is safe and their practices are sustainable.  Since it doesn’t truly reflect a standard about the food, that means it’s just extra background information that shouldn't necessarily influence my decision about the food itself.  Relief.

#4 Organic Is More Expensive So It Is A Better Value

I had assumed that organic products were better because they were more expensive.  I learned that there are two reasons they are more expensive.  1)  It costs more to farm organically because labor and fuel costs are higher and yields are smaller than non-organic farming.  2)  Consumers will pay higher prices for the perceived value.  I learned that the overall production costs of Certified Organic products are only slightly higher than conventional farming, and most of the inflated prices are a result of effective marketing and willing consumers.  Since it costs more for reasons I don't value, I can save money and buy non-organic products.  Relief.  

An ag plane being loaded with fertilizer

An ag plane being loaded with fertilizer

#5 Organic Farms Don't Use Chemicals

I had assumed that Certified Organic farmers didn’t use any fertilizers or chemicals.  I learned that there are more than 50 pesticides that are allowable on Certified Organic farms which are often applied in excess because they are ineffective.  Since both conventionally grown and organically grown crops use chemicals, I choose to buy non-organic products which have been grown under equally strict guidelines that are prescribed and overseen by the USDA.  Relief.  

Listen In

Emily was fascinated and also relieved by this information.  She invited me on her podcast to share these and other thoughts about our Connecting City To Farm journey.  Also, we get into some other fun mothering issues.  Hope you’ll enjoy listening by clicking here

The Most Sustainable Rice

Thanks to scientific developments and innovative practices Jim Whitaker's rice is some of the most sustainable rice in the country.  

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He partners with many others to document and prove that his rice uses less water, reduces methane gas emissions and releases cleaner water back into natural habitats.  As a result, he will be one of the first recipients of carbon credits in the field of agriculture!  

Watch as he explains the specific practices that benefit us all.

Cooling Off

Do you have trouble cooling off in the hot Summer months?  

So do the crops in the fields.  Watch today's video to hear Layne Miles explain the science behind plants needing to rest and how farmers can help them cool off during the extreme heat of Summer.  

Extra money on organic produce?

Are you confused about the messages encouraging you to spend extra money on organic produce?

Watch today's Visit With a Farmer to hear Sam Whitaker of Whitaker Farms explain the safety of non-organic foods and the benefits we all receive because of the improved practices in modern agriculture.  Urbanites have freedom to pursue dreams and create new technologies while farmers feed the world and protect the environment!

Harvesting in July: Whitaker Farms

Most people who think about harvest time associate it with Fall.  However, Whitaker Farms has never been limited by what most people think.  In 2016, they are harvesting in JULY!  

first hopper full of rice in 2016

first hopper full of rice in 2016

Watch today's video to learn about all the reasons Jim Whitaker accepted the invitation to participate in a trial crop of this new rice seed with a shorter growing season and how his plans will benefit their soil and the waterfowl that will visit their farm this winter.  

Only a Spectator

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To be a spectator means you watch an activity without taking part. Even though I become emotionally invested in my sons’ baseball games, I am still only a spectator.  I’m not actually taking part in the game. 

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Questioning the Coach

So many times, I have watched a game from the bleachers and questioned the coach in my head: “Why doesn’t he teach him to swing at a perfect pitch like that?” only to find out later that my son was doing exactly what the coach gave him signs to do.  By “taking a pitch” and not swinging, the batter allows his teammate to steal a base and get on second, or at least it works that way in youth baseball.  

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Leave it to the Expert

The coach has a plan.  The coach knows more than I do about baseball.  The coach has analyzed the game and all the risks and consequences involved.   Good coaches combine their experience and knowledge to create job security and better opportunities for themselves and their players.

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Is Farming a Spectator Sport?

With concerns about food safety and the environment being highlighted today, it seems as though farming has become a bit of a spectator sport.  From the sidelines, many who are removed from agriculture are wanting farmers to go back to the processes used in the twentieth century because they assume they're safer and better for the environment.  Some call for no irrigation so we don’t continue to deplete our water supply.  Others suggest that farmers should never, under any circumstances, use pesticides.  But in the words of Sam Whitaker:  “Everyone would have to grab their hoe and come back to the farm if we revert to the way things were.”  

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How Things Were

In the 1900’s, farmers represented 38 percent of the American population, on an average of 147 acres of land.  Today, farmers represent just 2 percent of the American population, on an average of 440 acres of land.  Where did all the farmers go?  The same place I did…. to the city.  

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The Faithful Few

Farming practices are continuing to develop, so thankfully the two percent of the population can keep feeding the rest of us.  By perfecting the balance of farming and science, agriculture professionals allow us to continue pursuing our interests and creating new ones.  

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Willing Partners

Accountability is a good thing.  As Matt Miles said on his recent video, farmers are implementing better practices today than they were several years ago because the public has asked questions and raised concerns.  

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Thoroughly Invested

While this accountability has brought about obvious improvements, as a spectator and one who is not actually taking part in farming, it helps me to remember that the farmer knows more than I do about what is and what isn’t possible in his operation.  He has more experience than I do, and his own natural resources are what he’s investing in order to succeed.  It’s his livelihood.

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Farmers are doing their part

Jim Whitaker has developed a section of his rice farm that is irrigated solely by runoff and rain water so he is not using any water from the underground aquifer.  Farmers are quick to tell you that they must follow strict, regulated prescriptions for all fertilizers or chemicals applied to their crops.  Any product they use has been thoroughly tested by the FDA and standardized at a level that is set to be conservatively safe for human consumption.  This process is very similar to the regulations placed on medications here in America.  They keep us safe and healthy.  

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Trust the System

The experts are qualified for a reason, and we can't all be experts at everything.  Whether it’s a farmer or a doctor or a coach or a plumber, they are more experienced and better educated on the subject than I am.  They aren’t perfect, but they are professionals who combine their knowledge and experience to benefit all of us.  

 

Orange Crop Damage: Asian Citrus Psyllid

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Oranges at Risk

According to a recent article in Farm Futures by Mike Wilson, orange growers in Florida are caught in a tough situation that could cost them their livelihoods.  A terrible pest called the Asian citrus psyllid is spreading a disease that is plaguing the state’s citrus groves and moving west to Texas and California as well.  

Damaging Disease

This nasty little guy lands on the leaves of the citrus trees and infects them with a bacterial disease.  The disease incubates in the root system and spreads through the trunk, cutting off the flow of nutrients to the fruit.  Obviously, the starving fruit suffers.  It ends ups dry and sour.  That’s definitely not the way consumers have become accustomed to enjoying their delicious Florida oranges.

 

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Good News!

Scientists at Texas A&M University are developing a genetically engineered solution from a spinach gene.  This gene can be inserted in an infected orange tree to create a resistance to the bacteria’s destruction and, therefore, significantly decrease the pesticides that are currently being sprayed on the groves to combat these invasive pests. 

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Consumer Confidence?

An extensive report came out recently from the National Academy of Sciences confirming once again the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  So consumers will be thrilled to continue their regular consumption of oranges, right?  Farmers sure hope so!  Despite numerous endorsements and assurances by the science community, the public still seems tentative to let go of  their concerns about GMOs.  Agriculture professionals around the country are spreading the word about this most recent report.  And after reading this thorough report, Mark Lynas, an environmentalist and former anti-GMO activist turned supporter, recently proclaimed "The GMO debate is over -again."  The truth about the  confirmed safety and continued good that are developing from the revolutionary science behind GMOs is slowly seeping out from under the pile of confusion and misinformation.  Scientists, farmers, and environmentalists remain hopeful for long term answers for our environment and our growing population!

 

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Scientific Advancements 

The science behind GMOs is innovative and ingenious.  After watching this short clip, I learned that by isolating individual chromosomes, scientists can speed up and refine the process of managing nature, which people have been doing for thousands of years.  Instead of randomly cross-breeding or blasting plants with radiation and chemicals to break down the DNA, scientists are now able to replace one particular problematic chromosome with a beneficial one and keep the rest of the plant’s DNA intact.  These replacement chromosomes, taken from other naturally occurring organisms, can infuse the plant with characteristics to withstand environmental hardships such as insects, weed competition or even risks from drought and flooding.  

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How To Proceed?

So what is a Florida orange grower to do?  His current choices seem to be either  1.) continue pouring money and chemicals into his groves with little results, or  2.) risk consumers’ rejection of a safe product because of misinformation.  What would you do if you were one of these farmers who is caught between a rock and a hard place?

The Threat of Pigweed and Natural GMOs

See that tall weed growing in Layne Miles' soybean field?  That's a pigweed plant, and with all the seeds on the top of it, it can reproduce very quickly to take over a large section of the field.  Weeds compete with the crops for nutrition in the soil and space for receiving sunlight.  The loss of these necessary resources results in unhealthy crops and lower yields.  

Natural Genetic Modification

Watch this short clip and hear Layne use the example of how pigweed has, unfortunately, naturally modified itself to become resistant to common herbicides.  He explains, however, that scientists oversee this very same process in a beneficial way when developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be more tolerant to environmental hardships. 

The Butcher Block

We have a unique piece of furniture in the middle of our kitchen that we lovingly refer to as “the butcher block”.  My amazing husband surprised me with it when we moved into our house fifteen years ago. 

my kids displaying their baking skills

my kids displaying their baking skills

It’s the center of activity in our home.  

friends celebrating 

friends celebrating 

Grand Central

My friends sit nearby it on a stool and visit while I chop, stir and toss lunch.  We leave notes for each other on it.  Some of our best conversations are had leaning against it. 

my son showing his cast

my son showing his cast

When our kids were young, they climbed on an adjusting stool called the Learning Tower to be able to reach it. 

my daughter standing on the Learning Tower

my daughter standing on the Learning Tower

Appetizers are served on it when guests come for dinner. 

Birthday candles are blown out on it.  

celebrating my nephew's birthday

celebrating my nephew's birthday

Science experiments are conducted on it.  

discovering the science of an egg and corn syrup

discovering the science of an egg and corn syrup

So, so, so many interactions happen around the butcher block.

the buffet

the buffet

Available 

And the thing every member of my family knows about this focal point is that whatever is on the butcher block is available to be eaten.  If there’s a colander of fresh blueberries sitting there, pop a few in your mouth.  If there are sliced bell peppers, grab a handful as you walk by.  If there’s a cinnamon roll from Bubba’s Chicken, fork off a bite and enjoy.  If there’s something you want to save for later, don’t leave it on the butcher block because it will get eaten! 

kids sharing treats

kids sharing treats

The Rhythm of Our Home

Every home has a rhythm, and the butcher block has been the platform for our family to establish a rhythm of eating healthy food.  Something my kids often hear me say is “Eat what’s on the butcher block before you eat anything else.”  Translation:  I’ve put things on the butcher block you may not otherwise have chosen.  Eat the healthy food that’s there first, then you can have the chips and crackers you would have reached for.  It’s fun to hear them divide and negotiate who will eat what so they can move on to other foods.  The fruit always goes first.

bedtime snacks

bedtime snacks

Eat Real Food

So, what’s on the butcher block?  It could be any number of things from my refrigerator.  Sometimes it’s red, orange or yellow bell peppers and nuts.  There are often cherry tomatoes, bananas, apples, or cucumbers.  Celery, carrots, grapes, berries or avocados can also make an appearance.  All types of plant-based nutrition find their way to our kitchen's butcher block.  

 

kid-friendly red knives from Pampered Chef, cinnamon carrots, kiwi, apple 

kid-friendly red knives from Pampered Chef, cinnamon carrots, kiwi, apple 

Non-Organic

When grocery shopping, I always choose non-organic produce.  Growing up with farmers and continuing to visit with them about their current farming methods that are safer than ever, gives this consumer confidence!  I'm no longer confused or afraid of buying non-organic produce.

yum

yum

Well-Balanced

Just because my kids eat a variety of produce doesn't mean they would choose it every time.  Our bodies have a predisposition to crave sugary foods, so it’s hard work to stay away from them.  And we certainly don’t always.  We try to keep a balance in our home of routinely eating a variety of food around our table together, and that includes enjoying treats together.  By encouraging them to develop a broad palate, we hope our kids will mature into adults who enjoy the value of a healthy lifestyle.  

What's Your Rhythm? 

When my husband brought this fun piece home, we had no idea our butcher block would provide the creative avenue for our family to learn to eat food we wouldn’t naturally choose.  You might even say that this piece of furniture is teaching us to make healthier food choices.  Hopefully some of the experiences will stay with them as they begin making their own nutritional decisions.  At least for now, they are ordering lots of veggies on their Subway sandwiches.  That's a good start!  What’s your rhythm?  How do you train yourself and your family to eat real food?  

 

The Right Thing To Do

If you've watched Sam Whitaker's other videos, you've heard him mention "The right thing to do".  Whitaker Farms places the highest value on making decisions that are the safest and most sustainable for consumers and the environment. 

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Watch and listen as Sam talks about their current nutrient management program and the benefits it brings to natural habitat around the world.  

Teamwork in Agriculture: Miles Farms

If you spend any time visiting with Matt Miles about farming, you quickly learn that he sees modern farming as a team effort.  

Layne, Sherrie and Matt Miles from Miles Farms

Layne, Sherrie and Matt Miles from Miles Farms

Matt's agronomist, crop consultant and office manager are just a few of the people he depends on to to make decisions about the safety and success of his yield.  In this short clip, you'll hear Matt explain how his team is developing a plan to draw out the nutrients in the soil for the enrichment of their crops.  

CCTF's Mission pursuit of Ethical Agriculture

This is the third and final post in a series developing our mission statement:  Promoting healthy food choices for all budgets by highlighting the nutritional value and sustainability of non-organic agriculture.  We pursue ethics in agriculture by making food available to everyone.

A Home for All

We know that with privilege comes responsibility.  It is an enormous privilege for us to enjoy this beautiful planet and all the living things that call it home.  Even with the confusion and controversy surrounding environmental issues, we know one thing for sure:  we have a responsibility to preserve the earth and it’s resources for the next generation. 

new growth

new growth

Preparing for the Future

Connecting City to Farm sees agriculture professionals proactively preparing to receive the 9.5 billion people who will live here by 2050, and we want to spread the word to others who can follow in their courageous footsteps.  We all have a contribution, however small it may be, to enrich the opportunities for future generations.  As Sam Whitaker says, "It's the right thing to do."

Who Can Meet the Challenge?

If Certified Organic farmers were called upon to provide food for the world’s entire population, we would loose a huge percentage of current forests, wetlands, prairies, and other natural wildlife habitats and suffer under astronomical food costs.  A significantly larger portion of land is required to grow and harvest Certified Organic crops because more of the yield is lost due to insect damage and low levels of nutrients in the soil from weed competition.  

flooding a rice field                                                                                                                                                                                  photo credit:  Morgan Baugh

flooding a rice field                                                                                                                                                                                  photo credit:  Morgan Baugh

More for Less

Non-organic crops are more sustainable for the environment than Certified Organic crops because it takes fewer natural resources like land and water to produce the same amount of yield.  Under strict regulations and accountability, non-organic farmers are allowed to use pesticides that protect their crops from weeds and insects.  

 

a carefully measured application being loaded into an ag plane

a carefully measured application being loaded into an ag plane

Follow the Prescription

“Are these pesticides safe?” you may ask.  Absolutely.  They are safe.  In the same way that patients follow the carefully researched, tested and specifically prescribed dosages on their medications, farmers follow FDA regulations regarding pesticide applications.  If they don’t, they will face serious legal consequences that jeopardize their businesses.

a bountiful rice harvest

a bountiful rice harvest

Increased Yield

By responsibly applying herbicide, non-organic farmers can control the weeds that compete with their crops for valuable nutrients found in the soil.  Reasonable amounts of insecticides can be used, only when necessary, to decrease costly damage from insects allowing the majority of yield to be preserved for consumption.

family on the farm

family on the farm

Family Farms Take On the Challenge 

As the Agriculture Professionals from Whitaker Farms, Miles Farms and most other family farming operations will assure you, farmers are the ones who are most concerned about preserving and protecting our environment.  They are hopeful about strategically meeting the challenges ahead, and they are daily taking on the responsibility to leave the earth ready for the next generation to enjoy.  

The Next Generation of Farmers

my dad holding me on our farm

my dad holding me on our farm

Over the last 30 years, the average age of farmers has steadily risen to 58 years old.  With most farmers entering the retirement stage, we are excited to introduce you to a new generation farmer.  

 

Layne and Matt Miles with a professor who taught them both

Layne and Matt Miles with a professor who taught them both

Layne Miles recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant and Soil Science and is already bringing his up-to-date understanding of fertilizers, water usage and soil development back to Miles Farms.  

 

Watch as Layne tells how he and his wife, Ryane, are implementing innovative ideas and practices that make the future of farming very bright for those of us who eat!  

 

The Nutritional Science behind CCTF Mission Statement

 

This is the second in a series of three posts developing our mission statement:  Promoting healthy food choices for all budgets by highlighting the nutritional value and sustainability of non-organic agriculture.  

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As a planet, we are growing.  The world’s population is steadily rising and will reach 9.5 billion people by the year 2050.  Life is good, right?  And more life is better!  

Medical and Lifestyle Advancements

Today, we have a deeper understanding of personal health and how to teach others about healthy lifestyles.  As a result, we’ve seen a decrease in infant mortality and an increase in overall life expectancy.  Again, more life is better! 

my grandfather holding me

my grandfather holding me

If agriculture remains the same, we will not be able to feed the world's ever growing population.  That's a problem.  Thankfully, innovative scientists are constantly looking for answers. 

happy Kenyans

happy Kenyans

A Solution

Guess what?  They have found a great one:  GMOs (genetically modified organisms).  However, the solution has many farmers wondering how much science is necessary to assure consumers of the safety of GMOs.  

a maturing field of genetically modified corn          photo credit:  Morgan Baugh                                                                                                                                                                                             

a maturing field of genetically modified corn         photo credit:  Morgan Baugh                                                                                                                                                                                            

Knowledge is Power

The knowledge of how to isolate chromosomes and manage their placement has given us the ability to facilitate nature's process in a faster, more controlled and safer way than ever before.  Humans have been nature's stewards for thousands of years by using creative processes like grafting branches from one tree on to another and by cross pollinating plants.

Trying to Perfect the Science

In more recent years, before chromosomes were specifically identified, scientists blasted plants with radiation and chemicals to try to break down the chromosomes.  These mutations fall under the options that Certified Organic famers may choose.

my daughter in a field of genetically modified cotton

my daughter in a field of genetically modified cotton

However, scientists have discovered a way to isolate individual chromosomes in DNA and remove them from one naturally occurring organism and insert them into the DNA of another naturally occurring organism.  It’s quite miraculous!

What is it?

So what is the science?  I watched a short clip by Piffle and discovered that the revolution of genetic modification is a much more specific and intentional process than any other form of plant husbandry ever used.

a common food label

a common food label

Effective Marketing

Seeing non-GMO labels on so many products misleads consumers into believing that GMOs are somehow harmful, or should be avoided.  But what is the science behind GMOs?  A plethora of independent scientific studies have been published over the 20 years that genetically engineered crops have been grown and harvested in the US and not a single instance of harm has come to any human or animal.  These scientific studies have been rigorously scrutinized by peer reviews and affirmed in their findings.   

No Health Effects Shown

Critics would have us believe that GMOs have caused an increase in obesity, Type II diabetes, autism, and many food allergies.  However, a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine was recently conducted comparing the health of North Americans who consume many GMOs in their diet with Europeans who rarely consume GMOs.  The study concluded that there was no greater incidence of Type II diabetes or obesity.  Also, the incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Celiac Disease, which makes humans intolerant to gluten, increased in both populations equally.

A Converted Supporter

Mark Lynas was a strong Greenpeace activist supporting non-GMO agriculture until he began to take a serious look at the science behind GMOs instead of being led by his assumptions.  After significant research, he realized the safety, environmental sustainability and potential for global health solutions that genetic engineering offered.  He then presented an apologetic speech giving his full support to the science and future development of biotechnology as a way to feed the world.

 

a field of genetically modified soy beans ready for harvest

a field of genetically modified soy beans ready for harvest

There are legitimate concerns about health in the world today.   Having a diet that consists largely of sugars and processed foods causes a significant decline in a person's health.  Living a life with little physical activity brings increased risks of heart disease and other problems.  Being distant and isolated from loving relationships can cause depression and unhealthy choices.  Of these legitimate concerns, there is enough science to prove that GMOs are not one of them.