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SafeFood© Smackdown- GMO Debates

January 22, 2014

IMG_0926gmoIn last Sunday’s newspaper, there was an article from the New York Times about the process involved with a recently passed ban of genetically engineered crops (aka GMO) on the island of Hawaii. The process described for the vote in Hawaii illustrated the frustrations of one council member who sought science based information to form his decision; information he collected on his own mostly as other council members did not invite scientists from the University to speak. Rather a self-proclaimed expert on GMOs provided information to the group, which ultimately did vote in favor of the ban.
GMOs have been a hot topic since their introduction about 20 years ago, but more recent attention has ensued because of World Food Prize recognition given to the large agri-business company Monsanto for its contributions in development of GMO seeds resistant to certain pests (i.e. Bt corn). Certainly GMO can play a role in improving productivity of crops. In Hawaii the concern was the new ban would forbid use of a genetically modified papaya, which likely will result in increased challenges to farmers. Wonder what the impact of these will be on production costs and ultimately food costs? Granted, I married into a farming family so appreciate advances that improve productivity. But, genetically modified rice adds missing vitamins to this staple food in third world countries – keeping a lot of children from suffering nutrient deficiencies in what may be lower quality diets. I get this is an issue on which reasonable people disagree; I have had conversations with those who have views different from me. Yes, if there were trans-species types of manipulation, that might be a little creepy, but that is not current practice. Personally, I really don’t get the uproar. If people want to purchase non-GMO foods, they can do so by buying organic. They have choices. The January cover of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (I think these folks know science) magazine, shown above, certainly makes a statement. What do you think?



Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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