Chicago moms have questions about GMOs, and Illinois farmers have answers. So, let’s talk about what’s on your table. Learn more at www.watchusgrow.org
Monsanto. Illustrated as an evil among many consumers, Monsanto forces farmers to plant genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and somehow the government influences farmers to comply. So how does this happen? Quite simply, it doesn’t happen. Farmers are not forced to plant GMOs and farmers certainly have no obligation to buy seeds from Monsanto. But farmers do choose to buy the seeds, and here’s why.
I recently spoke with two Illinois farmers, Paul Jeschke and Jeff Miller. Jeschke is a corn and soybean farmer from Grundy County, as well as Illinois Corn Marketing Board’s District 5 representative. Miller is a fifth generation farmer from Fulton County, who raises corn, soybeans, and beef cattle.
“There’s two main reasons that I like to use GMOs and do use GMOs, opposed to non-GMOs. Number one, they work a lot better. With GMOs, you’ll typically get 90-95% control of the insects you’re after. Whereas typical pesticides are weather-dependent, and maybe 50-75% control. Number two, I can avoid handling and applying pesticides with GMOs. I just as soon not use pesticides if I can stay away from them,” explained Jeschke.
Miller also added, “Though GMOs dominate the marketplace in both corn and soybeans, farmers sometimes plant non-GMOs, particularly if a premium may be involved. It is a free market system, and farmers will choose what is profitable and works in their system.”
So how does Monsanto relate to the negativism surrounding the use of GMOs? Monsanto is a sustainable agriculture company that has developed patented seeds, in which farmers must sign an agreement upon purchasing the seeds. In this agreement, Monsanto states that farmers are not allowed to save and replant the seeds from year to year.
Monsanto explains the concept of seed patenting by stating, “When a new edition of Microsoft Office hits the market, it’s copyrighted. You can’t buy a copy, burn it and sell it to your friends—or else it’s called piracy. It’s the same with Monsanto’s patented seeds. Patents, like copyrights, are a form of intellectual property protection that legally prohibits unauthorized duplication of a product.”
In our interview, Jeschke discusses how seed patents influence seed purchases saying, “We are absolutely free to buy whatever seed we want to buy, from any company. I choose to buy the majority of my seed from Monsanto, because in my area, they are the best performing seeds I can purchase. Across the country, Monsanto provides the top yielding variety, which is why they are the best-selling company. If other companies get better varieties than what Monsanto currently has, then that will change.”
“There are 3 to 4 major companies to buy seed from, and many regional type companies for corn and soybeans. Personal relationships with companies that have quality products are just as important in farming, as they are in other businesses,” Miller expressed.
As you can see, farmers study several options and take every factor into careful consideration when choosing which seeds to plant in order to harvest a safe, efficient, high-yielding crop for the market. If GMOs most suitably fit their farming operation preferences, farmers can choose GMOs. The bottom line is, farmers do control which seeds go in the ground, and which seeds don’t.
University of Illinois
THE FARM BILL IS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD AND FARMING
The Agricultural Act of 2014, better known as the Farm Bill, “is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs.” On the contrary to most opinions, the farm bill is not just about farming. In fact, there are twelve separate titles included in the legislation that receive funding. These programs focus on commodities, conservation, trade, nutrition, food assistance (food stamps), credit, rural development, research and extension, forestry, horticulture, crop insurance, and miscellaneous spending.
ORGANIC V. NATURAL
Organic and natural are two separate terminologies. Organic is a defined and regulated process in which food is produced without synthetic fertilizers. In comparison, natural is not defined by the FDA, which allows so many companies to use the term for their products. It is generally believed that natural foods are ‘minimally synthesized.”
There is no evidence that organic foods are healthier than conventional food products, but many people have this belief. Therefore, the price of organic food products is higher, compared to natural and processed foods.
THE GLOBAL POPULATION HAS A LIMIT – WE WILL BE ABLE TO FEED EVERYONE.
The Malthusian Catastrophe is the theory that, while food production sees linear growth over time, the global population experiences exponential growth. This means that the population will outgrow our food supply. However, this theory was proven inaccurate due to technological innovations that have greatly expanded our food production process. Additionally, while the global population continues to grow, the growth rate is decreasing. This is due to a decrease in birth rates for developed countries, like the United States. As the world becomes more developed, the birth and death rates will begin to even out. Eventually, the population will stabilize, or perhaps even slightly decline.
FARMERS GROW WHAT THEY WANT
The false belief that farmers cannot grow what they want probably originated from the idea of subsidies. A subsidy is an incentive, which can be used to encourage farmers to plant certain seeds, but it certainly does NOT require it. There is no statute that controls how farmers operate. In fact, there are many other factors that influence a farmer’s decision on want to plant. This includes yield potential, soil type, seed availability, seed pricing, geography, how long it takes to be harvested, resistance to drought and pests, etc.
MOST FARMS ARE RUN BY FAMILIES
While there are many who believe that the agriculture industry primarily features corporate farming, the truth is that “97 percent of US farms are operated by families.” In other words, those views could not be farther from the truth.
One of the reasons that the United States is a global agricultural exporter is because of our family-farm setup. These farmers know how to utilize their land much more efficiently than just some corporate entity. Farming is a privilege for families and individuals to make a living by providing food for the world. It is not just about making a profit.
FARMERS GET WATER FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
For water, farmers rely on springs, rivers, creeks, ponds, wells, and municipal options. Accessing groundwater from wells is a popular technique, as farmers can protect its high quality more efficiently.
Additionally, farmers used various practices to preserve their water resources. Rotational grazing and mulch, for example, allow soils to contain higher volumes of water. Such practices are beneficial to farmers, as they do not have to rely on other water sources.
THE CAREER POSSIBILITIES WITHIN AGRICULTURE ARE NOT LIMITED
With huge agricultural-based companies like Cargill, ADM, DuPont Pioneer, and Monsanto, it’s hard to understand why this even needs to be discussed. There are endless career opportunities within the agriculture sector involving marketing, sales, economics, finance, consulting, nutrition, soils, food science, advertising, engineering, insurance, research, animal care, management, policy making, etc.
University of Illinois
We could spend hours talking about the incredible and often ridiculous food information that is thrown our way on social media. From dieting how-tos to organic eating guides, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are chock-full of information about food. As consumers and social media-frequenters, it is especially important to be critical of the quantity and quality of information that is being placed in front of us. If you ever come across a food-related article, keep these pointers in mind:
- Ask, “Where is this information coming from?”
So let’s do an example. The title of one such article is “Research Indicates That GMO Could Be a Cause of Infertility.” What’s the name of the article’s publishing website? Natural Fertility Info. There are links to the site’s all-natural (which are heavily promoted as “all-natural”) products such as a Fertility Cleanse Kits and a Self-Fertility Massage DVD. If a concerned couple were to click on this article and read it, they may begin to panic about GMO consumption. Maybe they are experiencing infertility. Now, after reading this article, they will not only second-guess their GMO consumption but also shop around for “all-natural” products. We have to be critical of the motivations behind websites.
As an additional example, this article addresses the problem behind relying on sources that seem to be credible because they focus on a certain issue. This article caught my attention, because I am genuinely interested to watch the organic farming industry expand. It is something different and I know that it takes a great deal of hard work. I found that it is on a website titled “GMWatch.” I wandered over to the “About” page and the site claims to “provide the public with the latest news and comment on genetically modified (GMO) foods and crops.” However, in the very next paragraph, the website says, “GMWatch is an independent organization that seeks to counter the enormous corporate political power and propaganda of the GMO industry and its supporters.” Which of the two is the actual goal of the site? Does GMWatch want to find airtight truths about GMOs or do they want to bring down the GMO industry? If this site truly wanted to shed light on the GMO industry, they should have a much more unbiased profile. Therefore, we have to be critical of the credibility of the sources we get information from.
- Be wary of absolutes.
“Always.” “Never.” These are common terms that pop up on my Facebook feed. Absolutes have a way of providing people with a false sense of security. “If you never eat this, you will be healthy.” “If you do eat this, your healthy diet will definitely be ruined.” This article is a perfect example of using absolutes in order to persuade the reader through threats. No, Pop Tarts and fast food meals are probably not the best for children. However, parents should not feel ashamed to give their kids a treat every once in a while. Sometimes, it is okay to eat something just because it tastes good. When I was growing up, Pop Tarts were a luxury because they were so sugary and delicious. They were not regular staples in our diets. They were treats! Completely banishing any food from a child’s diet (allergies and other health conditions excluded) sends the message that “If you eat this food, you will not be a ‘healthy’ person.” This is not the message that we should be sending the kiddos. We all need to lead healthy, balanced lives and living balanced means treating yourself every now and then!
University of Illinois
We know non-farmers have a lot of questions about pesticides. They are confusing and scary and the fear and concern you might have completely makes sense.
This mom went to out to talk to other moms about pesticides and how she uses them on her own fields. If you’re nervous about pesticides in food, you’ll definitely want to watch this one.
And then you’ll want to find out more about food, farming, and feeding your family.
As we head into 2016, we’d like to look back at the best performing posts of 2015. All week, we’ll repost the articles you liked best! Enjoy!!
AN OPEN LETTER TO AMERICANS WHO DON’T BELIEVE IN SCIENCE
Dear Every American Who Doesn’t Believe in Science:
I know you are smart. I know you care about your kids, your family, your pets. I know you are a basically decent human being who wants to do right and contribute to society. And because I know these things, I’m going to try very hard to understand why you refuse to believe in scientific fact, rather than berate you and call you names.
But I still really don’t get it.
I wish we could sit down and talk. I wish I could explain my views without you getting defensive. I wish you could show me your proof without the hair standing up on the back of my neck. So I’ll admit – we both have a problem. We both are talking to answer, not having a conversation to listen.
The funny thing is, I actually think I’m reasonably good at seeing the other side of any issue. There are a few issues where I struggle, but even then, if I’m honest with myself, I can intellectually understand the other side of the issue and why my friend or colleague has positioned himself on that side.
Regarding immunizations and genetically modified organisms, I can’t.
Yes, I view these two issues – though they are definitely in different industries – as intertwined. Why? Because the people who are anti either of them have a blatant disregard for science and I just don’t understand that.
Scientific consensus on both of these issues is that both are safe. Immunizations are safe for the vast majority of people. GMOs are safe for everyone.
Do you understand what scientific consensus is, my friend? That means that most of the scientists (maybe even those who don’t usually agree) believe the safety of GMOs and immunizations to be fact. It’s beyond dispute. The data has proven safety beyond a shadow of a doubt so that scientists no longer squabble over this issue.
There is also scientific consensus on gravity. That the Earth is round. That germs spread disease. That atoms exist.
Friend, do you question these truths as well?
The thing is, science is fact. And while there may be outliers that disagree that the Earth is round, why are you so quick to take up with the outliers that believe GMOs are bad? If you ran into a scientist who believed the Earth was flat, wouldn’t you think he was a quack? And when that same doctor believes GMOs are bad, why do you believe him?
I think it must be because buying organic has become a status symbol for you. You are buying boutique food and making all the other parents feel bad about it. Which, if true, proves another point for another day – that maybe we never really leave junior high.
Your crusade to eliminate vaccines – is it the same sort of status symbol? I just can’t cognitively understand anything else.
In fact, here’s a question I’ve been dying to ask and I promise to listen intently: do you deny your children life-saving vaccines and still use birth control? Do you buy organic produce and hormone free meats and still believe in plastic surgery? Do you use an iPhone or a computer? Why are some of these technologies demonized and others celebrated?
Let’s talk, you and I. I have gotten to a point where I really need to understand why you disregard science. Because even if your viewpoints are too solidly held to change, I have to be sure I understand how this happened and do everything I can to stop it.
Who knows what unscientific nonsense my grandchildren will face?
It’s no secret that myths surround the food industry, most of which circulate on the internet. As a consumer, it’s important to know the facts.
- Red meat is not a carcinogen. Despite the myths recently circulating on the internet, no single food has ever been linked to cancer. This includes red meat. So rest easy, and continue munching on that crunchy piece of bacon or delicious bite of Sirloin steak.
- Antibiotics are not in your food. Antibiotics are only used to cure or treat an animal that is sick or diseased. The antibiotic-free campaign is not only harmful but also inhumane because it denies sick and dying animals the right to medical treatment. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) strictly monitors antibiotic use in livestock and enforces strict withdrawal periods to ensure no antibiotic traces can be found in our food system.
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not evil. GMOs are the most widely tested crop on the market, and there is no scientific evidence proving that GMOs pose any sort of health risk. And ultimately, we need GMOs.
- Genetically modified (GM) wheat does not exist. There are only two methods used to produce new varieties of wheat: conventional crossing and introduction of genes native to modern-day wheat. “No GM wheat is commercially grown in the United States,” confirmed by the USDA.
- Everyone needs to beef up. That’s right. Lean beef deserves a place on your plate and is included in the best diets, developed by nutritional experts. Consuming protein more than once a day is also encouraged and has proven beneficial to overall health.
- Your food wasn’t produced on a factory farm. ‘Large corporations control farms in the United States and animals are raised in crowded, inhumane conditions.’ This is a common rumor, spread much too often in the farming industry. However the truth is, 97% of farms are family-owned and operated.
- “No Sugar Added” and “Sugar-Free” isn’t a guarantee. These claims are often plastered on the boxes of our favorite sweets, but that doesn’t mean they are healthier. No sugar added and sugar-free products can still contain natural sugar and carbohydrate.
- “Free Range” isn’t the picture in your head. Most consumers picture chickens running free through the green fields of wide, open spaces. But in reality, the only requirement for a “free range” label is that the poultry “has been allowed access to the outside.” Cage-free, free-range, and organic are common buzzwords found on egg cartons utilized by the advertising industry.
- “Gluten-Free” is a dangerous trend. Whole grains, unlike gluten-free products, contain fiber and other nutrients that are essential to a healthy diet. Switching to a gluten-free diet can do more harm than good if you do not have celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or any other medical reason to reduce gluten intake.
- 10. Calories count. Many were outraged by the story of the man who lost 56 pounds on a strict McDonald’s diet for a straight six months. How could he do this when McDonald’s is supposed to be so unhealthy? Weight loss isn’t what you eat but rather how much you eat, say experts.
This post was originally posted last year on November 13th, and it is the perfect time for a poultry refresher.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to let you in on the Grocer’s Turkey secrets! Popular to common belief, not all turkeys are created equal and not all consumers are educated before making their poultry decisions! Before you purchase your prized bird for your family feast, make sure you know these 6 turkey labels to look for!
No Antibiotics: This term signifies a producer’s demonstration of animals being raised without antibiotics. However, whether or not the bird was fed antibiotics, there is a law that the animals must go through a “withdrawal” to allow traces of antibiotics to leave the turkey before it is slaughtered, to ensure the complete absence of antibiotic residues in the bird. So whether your label reads “No Antibiotics” or not, come time to eat, your bird will not contain any antibiotics.
No Hormones: Producers use this term to trick you into thinking that other turkeys that are not their brand are filled with nasty hormones. FALSE! By law, Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. In order to even use the “No Hormones” label, it must be followed by the statement “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
So far we have learned that ALL turkeys in the grocery stores are able to be served up at your Thanksgiving Day feast without any antibiotics or hormones, thanks to the laws in place.
- Three other labeling tactics are the Organic, Natural, and Free range labels.
Organic uses those generic No Hormone, No Antibiotic labels, as well as labels that express that their turkeys will have been raised organically on certified organic land that has outdoor access and fed certified organic feed. This is nice except for the fact that although they have access to the outdoors, how many turkeys actually get outside? For this Organic label you will likely be paying 6X more at the grocery store.
Natural: Natural was the most truthful label I have seen so far. Natural means minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients. The turkeys are fed animal by-products, which wild turkeys are accustomed to. No notation of the diets or living conditions is needed for this label.
Free Range is another deceptive label. Free Range labeling does not require a producer to have a set allowance of outdoor time in the wind and sun, the minimum requirement that they have is to have outdoor access (sound familiar). Being labeled “Free Range” does not necessarily mean better or worse living conditions.
So what have we learned? As you can see marketing ploys are all over your Thanksgiving packaging, from how the turkeys are raised to what is in the meat you purchase. This Thanksgiving make sure you are educated about your purchases and if you have farming friends, ASK questions or ask right here in the comments! These labels are out there to make money, not to tell consumers the truth! Don’t be fooled by marketing this season.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at IL Corn!
Illinois State University
Looking ahead to what you have planned for the coming week can make meal preparation a breeze. Be sure to plan meals that will fit your schedule, lifestyle, and health goals accordingly.
Below is a link to a printable list with common items needed on a grocery store visit.
2.Create Your List to Fit Your Grocery Store
This may take some time to get the hang of if you have recently switched a new store. Once you are familiar with the layout of your go to grocery store, arrange your list so that your first few items will be found first and your last items are towards the back of the store. This can not only save time, but also keeps you from getting distracted by unneeded items and can keep you within your budget!
3.Check The Local Paper For Coupons and Sales
Taking a few short minutes to go through your local paper in order to find sales and coupons for your favorite grocery store can help you stick to your budget however you should be sure to stick to only the necessary items to avoid overspending!
4.Set A Budget For The Weekly Groceries
Setting a budget for the necessities and a few treats can help you from overspending and also helps you stick to your dietary goals without adding unnecessary junk foods.
The link below gives 10 great tips to sticking to your grocery budget!
5.Skip The Organic
With today’s media hype and fast food chains such as Chipotle capitalizing on Non-GMO or Organic Only advertisement, it is easy to assume that these foods are healthier. Organic foods have never been proven to be healthier or more environmentally safe. In fact, many GMO foods have added nutritional value and use fewer pesticides than their organic counterparts. Skip, the organic and take the savings by buying GM foods!
The link below helps bust some of the common myths surrounding organic foods and is a great quick read!
6.Plan Your Grocery Store Trip On A Specific Day and Time
The link below has some great tips and tricks on when to plan your trip to the grocery store. Finding out when fresh items are brought in, going when the best deals are available, and going after a meal are just a few examples in this great post!
I’m not a scientist and I would never pretend to be one. But, I do have a science degree and I do work in a particularly science-heavy industry, so I feel like I know a few basic things about common science and science.
Which is why it angers me and saddens me that our world today consists of millions of people who will believe anything they read as law without questioning it first. They could be reading the opinions of a five-year old on nuclear weapons and suddenly, that five-year old should be the next Secretary of State – or at least the head of the U.S. Army. Or maybe a housewife with too much time on her hands has created the next fad diet that will melt away the weight with only toilet paper and kosher meals as seen on Orange is the New Black – and suddenly everyone is eating kosher and pretending to be Jewish.
Either way, I’ve come up with a few questions to ask yourself when you’re reading something new. These are meant to simply help you question the validity of everything you read and to get the thoughts flowing – they will not determine fact and fiction for you. Only your amazing God-given brain will do that.
Who is the author of this article/research/data?
Anything that you read that causes you to consider changing any aspect of your life bears some amount of research into the author.
Is the author an honest-to-goodness expert in this area with an advanced degree? Is the advanced degree in a related field to the information they are sharing? (Don’t listen to a Ph.D. in Journalism tell you about Engineering and think she’s an authority!) Does the author work for someone other than themselves? Is their employer a reputable source?
Before you cut all red fruits and veggies from your diet, google the name of the person telling you to do that. If that person isn’t a registered dietitian for a reputable company or a food scientist from a serious university, you probably need to investigate further.
2. Does the article/advice make sense given what you already know?
This particular pointer falls into the “Is it too good to be true” category. No one is going to lose 50 pounds in 1 week using this quick and easy tip. No one is going to single-handedly change the course of human history by eliminating this from their schedule.
As an example, there is a movement supporting raw milk these days. The folks that feed their families only raw milk are ignoring basic science and history that I know they learned in fourth grade. Heating milk to kill pathogens is healthy. The end. If drinking raw milk promises you all sorts of health benefits with none of the risks of Listeria, then it’s too good to be true. It just is.
3. What does the rest of the industry say about this advice/information?
If you’re reading about vaccines, what do all other medical professionals say about this advice? If you’re considering a new exercise plan, what do other personal trainers and physical therapists say about this plan? If you’re worried about the latest food borne illness scare and considering swearing off fruits and veggies, what does the ag industry and the nutritionists and dietitians say about this food borne illness occurrence?
I understand that those of you with a tendency to believe everything you read have a natural hesitation to accept the advice of the industries you’re reading about. You have a natural inclination to be skeptical. But be skeptical of what you read too.
If farmers, who have been farming for decades and whose families have been farming for a century, tell you that an article is not true, it probably isn’t. If a doctor with a real medical degree advises you that the medical community agrees on this course of treatment, trust that to a certain degree.
Even if you don’t 100% believe what the related industry is telling you, hearing their opinion is important to developing a more rounded view of the data you’re considering.
At the end of the day, just use your brain.
I know that reading and understanding scientific articles can be difficult and no fun. Scientists are not skilled journalists and their writing is not always easily understood or very clearly written. But you don’t have to dig through research journals to figure everything out.
Use your brain. You know what sounds too good to be true. You know what seems like complete medical quackery. Listen to the body of experts around you. Do a little research. Remember, not everything on the internet is true.
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