GMO vs. Non-GMO: Panel discusses what it means

WARREN, Ohio – Farmers, lawmakers and concerned citizens gathered in Trumbull County May 15 to learn about genetically modified organisms and how they could impact the food supply.

The Trumbull County Farm Bureau and the League of Women Voters of Trumbull County hosted the event, “Farmed and Confused: The GMO and non-GMO Discussion.”

Panel

A panel consisting of Leah Dorman, senior director of animal and food policy at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation as well as a farmer and veterinarian, Floyd Davis, a vegetable producer an owner of Red Basket Farm in Kinsman, and Dale Baker, a retired seed salesman, talked about the controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms.

GMO are necessary

Baker said genetically modified corn and soybeans are necessary in order to produce the best crop at a good price. He added that the goal is to feed the world and that goal is going to get more difficult in the coming years as the world’s population grows and farmland diminishes.

He added that GMO corn and soybeans produce higher yields per acre and that is needed to feed the world. He said that GMO soybeans produce 10 more bushels per acre and corn produces 20 more bushels per acre than in 1992 when GMO products hit the market.

Baker also went to explain to the group that there are 100,000 genes in a corn plant. He said only one gene has been changed to include the BT gene, which is commonly referred to as genetically modified.

GMO benefits

Dorman said she witnessed first-hand the benefits of GMO when the drought hit her northwest Ohio farm in 2012. She said she and her husband had some panic moments but in the end, they were able to produce a crop and it was possible because of GMO corn, due to the drought resistance gene the GMO products have in them.

Sustainability

Meanwhile, Davis said there are very few genetically modified vegetables being produced. He said the seeds don’t have the genetic modifications. However, he said while he does follow organic practices in his vegetable production, he is not organically certified. Instead, Davis believes in developing the soil and “leaving it in better shape than when you got it.”

He added it is more important for him to have his operation be sustainable than to be deemed an organic or non-organic operation.

Dorman agreed with Davis. She said that sustainability is important for the food supply and that is necessary in order for the world’s food supply to continue.

Livestock

Dorman also talked about whether or not genetically modified corn and soybeans are safe for livestock.

She told the crowd at DiLucia’s Banquet Room in Warren that both have been tested and satisfied the regulation process at the USDA, Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, and it has been declared safe.

She said every seed has gone through the FDA, which was a voluntary process and the FDA deemed that it is not nutritionally different from non-GMO corn and soybeans because it doesn’t change the end product.

After the panel shared their comments, the crowd had the chance to weigh in with their own questions.

The fight

One person asked if GMO corn and soybeans is safe, then why  is so much money being spent to fight legislation concerning labeling.

The panel summed it up with one word: Cost.

Dorman explained that if it’s just labels, the cost will be pretty low and that can be absorbed by the consumer.

However, when a farmer has to consider tracing the products and segregation on the farm between GMO and non-GMO corn and soybeans, the cost gets significant.

She said that if a farmer produces both non-GMO and GMO on his farm, then the cost of separate equipment such as wagons and separate grain bins have to be considered. In the end, it means more infrastructure and the costs would have to be passed on to consumer.

Double the price

Baker said the cost of organic is already double the price of GMO.

He added that the costs to produce organic products are double and that means the price food is double.

“The cost is going to be there regardless of what we do,” said Baker.

The problem is the cost would have to be passed onto the consumers and that would hit the lower class the hardest.

The panel shared that certified organic foods are labor intensive to produce, which means it has a higher cost and if a farmer has to have the third party verification service to show that is organic, that will mean additional costs.

“The farm has to pass it on,” said Dorman.

Market choice

Davis asked the group, why the United States would want to force labeling. He feels the market will take care of itself. If someone wants organic, they can purchase it. If they want genetically modified then they can get it.

The group plans on continuing the learning series. They are planning another learning session June 28 about where the milk supply comes from.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

4 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    An article and/or debate on GMOs is not real without a true description of what they are and the different types, as well as others who oppose the use of GMOs. If GMOs are safe for humans, why ask if its safe for animals? Aren’t we going to eat the animals. And farmers should grow GMOs or be certified organic growers. They should not be allowed to do both unless its grown on a seperate parcel of land. Then there’s no cost for seperating one from the other. This is a serious issue… so get serious!

  2. Larry says:

    The main thing that I do not think is discussed is the amount of herbicides that are sprayed on the plant when it is a GMO plant. The GMO seed when planted and raised like no-GMO seeds, I do not think you have as much difference. However, when that GMO plant is sprayed with large amounts of herbicides, that can not be good for the food or ground. You hear stories of animals like birds not comimg to fields sprayed with herbicides or animals being sterile from being around fields sprayed with large amounts or herbicides and pesticides. So the way the plant is raised to me is what tells the story. With Non-GMO the plant can not be sprayed, with GMO seeds the plant can be sprayed. To me that is the big difference that people should be made aware of.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Larry,
      As opposed to what you will find online about “organic,” the term mostly has to do with the kind of pesticides used and not the amounts. Yes, there are pesticides used in organic farming. The fields are sprayed regardless, and some of the same pesticides are used in both organic and non-organic farming. Generally, “natural” pesticides are less effective, so the farmer actually has to use more of them. However, the main two pesticides used in GMO farming (glyphosate and Bt) are also used in different ways in organic farming. Therefore, the increase in price doesn’t really reflect pesticide use in my mind. People are willing to pay more for organic products because they are made to think that these products are in fact better when they contain identical nutrients The only change in one gene, which has been studied extensively.

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