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Ohio: Consider Some of the Benefits of Genetically Modified Foods

August 8, 2014
Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, wrote a wonderful op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the use of agricultural biotechnology in food production:

Some technologies enjoy nearly universal approval. What's not to like about safer cars, better health diagnostics and instant access to virtually all the world's knowledge? But high tech on a fork? Now there's something that for some folks is hard to swallow.

When I agreed to contribute to this discussion about genetically modified (GM) foods, it was with the understanding that Farm Bureau isn't in the business of telling anyone what types of food to embrace or avoid. That said, we also believe there are aspects of the GM story that would be beneficial to anyone who wants to make informed food choices. So here are a few items to consider.

Experts confirm the safety of GM foods. Granted, food choices aren't purely academic, but to the extent you're influenced by research, the respected American Association for the Advancement of Science says, "the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe."

Confirmation comes from the extensive safety reviews by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and sometimes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Science aside, one fact is noteworthy: GM foods have been on the market since 1996; billions of meals and snacks have been consumed without one single report of illness linked to the technology.

GM crops also help make eating affordable. The more food we grow, the less it costs. Biotech crops, which are less susceptible to bad weather, insects and other yield-robbers have helped farmers boost yields as much as 20 percent and grow almost 312 million tons more food in the past 15 years.

This technology is also environmentally friendly. Because GM crops resist insects or make it easier to control weeds, global pesticide applications since 1996 have been reduced by more than 1 billion pounds and herbicide runoff has been reduced by 70 percent. And since farming GM crops requires fewer tractor trips across the field, greenhouse gas emissions are lowered by the equivalent of taking 10.2 million cars off the road for a year.

Find trustworthy sources to help you make informed decisions. Choose the foods and food production systems that are right for you and be respectful of the choices made by others.