First, the six to ten day outlook is for above average temperature and slightly above average precipitation. Our average temperature in December is in the low to mid-40s and the average precipitation for the month is normally around an inch or less. Some forecasters are predicting an active weather pattern through the end of the year. In English that means unsettled weather with chances for precipitation coming through the area about every six to eight days. Whether it is rain or snow depends on how far north or south these pieces of energy track. Time will tell. Now onto today’s discussion.
Hopefully you read the title and thought salt can’t be GMO. Last week’s column discussed farmer sustainability and the myths/misconceptions out there posing as science and advertising campaigns. The problem isn’t so much the misleading ads or the pseudoscience on social media. The real problem is the ignorance and fear on the part of much of the public. We, as a society seem woefully ignorant about basic science and it creates unnecessary conflict/confusion. So today, a brief primer on science, agriculture, and your food.
• GMO is an acronym for Genetically Modified Organism. Technically, all the food at your table has been genetically modified from the ancestors from which it came and continues to be. However, GMO denotes the direct manipulation of genetic material – DNA- at a cellular level. The CRISPR technology in the news from China is the latest, most sophisticated example. We can turn genes on and off or insert different genes into plants and animals. Roundup Ready crops and Bt corn/cotton are obvious examples.
• To be genetically modified, something has to have genes. So when a store advertises, as is being done, non-GMO salt or water they are technically correct. However, it is more than a bit deceptive. Another example is companies pushing products with non-GMO wheat. Again correct but the reality is there isn’t GMO wheat out there.
• Antibiotics are another hot-button issue and rightly so. There are most certainly concerns with the development of antibiotic resistant organisms. However when stores and restaurants advertise antibiotic free chicken, they are again technically correct. However, regulations prevent meat of any kind into the food supply containing antibiotics.
• Organic food is safer, healthier and more nutritious than conventionally produced food and is free of “chemicals”. In order – no, no, no, and no. First everything you consume is made up of chemicals. Second, there is no difference in safety between the two groups when both are properly grown and processed. Third, both are healthy when protocols are followed and both can be unsafe when they aren’t. That is what HACCP, a topic for another column, is for. Lastly while both can be equally nutritious, some studies have actually indicated conventionally produced food to be more nutritious.
The point of this isn’t to convince you as a consumer to buy one or the other. What consumers need to do is be armed with facts and not swayed by fear or emotion. And the entire agricultural production chain must continually do all it can to keep things safe, healthy, nutritious, and hopefully delicious.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.