“Fitness and Farming” What I Wish More People Could See
One of the most commonly asked questions we all hear is “What do you do for a living?” My response to this quotidian question is, “I’m a farmer.” I’ve quickly learned throughout the years of making friends with people from all walks of life that the American farmer is not always seen as the good ole boy anymore. The initial reaction of many people in today’s popular culture is a all too often uncertain or negative response. A common misconception is that farmers are inadvertently killing the world by causing cancer through pesticide use or putting our health at risk through the use of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms), in our crops, harming our growing children, and doing permanent damage to our environment. It pains me to hear this as all of these assumptions couldn’t be more false and untrue.
As a farmer, I see pesticide use and GMO’s as technology that was developed to enhance crop growth and resiliency, allowing us to produce a larger and safer crop by eliminating major challenges from pests and diseases. I often wonder, “What would it be like if we had to all produce our own food?” This is something many folks do not think about. “What would the world be like without the American farmer?” GMO’s are one key tool that allow a small niche group of people to produce a large portion of the worlds food supply, allowing opportunity to grow and develop our communities in other areas. So why exactly can’t we just produce our food without GMO’s?
I can speak from experience from growing both GMO and Non-GMO crops; there can be numerous challenges to this from a financial and a quality standpoint. Oh, and let’s not forget Non-GMO foods, many organically grown foods are still grown with the use of pesticides. So here is a look inside what a producer has to evaluate when growing Non-GMO corn:
-Non-GMO herbicide is roughly $20/ac more expensive vs. a glyphosate-based product (Round-Up). Glyphosate products are much more efficient in controlling grasses (one of the toughest pests to control in corn) than products used to in Non-GMO, while still causing no damage to the product or showing any yield drag.
-GMO corn requires little or no insecticides needed to ward off ear or stalk damage. This can amount to $20-$40/ac if spraying in Non-GMO corn. Insects can cause kernel damage resulting in discounts at the grain elevator, yield loss, and grain damage that may include mold, which can also lead to storage issues. Corn ear damage is another common issue in Non-GMO corn that will often lead to aflatoxin problems, which the grain elevators will not buy. This means less corn to animals for feed, less food on peoples plates, less income for the farmer and higher costs for everyone between the farmer to the consumer.
Yes, there are Non-GMO premiums that producers are offered to grow Non-GMO products, but I can speak from experience that those can vanish overnight. All finances aside, morally and ethically a farmer who knows that both products, GMO and Non-GMO are both equally as safe, the science is clear on this (1,2). It’s just not always logical to grow Non-GMO products all of the time in all places. It’s simply not worth the money, risk, or the headache when safe products can be produced in a more efficient manner saving both the farmer and consumer money all while using the land more efficiently.
The Non-GMO craze has become a pure marketing strategy at the store level and label level. It’s a fact that GMO’s are just as safe and nutritious as any Non-GMO counterpart. Genetically modified seeds have been safely tested more than any other seeds in the history of agriculture. Regulatory authorities have concluded that Genetically Modified crops are just as safe for humans, animals, and the environment as Non-GMO crops. As a matter of fact, there is no evidence ever recorded showing harm to humans, animals or the environment done by hundreds of independent studies from scientists and researchers. Believe it or not, GMO’s are actually showing less of an environmental impact and better return for farmers livelihoods (3). GMO crops are allowing producers to use conventional farming methods to control weeds. This leads to better soil health, less runoff, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions from equipment.
I want people to wake up! Seeing Non-GMO icons on your food items is an easy way for certain groups to squeeze a few more dollars out of that brand via premium pricing and thus your wallet. Sure, there is nothing wrong with Non-GMO foods or organic for that matter. That’s your call in the end. However, it is by no means any more safe or sustainable than a product made through conventional farming practices. Both methods of production follow strict and safe guidelines to ensure that the product we farmers are producing is meeting every standard known to man.
Let’s remember that the farmers and scientists producing these products are also consumers just like everyone else. The people producing these products also want to provide safe foods for their families and community. I can speak personally from a nutrition standpoint, that I trust the safety and nutritional value that GMO’s provide consumers with. I’ve been a competitive bodybuilder and coach within the NPC for several years; I take my nutrition very seriously. Obviously, in order to push your body to its ultimate brink to get as lean as humanly possible there cannot be any lack of nutrition. I’ve successfully dieted down and bulked up on many GMO foods, Non-GMO foods, certified organic foods, etc. What I find is that all of these methods are effective and safe. It never makes any difference in my health or my results. In fact, I also find that my own blood work and performance reflect that nothing better or worse comes from opting for over the other either. I certainly do see a cost savings most of the time in opting for the GMO, non-organic version. When you eat as much as many of us growing bodybuilders need to in order to gain lean muscle in the offseason, affordability is a big deal! But forget me; I know what I grow on my fields and why I grow it. I know how it impacts my health and my gym performance. But what do the super smart scientists who work on this kind of thing have to say? Testing has shown from all of the major US authorities that GMO crops are nutritionally the same as Non-GMO crops. This says that both GMO and Non-GMO products contain the same levels of key nutrients like amino acids, proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This is where real nutrition matters. Don’t lose site of the forest for the trees people!
Here’s what we know. Humans have been modifying and altering plant genetics for centuries through traditional breeding methods that can takes decades and centuries to try and get right. At this point in 2018, modern ag-science has allowed us to do much better with better precision and quicker results. Let’s all continue to educate ourselves about what’s in our food and get rid of ridiculous, half-truth food labels that are costing many of us unnecessary dollars that could be used elsewhere.