News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Metro RTA

Knight Foundation

Area Agency on Aging 10B, Inc.


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Lifestyle




Why Northeast Ohio farmers disagree about the latest farm technology
Genetically modified organisms are seen as a boon to conventional farms and a threat to organic agriculture
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
The Haleys says they couldn't keep competitive withgout GMO technology.
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

On Saturday, protestors in Akron, Cleveland, and hundreds of cities worldwide will take part in the second annual March Against Monsanto. The multi-national food conglomerate claims its genetically-modified plant seeds increase crop yields and could ensure the world’s food supply. But critics have raised enough health and environmental concerns about the new farm technology that 70 countries have banned them.

In today’s Quick Bite, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman talks with local farmers about the pros and cons of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, for sustainable food production.

LISTEN: The pros and cons of GMOs

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (7:43)



On a breezy autumn morning in West Salem, Mike Haley pulls back leaves in his soybean field, admiring how the crop has outgrown the grass and weeds underneath.

“Right now we’re looking at soybeans that are about a foot taller than the grass. The soybeans were able to get above the canopy the grass was creating to the sunlight and absorb the full effect of the rainfall.”

These are soybeans that grew from genetically-modified organisms or GMO seeds.

Genes modified for higher crop yields
The seeds are genetically-altered to resist Roundup, the world’s most popular herbicide, marketed since 1976 by the food giant Monsanto.

In the mid-90s when Monsanto first modified soybean seeds to stand up to Roundup, Haley bought the new seeds even though they were a little more expensive. He saw it as a way to increase his yield and stay competitive.

“Over in the corner field, there’s a little patch of giant ragweed. That’s where I missed spraying a spot. Don’t criticize me too much for that. But that weed was almost impossible to control in soybeans before Roundup. I remember growing up my Mom’s job was walking the fields and hand-spraying the giant ragweed with Roundup.”   

Today, Haley says Roundup-ready seeds save him time, money and painstaking labor.

“We can go in there and we can spray the weeds in the field without hurting the soybeans.”

Haley says GMO seeds also helped him weather last year’s drought, and improve his soil quality.

“In order to control the weeds we’d have to do a lot more tillage which would mean more erosion. The way we’ve adapted our farm we feel it’s a lot better for our farm than it was 30 years ago.”   

He’s heard others express concern about GMOs.

“Is there a reason for concern? It’s hard to say. I think that as the technology evolves we’re going to see a lot more benefits, not just to the farmer but also to the consumer.” 

An organic farmer has another opinion
About 50 miles southeast of the Haley Farm, at  Creekview Ridge Farm in Minerva, organic farmer Kip Gardner couldn’t disagree more.

“GMOs help preserve a system of agriculture excessively dependent on chemicals. That is damaging to our soils and our environment. That system needs to change if we’re going to continue to feed our population.”

Compared with Haley’s 2,000–acre spread, Gardner’s farm is tiny, just 26 acres. He keeps 100 chickens, and grows fruit, vegetables and alfafa for hay.

Unlike Mike Haley, Gardner wasn’t born to farm. He’s an ecologist and molecular biologist teaching environmental science at Stark State College.

Three years ago he moved his family to a farm that dates back to 1875.

“When we bought the farm, it was a conventional corn and soybean farm. We are transitioning it to a diversified, certified-organic farm.” 

His chickens lay about six dozen eggs a day and Gardner’s customers tell him they’re glad he feeds the hens only non-GMO grain.

“And they know that conventional chicken feed, because of the huge percentage of soybeans and corn that’s grown GMO, is going to contain GMO grain.”    

There’s a nutritional difference in the eggs Gardner's hens lay compared to what you get in the supermarket. Research shows chickens raised without GMO feed lay eggs with higher omega-3 fatty acids.

No tests on humans
Gardner says the uncertain impact on human health is his biggest problem with GMOs.

“Here in the United States, we’ve pretty much allowed them to develop unregulated. There are currently roughly 100 crops approved for use in the United States, more in the pipeline, many we don’t know what the effects are going to be.”  

Although GMO staple crops like soy and corn have become ubiquitous, there have been no human trials of GMO foods.

“In the United States,” says Gardner, “most of the research is done by the companies that develop the crops.”

A French study last year on rats showed those fed GMO grain developed tumors earlier than and twice as quickly as a control group.

“There’ve also been concerns about some anecdotal reports of allergic responses and other things," says Gardner. “So we don’t know yet.” 

Consumers can’t tell GMO from non-GMO
Most of the European Union outlaws GMOs and where they’re legal, they’re labeled.

Maine and Connecticut recently enacted labeling laws and 20 other states are considering it.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Mark Udall last month urged the FDA to require labels on GMOs marketed as food.

But back in West Salem, Mike Haley remains confident that GMOs are good for his soil and his crops.

“We’re able to move forward way faster with using bio-technology than with traditional breeding because they’re able to evaluate the different genetics and work with them so much quicker instead of working years to isolate the genetics through traditional breeding techniques.”

He says the latest innovation is heart-healthy.

“Omega-3 soybeans. They’ve altered the oils in the soybeans so that it’s heart healthy. So when  French fries are deep-fried at McDonald’s, it’s going to
 be heart-healthy oils, very similar to an olive oil. So I’m kind of excited about being able to grow more nutritious crops because of the new technology that’s coming around.”  

But research scientist-turned farmer Kip Gardner wonders at what cost to the environment.

Still uncertain: the long-term environmental impact
New weeds that even Roundup can’t kill have been popping up.

"So now they’re talking about creating GMO corn and soybeans that are resistant to more powerful herbicides like 2-4-D. Now we’re going to see that back in the environment, where the use of 2-4-D has been pretty severely limited in recent years.”  

Gardner empathizes with farmers who think chemicals and GMOs are essential. He just thinks they’re wrong.

“For those folks who are in that system of agriculture, it is solving some immediate problems. But we’re saying we are working on a different model, hopefully one that we can demonstrate is as effective.”  

Organic farming is growing stronger with consumers increasingly concerned about nutrition and food safety.

But with 7 billion of us on the planet now and another 2 billion expected by 2050, the higher yield potential of GMO’s attracts powerful support.

Last month, the editors of Scientific American came out against labeling GMO foods, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proved they’re neither toxic nor allergenic. The editors write: “In the growing battle over GMO foods, science is being used as a weapon.”

And that’s this week’s Quick Bite. Next week, on a lighter note, and before it gets too cold, the topic will be popsicles.

(Click image for larger view.)

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook






Stories with Recent Comments

Exploradio: The never-ending war against superbugs
Super Federico ,we are so proud of you ,and very lucky to be among your friends . Keep it up human kind needs people like you to survive .Thanks for being so d...

Ohio's Lyme disease-carrying tick population is exploding
Interesting report. The last sentence needs some editing. It isn't a good idea to "save garments carrying ticks for analysis." The garments carrying t...

Teach for America enters third year in Ohio
For more background on TFA, check out http://reconsideringtfa.wordpress.com/

Faith leaders hold week-long prayer vigil at Ohio Statehouse
I think this is the wrong link to the audio. Its Andy Chow about cigarette taxes.

A $30 million plan to turn Cleveland's Public Square from gray to green
The current plan is for the Land Bank, RTA, and Mr. Jeremy Paris to run a bus line through the new Public Square and cutting the park in half. Save Public Squar...

Medina County residents question safety of proposed natural gas pipeline
I'm very concerned about this nexus project. I've received mail requesting my permission to allow the company to survey my property. I don't understand how thi...

A small group of tea party and Democrats protest at Kasich campaign stop
Enjoyed your excellent coverage of the statehouse for sometime now, never dreamed I'd be on. The feedback from people has been great. Thank you. Doris Adams

Top staffers are leaving the FitzGerald gubernatorial campaign
I's too bad that the dirt on Fitzgerald dug up by Kasich's operatives and publicized heavily by the Yellow Plain Dealer has caused the weak staffers of the Fitz...

Churches come together to welcome and include Gay Games athletes
Nicely done!!! A little known fact about the El Salvadoran and Columbian scholarships.. A big thank you to the Faith Community for their support of Gay Games 9....

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University