Thanks to the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Soybeans, and the Kansas Pork Association, I recently had the amazing experience to learn more about the food I eat and feed my family. I was invited to join the #FarmFoodTour which consisted of a group of bloggers and dieticians from different locations and backgrounds, all eager to find out more about food practices, and what goes into the food that is consumed today. Our diverse group included vegetarians and food bloggers who are well-versed in the world of food, but have questions and concerns; as well as people like myself who fall on the other end of the spectrum.
We are the people who see the news about GMOs and have many “Gluten-free” friends and family but aren’t quite sure what we should be doing to best provide for our own families. I’ve often wondered if the food I buy at the grocery store is safe since I haven’t broken the bank and went completely organic. Am I harming my children by feeding them those non-organic fruits and veggies that are on sale this week, and would allow me to buy twice as many as I could afford otherwise? Or should I just buy less quantity and splurge on the organic?
I was looking for answers! Luckily, this trip was all about making that happen. One of the stops on our trip… the Infamous Monsanto.
A major thank you goes to Monsanto for opening their doors, showing us & explaining the technology they use, and having open discussions centered on one of our favorite topics- food! #farmfoodtour
What’s the hype about Monsanto?
So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past forever, you’ve heard of Monsanto (likely in a negative aspect) and are aware of at least some of the controversy that surrounds them. In case you aren’t aware, Monsanto is a sustainable agriculture company. While many know the name Monsanto best in relation with the chemical company founded in 1901, that division of the company has ended. The “new” Monsanto actually focuses on agriculture and supporting farmers across the world.
Monsanto and the Science of Farming.
I guess one thing that I never realized about farming, is that it’s always included a lot of science. Gone are the days of a farmer just going in the backyard, digging themselves up some dirt, and sprinkling a few seeds praying for a good harvest. That’s just not how things work today.
During our panel of farmers, I learned that farming today relies on science to keep it sustainable. If we’re honest with ourselves we, as a whole, fall pretty short when it comes to protecting our environment. As a result, these farmers (most of which are small families I might add, not large corporations as I once thought), don’t have much room for error. In the olden days, a bad harvest meant your family might not eat. With so many farmers today doing their best to feed not only their own families but the rest of us as well… failure isn’t an option. They use infrared and GPS technology to carefully plot seeds and identify trouble areas in crops that wouldn’t otherwise be seen. When there are trouble areas identified, today’s farmers have the option of adding whatever nutrients are needed (such as potassium) to that specific area in order to address the problem. With all this going on, it isn’t surprising then that they carefully pick the best of the best seeds to use, before they even begin planting. That’s where GMOs come into play.
GMOs and Monsanto
Not really knowing exactly what GMOs are, I’ve always thought they sounded a bit scary. When I pictured consuming them, I pictured eating “fake” food. Food created in some strange and sterile scientific environment like something straight out of a Scifi movie. Guess what I saw when I entered Monsanto… plants! Beautiful and luscious green plants all around! Genetically Modified Organisms is fancy terminology for plants whose genes have been changed by scientists. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 9 out of 10 scientists say GMOs are “generally safe” to eat.
Like anyone else, that “generally safe” is what gave me the creeps a bit. So I sought to understand more about what actually occurs in the creation of these “generally safe” products we’re being told are okay to eat. Turns out that genetically modifying organisms are not anything new, or created by Monsanto. Instead, it’s the type of cross breeding that has gone on for years! It was happening when kernels of corn were teeny tiny, and each and every year the farmers would save the best seeds and use those to plant the next year, every year allowing the seeds to get larger and larger until eventually they were the monstrous (in comparison) kind we enjoy today rather than the tiny kernels they began as.
It happens with animals every day, particularly when breeders breed the cream a la crop in order to produce the dogs, horses, etc. that owners will brag about for years. They’re accompanied by paperwork that’s meant to prove the care and precision taken in their breeding. GMOs pretty much do the same thing, in the world of AG Science. They take common problems that farmers face today and create solutions. Round-up and pesticides have been used by farmers for many many years to protect their crops from insects that would destroy them. Some of the pesticides, however, were also harming the crops and prevented them from growing. As a solution to this issue, Monsanto created its “Round-Up Ready” line of plants that could resist the round-up. Thanks to this, many farmers need to use far less round-up then they use to protect their crops and have less worry of the crops suffering because of the use of round-up.
What About People That Disagree with Monsanto?
More power to them! Everyone deserves to have an opinion and control of how they choose to live their lives. I love speaking to my friends that have made the decision to buy only organic and GMO-free products. It’s what they believe in, and that’s awesome! I also love the friends who, like me, choose to only discriminate between nutrient rich and non-nutrient rich food solutions when planning their meals. My kids are healthy too, and that’s great!
Just like we have a choice in whether or not to use GMOs as consumers, farmers do too! Monsanto actually offers a line of conventional seeds that are completely void of GMOs! Many organic farmers choose to use these seeds to produce their crops! Whatever your choice is, good for you! Stick to it!
All the talk about how “big, bad, Monsanto” went after a small farmer is taken out of context. Everyone else pays for their seeds, including Monsanto customers. Because these seeds have been given special attention, and lots and lots of years of studying, they’re required to sign a contract that they won’t reuse them. Not only does that protect Monsanto from people stealing years and years of their crops, it allows the seeds that have the Monsanto name on them to be guaranteed to be in the same condition and integrity as they were when purchased, and not declining in quality due to years of replanting. The farmer that was sued signed the same contract as everyone else. When he decided to reuse his seeds anyways to save some money, the other farmers around him felt duped that he was trying to get over while they were paying their hard earned dollars! They reported him. It’s the same as if you’re in the line paying to renew your tags, but your rebellious neighbor has decided they are above the law and can rock the expired ones for as long as they like. You may not drop the dime on them, but you’d probably at the least roll your eyes in annoyance. Why? Because it’s not fair.
Don’t Be A Hypocrite
The main thing I learned traveling on this trip, and to Monsanto specifically, is to not be so quick to open my mouth about things I don’t know anything about. Seriously. My friends that have embraced GMO-free and Gluten-Free living have embraced A lifestyle that embodies those values. It’s what they believe in. It’s who they are. It’s the lens that they see the world through, and they wake up every day seeing it the same way.
On the other hand, some of my more vocal friends on social media who choose to speak badly about GMOs and/or Monsanto do so in a different, much more privileged manner. They spew hate without solid facts. When presented with facts that counter their own point of view, they blatantly ignore them and often become hostile. They’re much more interested in stirring up controversy than making the world a better place. Many of them could care less about recycling or anything else they put in their bodies for that matter. They’re hypocrites, and I can’t stand it.
Food shouldn’t be scary, and we all deserve to know the cold, hard, facts about what we eat without worrying about judgment or hate. Let’s get honest. Let’s get real. Let’s continue the conversation.
I want to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment below!
You can also check out my live videos from inside Monsanto at the links below: