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“Fascinating” may be the best adjective to describe how a mere 2 percent of the population in the United States is responsible for producing the bulk of our nation’s food supply. For the most part it is because of this incredible food supply that U.S. citizens have become somewhat accustomed to the abundance of high quality, safe and wholesome foods.

Grocery bills today make up less than 10 percent of the average U.S. household’s disposable income, far less than what is spent in other parts of the world. It’s been documented that many Americans will spend more on taxes in 2016 than they will collectively on food, clothing and housing. This is unlike generations gone by.

As good as our Agriculture engine has historically been at producing a safe and wholesome product for the consuming public, Agriculturists have done a horrible job of educating the general public about the wholesome, sustainable and environmentally friendly practices we employ in producing a safe food supply for the world.

Case in point is the misguided and misunderstood issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) food labeling law recently passed in Vermont and will impact foods across the nation. Advocates for the bill are calling for a similar nationwide labeling bill.

Such a state effort was brought forth and defeated in Nevada during the 2011 Nevada Legislative session. The bill was defeated with partial help from the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association and the Nevada Farm Bureau joint lobbying efforts. Food companies and agriculturists are concerned that on-pack labeling would mislead consumers, causing them to believe foods bearing a GMO label should be avoided even though there’s no scientific justification warranting that belief.

The safety of GMOs is well-documented and supported by health and scientific authorities covering the globe including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Medical Association, European Food Safety Authority, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and World Health Organization.

The Colorado Corn Growers Association recently offered the following as talking point facts:

Each Genetically Modified (GM) seed variety takes on average $136 million and 13 years to bring to market because of the safety studies and regulatory approval processes necessary.

In response to what was described as an information gap at the time, Italian scientists in 2013 analyzed 1,783 studies around the world, spanning the previous decade, regarding the safety and environmental impacts of GMOs. They couldn’t find a single credible example demonstrating that GMOs pose harm to humans or animals.

In 2015, a massive, peer-reviewed, food-safety study – involving 4 billion farm animals fed GM foods, and 4 billion animals fed non-GM foods – showed there were no differences in animal health, growth or fertility. No quantifiable traces of GM components were detected in milk, meat and eggs following the animals’ consumption of GM foods.

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It appears to me that GMO dissenters are justifying the foods they like as non GMO, picking and choosing which foods they call a “GMO product” and which not. Take for example a succulent seedless watermelon. Most consider this food to be a GMO product. However, as pointed out by the National Watermelon Promotion Board, “A seedless watermelon is a sterile hybrid which is created by crossing male pollen for a watermelon, containing 22 chromosomes per cell, with a female watermelon flower with 44 chromosomes per cell. When this seeded fruit matures, the small, white seed coats inside contain 33 chromosomes, rendering it sterile and incapable of producing seeds. This is similar to the mule, produced by naturally crossing a horse with a donkey. This process does not involve genetic modification.”

So there you have it. Seedless watermelons are just regular watermelons, albeit a relatively younger relative of the traditional seeded watermelon. The seedless watermelon actually outsells its seeded peers by a significant margin.

My wife and I own and operate a custom beef Artificial Insemination (A.I.) business. We artificially inseminate thousands of cows annually for our customers, breeding their cows by A.I. to the most efficient and sought after sires in the world. Offspring of these inseminations add to the efficiency of our nation’s food supply and the eating satisfaction of the consuming public. Do you consider this method of genetic advancement to be termed GMO? If so, how do you view the tens of thousands of human conceptions to invitro or artificial inseminations? Do you see the possible hypocrisy here?

It is my hope that the reader of this letter to the editor will take the time to educate themselves on the scientific facts before buying into and supporting the anti GMO movement taking place across the nation. I encourage you to not support the political moves being proposed which may unduly hinder agriculture’s ability to feed the world. The U.S. House has passed a voluntary, national labeling bill that would supersede state laws, but it is stalled in the Senate. The agriculture community supports voluntary labeling and staunchly oppose mandatory GMO labeling.

The next time you enjoy a seedless watermelon or an ear of sweet corn, consider the political moves going on nationwide which, if successful, will hinder American Agriculturists from advancing their ability to feed a growing world population.

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Ron Torell is a longtime advocate for agriculture, past Nevada Cattlemen’s Association President, Past University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Livestock Specialist and Past Beef Seed Stock Producer.

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