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This Farmer’s Perspective on GMO

This Farmer’s Perspective on GMO

We just wrapped up a beautiful week-end here on the farm capped off with our second annual Strawberry Pancake Breakfast.  Our farm hosted over 450 guests who were treated to a great tasting breakfast prepared by our staff in the relaxing atmosphere of our Harvest Hall located on our farm.  It afforded me the opportunity to enjoy some personal time with a number of these guests (and perhaps you)…many of whom were Highlands Harvest Club CSA members.  Conversations were free ranging but mainly centered around the farm, the late spring season, when strawberry season was really going to come on strong, and the general enjoyment of good food and good company that we all mutually enjoy.  It was a delight to interact with everyone and I felt even more special when a number of guests stated that they enjoy reading my blog…so thanks to all of you for reading it!

Continuing on the “Fear of Food” theme that we have been focusing on the past several weeks leads me to share my thoughts and observations about GMO’s.  There is no doubt you have heard the acronym even if you are not sure what it stands for and what they are.  So here we go….

GMO stands for “Genetically Modified Organisms.”  I know that it sounds a little scary at first and mind’s eye pictures arise of dogs with wings, cats with beaks, two headed cows, or other oddities that you would expect to see in a carnival side show.  The reality; however, is that the technology described by those three letters is not nearly so scary and in many ways has revolutionized the food industry.  One can debate…and they are loudly….whether this food revolution is good or bad and how it truly impacts on our culture and human health.

The GMO debate is red hot with media stories and editorials about them regularly bombarding the populous.  As I speak to people about the issue I am finding that most people are familiar the term GMO’s, they understand that there is controversy, they have a heightened awareness about their food, they are a little bit alarmed, yet they don’t know a lot of details about what GMO’s really are.

So first; what is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) and do they exist in our food supply today?   Genetically modified organisms are  in our case foods that are derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally.  Sounds a bit alarming perhaps but what I like to immediately point out to people is that there are no GMO fruits so one doesn’t not need to worry about consuming a GMO when they are eating a piece of fruit.  There are absolutely none.  In the vegetable side of the aisle there are only currently two different types that have had any GMO work done on them.  The first is sweet corn, where there currently exist only a handful of varieties that have had either herbicide resistance introduced or have had the bacteria “bacillus thuringiensis” introduced, which protects the sweet corn from various worms such as Corn Earworm and European Corn Borer.  The second is summer squash.  There are only two varieties…one yellow and one zucchini that have had a protein introduced to protect the plant from various viruses that will kill them.  That is it.  So again, you can eat vegetables with plenty of confidence knowing that they are non-GMO if you are concerned about only eating a non-GMO diet.

This would be an opportune time for me to share that here at Alstede Farms we are in fact a “Non-GMO” grower.  We do not grow any GMO fruits or vegetables.  We made this decision several years ago as a result of the numerous customer inquiries that we were receiving about these GMO crops.  We felt that we had to clearly identify what we were doing and felt that at this time it was easier and cleaner for us to simply not grow any GMO crops than to try to identify ones that were.  One day GMO sweet corn, the next day not, it would have become very complicated.  Plus, a lot of customers shared concerns and as retail growers our job is to grow what customers want.  To date we have never had a customer approach us and ask us to specifically grow a GMO crop; but we have had lots approach us wanting to make sure that what they were buying wasn’t.  So it made our decision easy from a marketing standpoint:  Give the customers what they want!

Yet, there is so much more to this story such as my perspective as a trained plant scientist and horticulturalist, not to mention what we think about GMO labeling proposals, and moreover, my overview of  GMO’s and how they fit in agriculture today.  So look for more next week.  Today, I hope that you leave my column knowing that there are no GMO’s at Alstede Farms and virtually none in your fresh fruits and vegetables period…so eat on! 

Thanks for allowing me to be your Farmer!




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