July 2016
Farm & Field

Myth Busting: The Truth About GMO Crops

Alabama Cooperative Extension specialists correct 10 common misconceptions.

Mention GMOs and you’re likely to hit a hot-button topic and generate a heated conversation among consumers about the meat and other foods we eat. Legislatures across the country have debated the issue of genetically modified organism labeling. To do that, university experts say, would mean GMOs and organics are different.

Based on science, however, it comes down to a matter of preference, said Alabama Cooperative Extension specialists. But there are a lot of myths feeding the conversation.

So, Auburn University and Alabama A&M University specialists have been reaching out to consumers through a series of meetings this year to dispel the myths.

 

The bottom line: GMOs are just as safe as their organic counterparts, the university experts explained.

"We’re not trying to sell you on not using organics, but our message is that, based on science, GMOs are safe," said Rudy Pacumbaba, an Alabama A&M Extension Horticultural Specialist.

The U.S. food supply is the most regulated in the world.

"There’s no right or wrong here," added Alex Teague, an AU Extension Animal Specialist. "You have to choose what you’re comfortable feeding your family."

At a meeting in Decatur, the animal and horticulture specialists looked at meat- and plant-based myths surrounding the GMO issue.

Myth No. 1: All conventionally raised meats are pumped full of dangerous hormones.

Truth: It’s illegal to feed growth hormones to pigs or chickens in the United States, said Chris Anderson, an AU Animal Science Specialist. Faster growth is due to genetic selection and a better understanding of nutrition. Growth hormones are implanted into the ears of cattle to help them turn faster into lean tissue. The hormones are metabolized before harvest.

Myth No. 2: Factory farms abuse antibiotics, leading to resistance in humans.

Truth: Different classes of antibiotics are administered to animals and humans, therefore, minimizing cross-resistance risks. Antibiotics can’t be given to cattle within 45 days of slaughter and each carcass is tested when it is slaughtered. The milk of dairy cattle is tested for antibiotic residues. If it tests positive, it’s flushed down the drain.

Myth No. 3: Will GMOs be in my meat?

Truth: Although 60-70 percent of GMO crops are used to feed livestock, it’s impossible for it will get in your body.

The myths continue on the plant side of things, said Pacumbaba.

Myth No. 4: GMOs are not safe.

Truth: GMOs are regulated by the USDA, FDA and EPA. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences, the European Union, U.N.’s FAO, WHO and American Medical Association have conducted numerous studies that came to the same conclusion: "GMOs are safe and don’t pose any more risk than organics."

Myth No. 5: There are numerous GMO crops.

Truth: Only eight crops have been genetically modified and approved for consumption to date: canola, cotton, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, potatoes, pineapples and one variety of apple. Over 70 countries grow and import GMO crops.

Myth No. 6: Animal DNA is in GMO crops.

Truth: No animal DNA is in commercial GMO crops on the market today.

Myth No. 7: Pesticides are in plants.

Truth: The Bacillus thuringiensis gene is inserted into GMO crops, but it is a protein in the soil that’s a toxin to some insects. Its use in GMO crops helps to reduce the need for many pesticide applications.

Myth No. 8: GMOs cause cancer and other long-term health issues.

Truth: There is no direct evidence GMOs cause cancer. Over 1,080 studies found GMOs pose no greater risk than organic.

Myth No. 9: GMOs aren’t safe to eat.

Truth: A report looking at numerous studies finds that GMOs are safe to eat. Check it out at www.nap.edu/23395.

Myth No. 10: GMOs contribute to the death of bees.

Truth: GMO crops haven’t been implicated in the Bee Colony Collapse Disorder.

 

Cecil H. Yancy Jr. is a freelance writer from Athens.