With so many buzzwords and sources of information about how food is grown, it’s difficult to know who to trust. Why not go straight to the source? We asked Missouri farmers to explain the reasons behind the way they grow their crops and care for their animals – and why they care as much about food safety and quality as you do.
The Truth About GMOs
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are a current hot-button issue. Many Americans are unsure of their safety. However, the World Health Organization, the European Commission and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others, support the use of this technology.
GMOs are the product of a type of plant breeding where precise changes are made to a plant’s DNA to give it characteristics that cannot be achieved as quickly or efficiently through traditional plant breeding methods. This science has been used for thousands of years, and hundreds of studies prove that genetically modified plants are as safe to grow and consume as other foods.
Farmers raising GMO crops are confident in the technology’s safety as well. In Missouri, more than 90 percent of the state’s corn and soybean crop planted in 2014 contained a biotech trait.
“I know GMOs are safe to grow for my own friends and family,” says Andy Kapp, a row crop farmer in Clarksdale. “I think this misinformation has been spread by certain companies trying to differentiate themselves. It started as an advertising slogan that got some traction and went from there.”
Truth About Livestock
Chris Chinn and her husband, Kevin, raise livestock and row crops in Clarence with their two children. The family houses their hogs in modern, climate-controlled livestock barns at the advice of their veterinarian.
Chinn says that people are commonly misinformed about the risks and benefits of raising free-range hogs.
“When we moved our animals inside, we had fewer predator attacks and decreased disease,” Chinn says. “Our antibiotic use also decreased because we were protecting and preventing, instead of treating problems caused by having them outside.”
Farmers, like the Chinns, make decisions that provide the safest and healthiest environment for their animals and, in turn, produce safe and healthy food. Keeping animals healthy affects the farm’s bottom line, so her family takes measures to ensure the animals are well cared for and closely monitored.
“We wash and disinfect barns daily to prevent disease,” Chinn explains. “We have vet checkups weekly. If a sow isn’t eating or has any kind of illness, we know immediately and can call the vet.”
The Truth About Environmental Stewardship
Another myth is the perception that farmers are not good stewards of the land. Chinn says this is far from true. Families take pride in farming the same land for generations, so they do everything they can to care for it. “Farmers have many more conservation practices today than 50 years ago,” Chinn says. “We are always willing to implement new practices as they are developed because we want to pass our land on to the future generations.”
A rapidly growing world population, which research suggests could reach 9 billion by 2050, makes it essential to develop efficient ways to produce safe, nutritious food. New technology increases yields and enhances animal agriculture while minimizing environmental impact.
Kapp says his family has kept up with the most current conservation practices for years.
“We have been using no-till methods on most of our farmland for 20 years or more,” he says. “Most everything is terraced to control erosion. We’re also working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and making soil health a priority.”
Finding Credible Answers
Have more questions about how your food is raised? Kapp and Chinn recommend discussing concerns about agriculture practices with the Missouri Department of Agriculture as well as commodity groups and farmers in their community.