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Are GMOs Really Dangerous?

Almost everything that we consume has been genetically altered in one way or another, which makes it nearly impossible to have a diet that is completely free of genetically modified foods.
Many have begun to protest the amount of genetically modified foods that people are consuming.  Some say they are dangerous and will affect us in ways that we won’t see for years to come. Others believe that they are completely harmless, and quite necessary in order to help feed the world’s growing population. So are GMOs really as dangerous as some make them out to be?

“They’re not that big of a deal,” said Craig Wessels, a teacher at Perkins High School in Sandusky, Ohio said.  “We’ve been hybridizing stuff for years. Nothing’s like how it used to be.”

Wessels teaches a Global Issues class where a large portion of his lesson plan focuses on educating his students on genetically modified organisms.

“Ideally it would be great to grow everything organically, but it’s not terribly practical,” he said.
At Bowling Green State University, the Vegetarian Club works to help educate fellow students about sustainable foods. Though the club’s main concern is not eating meat, members discuss food and educate each other on genetically modified foods. A few weeks ago, the club showed a movie called “Fresh” in the Bowen Thompson Student Union Theater. The film talked about agriculture, including genetically modified foods.

Miriam Hitchcock, president of the Vegetarian Club doubts it’s a good idea to use GMOs. Hitchcock and other members of the club take trips to different stores to buy organic foods t that are free of genetic modification.
“We shop a lot at Squeaker’s, or Kroger,” she said. “We also shop at the farmers’ market when it’s open during the school year, and Whole Foods in Ann Arbor.”
Squeaker’s, an organic café and health food store located in downtown Bowling Green, is a place for students to purchase organic food that is not far from campus.

Schlessman Seed Co., the largest seed company in Ohio, celebrates its 95th anniversary this year. (Photo by Hannah Mingus)

Sclessman Seeds- A close to home example of genetic modification

Schlessman Seed Co., the largest seed company in Ohio, has been modifying its seeds for nearly 100 years. The company is best known for its corn hybrids.
According to its web site, the company has made several agreements with other companies who already have already advanced their technology, and produced new genetically enhanced hybrids. Farmers are now able to grow weed- and insect-free crops with this new seed, all while improving the environment and increasing efficiency, the company says.
Besides corn, the company produces soybeans, wheat and popcorn seeds as well. Schlessman grows two types of seed corn -field and sweet. Field corn is mainly produced for livestock feed and ethanol, while sweet corn is what people eat.

“In the 1920s people said hybrid seed was dangerous and people would die, but 99 percent of the market stayed at hybrid,” said   Darryl Deering, president of Schlessman Seed Co. “In 1995, there was the first genetically modified seed, and today 80 percent of corn is genetically engineered. There’s not one time when someone became ill or injured.”

According to the Ohio State Extension and Purdue Extension Partnership, non-GMO growers run the risk of having their crops contaminated by genetically modified pollen. According to Peter Thomison, an agronomist of the Ohio State University Extension, “pollen drift” is a growing concern among farmers who grow strictly organic food. He said it would take a lot of coordination between the two types of farmers to make this effective

Deering said recently farmers have been shying away from genetically modified seeds, but

Schlessman Seed Co. not only produces seeds, but also has its own local brand of popcorn in Ohio and Pa. (Photo by Hannah Mingus)

it  has not affected his company. He explained that there is an extra cost to use genetically engineered seed, and some farmers just cannot justify the extra money. In areas that contain fewer pests, these crops are just as good without the genetically modified traits. In other places insects, they attack crops that have not been modified. This is why most farmers prefer the genetically modified seeds, he said.

Deering believes that without GMOs, the world food supply would go away.
“We’d all be skinny,” he said. “Organic production is so labor intensive, so many would have to go back to the farm.”

Darryl Deering gives some background on Schlessman Seed Co.

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