Apr 25, 2013

Know GMOs

What do you think when you hear GMO? According to a recent survey of over 1,000 moms, nearly half – 43 percent – of those surveyed believe that GMO food is nutritionally and chemically different than non-GMO food.

The World Health Organization defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another. Such methods are used to create GMO plants – which result in GMO food crops. This technology is called biotechnology. 

U.S. commercially grown genetically modified crops include corn, soybean, cotton, canola, sugar beets, papaya, squash, and alfalfa. In addition, small amounts of GE tomatoes and sweet peppers are grown in China. In terms of our diets, Most of the GM crops that are consumed for food are used in making processed food ingredients included in cereals, soy cooking oil (vegetable oil) and other types of processed food products that contain soy or corn ingredients. In other words, if you see corn or soy ingredients included on the food label, chances are the product was partially made with GM-crop ingredients.

Farmers and gardeners have been creating plant hybrids for as long as they’ve been growing plants. Biotechnology simply serves as a more technologically advanced or controlled method. USDA says that, while particular biotech traits may be new to certain crops, the same basic types of traits are often found naturally in plants and allow them to survive and evolve. This is really nothing new, we are just able to use the traits that can help us to have a more successful harvest.

The soybeans have a herbicide resistant gene in them that was derived from bacteria and corn has Bt genes that allow it to resist pests along with the resistance to herbicides. Bt is a naturally occurring plant pesticide found in other plants and is approved for use in organic agricultural production.

The use of these crops greatly reduces the amount of insecticide required to control the corn borer and the corn rootworm and also allows for improved weed control with reduced herbicide use. This allows farmers to produce more with less, a vital progression as we move forward with the need to feed a growing world population.

We want what is best for our families and I am the first to say you should have questions and concerns about your food.

All GMO foods are exhaustively assessed for safety by groups like the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In the almost 20 years that modern biotech crops have been commercially grown, there has not been a single documented case of an ecosystem disrupted or a person made ill.  GMO foods are nutritionally and chemically identical to food grown from non-biotech crops.

And, ultimately, GM crops can help to provide an increasingly important role in maximizing global land use, addressing world hunger, nutrition deficiencies and poverty issues and reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.

Apr 9, 2013

Reaching out to 800,000 Consumers

April 2013
Clicking on attached links will in some instances take you away from USB-funded information.


It's amazing what one morning in a TV studio can do. Two CommonGround volunteers recently appeared on 25 television, radio and blog outlets, informing consumers in major media markets such as Boston, Detroit and Minneapolis about the truth behind today's agriculture.
Kristin Reese, from CommonGround Ohio, and LaVell Winsor, of CommonGround Kansas, settled into a St. Louis TV set starting at 7 a.m., and gracefully handled interviews, many of them on live TV shows, for the next four hours. They answered questions about everything from organic food to GMO food safety, and took every opportunity to talk about the values and care that America's farmers bring to the country's food supply.
While most of the interviews were friendly and informative, a live TV interview on WJBK in Detroit presented a challenge. The reporter presented a sensational picture of GMO foods by playing a clip about research conducted on biotech foods from a naturopathic doctor. Reese and Winsor were prepared with the facts. They cited the fact that groups such as the World Health Organization say that no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of biotech foods. They also discussed the benefits of biotechnology for food security and the environment.
Reese and Winsor opened the barn doors, offering themselves and their fellow CommonGround volunteers as a resource for consumers. As Winsor stated a number of times in her interviews, most Americans are two or three generations removed from farming, so naturally they have questions and concerns about how their food is grown and raised.
CommonGround volunteers work to build trust in agriculture by having open conversations and sharing the true story of today's farming. Thanks to support from America's soybean and corn farmers through their checkoffs, they've reached millions of consumers with their stories and the facts. Sixteen states participate in the grassroots CommonGround movement, with 85 volunteer spokeswomen. Because of the passion of these farm women to reach urban consumers with the truth, CommonGround continues to grow.
To view available interviews, click on the links below.
WPMT-TV (Fox, Harrisburg, Pa.)
KGWN-TV (CBS, Cheyenne, Wyo.)
KIMT-TV (CBS, Rochester, Minn. / Mason City, Iowa)

Apr 1, 2013

Just another day on the farm with ET

Our friends raise cattle and this is prime-time calving season. We took a trip out to their farm not only to see the baby calves but to watch some of next year’s baby calves get their start. Dr. Thompson, an area Embryologist, was at the farm and flushing embryos out of several of their cows while we were visiting. I am always up for a learning experience and this was a fascinating one.

kids and a shorthorn cow having embryos flushed
On our farm, all of our sheep are bred the old fashioned way. In fact we just turned our three rams out into the field for fall lambing. In the cattle business things are a bit more high tech using AI (artificial insemination) and ET (embryo transfer). ET is not a new practice. In fact, it dates back to the 1890s in rabbits, sheep and goats in the 1930s and cattle in the 1950s. The practice in beef cattle really took off in the 1970s in the U.S. and has been an increasing part of cattle operations ever since.

Why ET? It is pretty basic — to improve genetic selection by increasing the number of progeny from females that are either proven or perceived to be of great quality. ET also allows a breeder to generate more offspring from rare and valuable semen.

Dr. Thompson, a local embryologist, has been working in this field for a long time. This is not an easy or glamorous profession, but it is something he has mastered by developing a great success rate of retrieving quality eggs. Retrieving quality eggs is all about cow maintenance and making sure she has the proper nutrition and care to ensure the best success rate. This process is expensive and time consuming, but can lead to great genetics to better the breed even after the cow is past her ovulating prime.
Between days 6 and 8 after the cow has been inseminated, the embryo recovery is done. The cow is placed in the cattle shoot for her protection and the safety of Dr. Thompson. This entire process is done quietly and without stress to the cow. In fact, these cows knew just what to do. They even posed for photos with the children during the process and walked right out of the shoot and into the pasture. The cow receives an epidural block at the tail head to prevent straining and to make the job a little easier.

A flexible rubber tube catheter is passed through the cervix and into the uterus. The cuff is inflated with a saline solution to hold the catheter in place and to prevent back flow of fluids. Saline solution is flushed-filled and the uterine horn is gently massaged and the fluid containing the embryos is drawn back out through the catheter. This solution is collected through a filter and into a cylinder or dish.
rubber tube catheter
saline solution and collection dish
You cannot see with the naked eye any of the eggs. They are microscopic. This process takes about 20 minutes and the eggs must be kept at room temperature. This can be particularly tricky on a 30-degree day in March. The dish with (hopefully) quality embryos is placed in the truck to be kept warm until we made it in the house to set up the mini laboratory.

The egg dish is looked at under the microscope and all the eggs are removed and placed into a separate dish. At this point, Dr. Thompson is evaluating the eggs and giving them each a rating of 1, 2 or 3. The embryos are then placed into straws, with each egg in a separate straw. Under the microscope you could see the little placenta already beginning to form. Eggs rated 1 or 2 (excellent and good) will be frozen and eggs with a 3 rating would be implanted in donor cows (cows on the farm not for their great breed quality but because they are good mothers to carry and raise the baby calves) immediately. Grade 3 embryos are still good, but they just would not survive the freezing process.

Dr. Thompson rating embryos
embryos freezing
canes straws with embryos will be placed in
Each straw is then placed in an embryo freezer using ethylene glycol to freeze. This process takes about an hour to completely freeze the eggs. It’s a gradual process that has to be done just right to ensure the best egg quality and longevity. The eggs are placed in a cane that is labeled with the cow and bull’s information and are ready for the storage tank. The eggs will remain there until it is time to implant them in the next round of cows.  In this case some of the embryos will be implanted in May for next year’s baby calves. Some of the embryos will be sold in sales and other will be kept for a long time to use when desired. If stored and collected properly embryos can be kept indefinitely.
embryo storage tank

While this process was fascinating to watch and learn about, it really is just another day on the farm for the cattle producers and Dr. Thompson.