Business owner: GMO effects unresearched

One agricultural expert says the future of farming depends on the use of genetically modified organisms in order to meet the food demands of a growing population.

But one local business owner is worried about the long-term effects of consuming foods that contain GMOs because he says the research has not been done yet.

New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau Executive Vice President Matt Rush says the issue of mandatory labeling of foods that contain GMOs continues to be raised, especially in proposed legislation.

He says mandatory labeling would be a detrimental move that can affect local farmers and consumers by tacking on added expenses and taxes to label such foods.

"It's a constant fight," Rush said. "The problem is 85 percent of food in grocery stores has some kind of GMO crop in them."

Rush believes that there's no way producers will be able to feed a global population without genetically modifying foods.

"If we're going to feed a global population that's supposed to reach 9 billion by 2050, it is an absolute necessity for science to be in food production," Rush said. "I believe this issue is an elitist issue that is forcing people to buy specific types of food based upon emotion. We've been able to show that none of these (GMOs) are harmful."

Portales business owner Chuck Abbott, who said he has been studying GMOs, says other countries have eliminated them and America should follow suit.

"When you have whole countries in Europe that ban GMOs, that's telling you something," Abbott said.

Abbott's concerned that farmers constantly practice the rehybridization of grains such as wheat to increase crop yield and there are no long-term studies to show how it affects the human body.

Abbott says he can testify that his attempts to eat non-GMO foods have been better for his health and that wheat and genetically modified food have been at the heart of digestive problems.

"I eat a lot less wheat now than I've ever eaten and I feel much better," Abbott said. "I try to stay away from processed food as much as I can. If you want to be disease-free and you want to live longer, do not be dependent on the food and drug industry."

While health experts and concerned consumers fear potential health consequences from eating genetically modified foods, especially crops that have been engineered to resist pests and expedite the growth process, Rush said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration backs his claims that these foods are safe.

According to American Farm Bureau Federation, the FDA's long-standing policy on biotech food labeling states the FDA has "no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding."

Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, is a farmer who grows both organic and non-organic crops. He says the use of GMOs has been misconstrued.

"There's a group of people that believe there's a difference between crossbreeding a plant and genetically modifying a plant," Woods said. "A lot of the times, it's only speeding up the process of crossbreeding. Those plants that survive, survive because of the genetic makeup of the plant."

Woods added that the use of GMOs have increased the yield of crops over the years such as corn, which the average corn yield was 20 a bushel in the 1920s but the average is now is about 200 a bushel.

"(GMOs) increases yields of plants and to me that is not a bad thing," Woods said. "That is feeding more people with the same resources as we were using then."

Ultimately Woods said he understands there has been a push on Americans to eat healthier and organic foods and although there is a market for that, he says limiting how farmers can produce food will become a problem.

"It's going to increase the cost of food because the farmer can't produce as high a yield as these crops that are modified," Woods said.

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