GMO Study Group

GMO Study Group Meetings

In early 2014 the Spencer Creek Grange hosted an exploration of GMO’s. The first meeting took place on January 8th, the second on January 31st and the last on February 24th. One of the goals of these meeting was to provide factual background on this issue for potential attendees of the 141st Oregon State Grange Convention in Redmond, Oregon.

The first of our 3 meetings was attended by 8 grange members and 1 guest. Quite a lot of reading and gathering of information had been accomplished before the meeting, and we felt fairly well-prepared for the conversation, which proved very interesting. Our assignment had been the following:

Define GMO’s – After a discussion, we arrived at “A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques, involving artificial mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes. These techniques exclude plant breeding, hybridization, natural or artificial selection.”

Identify industry claims regarding GMO’s – A list of industry claims, provided to our group by a participant, was discussed. The 10 claims are as follows:

  1. Biotech crops can help address the global food crisis
  2. Crop biotechnology helps small farmers
  3. Biotech crops spur global economic growth
  4. Farming using GM crops reduces chemical use
  5. Biotech crops increase yields
  6. Biotech crops help increase income of poorer farmers, reducing poverty and malnutrition
  7. Farming with biotech crops is sustainable
  8. Foods tweaked by biotechnology are safe to eat
  9. Genetically modified foods improve nutrition and health
  10. GM crops and foods complement conventional and organic farming

Note that some of the claims in this list specifically refer to “genetically modified foods” while other claims simply use “biotechnology” or “biotech crops”. It’s important to clarify that biotechnology encompasses more than just genetic engineering. Some of the least controversial aspects of agricultural biotechnology are potentially the most powerful and the most beneficial for the poor. These include conventional cross-breeding and back-crossing as well as Marker Assisted Breeding, a more precise plant breeding technique which increases the effectiveness of conventional breeding.

The organization that published this list appears to equate biotechnology with genetic engineering, e.g., under topic 3 “Biotech crops increase yields”, the subtext reads “Economic benefits of GM crops amounts to an average of over $130/hectare. In the last 16 years, planted biotech crop acres have increased 100-fold from 1.7 million hectares to 170 million hectares.”

Reports were presented on each of the 10 claims listed above during our second meeting on Friday, Jan. 31. Participants shared their findings with the group, presenting data that supported the claim and data that refuted it. You can read about our findings in the Spencer Creek Grange GMO Study Group report.

During our third meeting on February 24th, participants discussed potential resolutions. Three resolutions were voted on and passed at the Spencer Creek Grange June 2014 general meeting:

Updated Information on GMOs

Genetically modified crops have reached a high rate of adoption in the U.S., but more than 15 years after their commercial introduction, the USDA Economic Research Service in a new report published in February 2014 says questions still exist about their potential benefits and risks.

The study, which looks impacts of GE technology on seed and tech suppliers, farmers and consumers, reviews price changes, adoption rates and general trends that have developed in the years since GE crops first hit the market.