Viewpoint

GMO ban would limit choice

March 21, 2013 

In a March 18 letter, the Sierra Club Executive Committee suggested it could be difficult to avoid GMO products at local farmers markets, and it proposes a ban of all GMO produce until proven safe.

A main role of farmers markets is to offer consumers an alternative to supermarket food. I think we generally do a good job of this, and, if consumers wish to be certain they do not consume GMO products, they can buy from certified organic vendors. To the best of my knowledge, the only GMO crops grown in our area are sweet corn and alfalfa. But the issue is much, much larger than this.

England’s Prince Charles famously said, “(GMOs) are not in God’s plan.” Unlike the prince, I don’t have a direct line to God. But his comment echoes the reality, which is that most resistance to GMOs is based in belief because people don’t really understand the underlying facts. DNA is DNA whether it comes from a plant, a human or a bacterium . Specific DNA is added to a GMO plant to produce a desirable trait. And the foods from these new plants undergo a stringent testing protocol required by the Food and Drug Administration.

One such trait is insect resistance in corn. GMO corn contains a gene that produces a product that prevents earworm damage. In a test several years ago, Cal Poly produced three plots of corn: one GMO and two conventional, one of which was treated with an insecticide. The corn from these plots was clearly labeled and placed on sale at a local farmers market. Consumers preferred the insect-damage-free corn in this experiment, whether GMO or sprayed.

A ban on any GMO products would limit consumer choice. As a farmers market manager, I am reluctant to do so.

Mike Broadhurst manages the Cambria Farmers Market with his wife, Carol. He worked for 30 years as a scientist for a company that commercialized GMO seeds.

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