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I recently had the opportunity to participate in an event titled “Moo at the Zoo.”  Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo opened up their gates and let us join the public for a day of fun at the zoo. There was a tent full of dairy cows with dairy farmers on hand to visit with those who passed through. CommonGround Nebraska was also in attendance. It was a great opportunity to be able to engage with the public about what we in production agriculture do. 

During many of the conversations we had over the course of the day, the topic of GMOs was a common theme.  When I think about the different interactions I had that day, one particular instance comes to mind. I asked one of our guests, how many GMO crops they thought were available on the market? Their response? All of them. The correct answer: 10. Of all the crops raised in the United States, there are only 10 that have approved GMO varieties. 

Corn (field & sweet), Soybeans, Cotton, Canola, Alfalfa, Sugar Beets, Papaya (Hawaiian), Squash, Innate Potato, Arctic Apple

Let’s take a few steps back. First, let’s talk about what GMOs are?  Genetically Modified Organisms. Without getting too scientific, it is a type of breeding. During the process, changes are made to the DNA of a plant to produce more desirable traits in that plant. These characteristics could not be achieved through traditional plant breeding.

Other conversations dealt with the safety of GMO crops.  For GMO varieties to reach the marketplace, they first have to go through very extensive testing with regulatory agencies, such as the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They go through years of research, and investigation before they can even come to market. Throughout the decades of research and the time GMO crops have been on the market, not a single illness or death has been linked to GMO technology.

I was so glad I was able to participate in the Moo at the Zoo event.  Reaching out and talking to the public about our food was enlightening and also rewarding. Unfortunately, there is plenty of misinformation out there. If you have questions about your food, ask! The best way to learn is to ask the people who raise your food. Don’t fear your food!

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