Farming for my family and yours

By Curt Mowery

Consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to food. Some choose organic. Others choose conventional. I like grain fed beef. My neighbor likes grass fed. The possibilities are endless and boil down to personal preference and what fits your lifestyle.

Farmers also have many choices when it comes to growing food. We weigh our markets, what our land will do, take a look at demand and our personal goals and come up with a game plan. However you choose to eat, there’s a farmer out there willing to grow it.

And that’s all good.

I am a farmer and a family man and what I hear–through the internet, through the media and through my own city friends–are legitimate concerns about the safety of food. Consumers want to know where their food comes from. They want to know the food they buy at a grocery store or a farmers’ market won’t hurt them. They want to make sure that food is wholesome and nutritious.

And when they ask me, my answer is always the same: Yes, your food is safe. I know. I’ve studied the science. I’ve honed my skills as a farmer. My family eats the food I grow.

I’ve been a farmer for 35 years and grow rice, sweet corn, soybeans, peas and watermelons just south of Houston. My market is your typical consumer who shops at the grocery store. They are looking for a wide selection of food at affordable prices.

I use technology to provide it. That includes modern equipment. Sometimes I have to use pesticides to save a crop. But I use them safely and well within the guidelines developed through stringent tests to make sure they do no harm to people or the environment.

I also use genetically modified seeds when I plant my soybeans and corn. Now I know genetically modified is one of those flash phrases that make people angry. It’s unknown and scary science that many people do not understand.

Truth is, genetically modified crops are not much different than traditionally bred crops. Genetically modified crops have been tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture and proven safe. They allow me to grow more food on fewer acres so I can feed more people. They also allow me to use less pesticides, which is better for the environment on our farm and around it.

You won’t find me apologizing for using the tools of modern agriculture. I am always looking for ways to improve what I do so I can continue to provide a quality product for your family and mine at affordable prices.

It’s a huge task, but I’m up to it. Let’s grow together!

The above post is from Curt Mowery, a Texas farmer from Rosharon, Texas. Curt is one of four guest bloggers who are talking about food safety during Texas Food Connection Week, sponsored by Texas Farm Bureau, Feb. 16-22.

19 Responses to “Farming for my family and yours”

  1. Marcia Cash says:

    Please stop killing my bees with your GMO poisons and all those sprays?

    • Mike Barnett says:

      Since you asked this in the form of a question, I’ll ask one in return. Why do you think farmers would want to kill bees? They, too, depend on bees for pollination.

      • Those “GMO poisons” have nothing to do with bees! A well informed consumer would know that “GMO” is mainly one of 2 things: BT resistant or glyphosate resistant. BT is an organic pesticide from naturally occurring soil bacteria. GMO crops do not require spraying of BT because the protein is present in the plant and only kills the bugs that eat the plant. Bees don’t eat plants. BT has no effect on bees. Round Up is not an insecticide and has no effect on bees.

        Perhaps you should really educate yourself on what is and what is not “GMO poison”. BT is a certified organic insecticide used extensively throughout organic farms as a spray. BT resistant-GMO doesn’t require that spray at all. Neither of them impact bees.

  2. Michael Osweiler says:

    Hi Curt,
    I had a chance to read your interesting article. Observing your statement “truth is, genetically modified crops are not much different than traditionally bred crops. Genetically modified crops have been tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture and proven safe. They allow me to grow more food on fewer acres so I can feed more people. They also allow me to use less pesticides, which is better for the environment on our farm and around it”……
    As well intended as you may be in making this statement, the fact is that genetically modified crops are much more different than traditionally bred crops, and they carries unique risks.
    As you know, in traditional breeding it is possible to mate a pig with another pig to get a new variety, but is not possible to mate a pig with a potato or a mouse. Even when species that may seem to be closely related do succeed in breeding, the offspring are usually infertile, a horse, for example, can mate with a donkey, but the offspring (a mule) is sterile. With genetic engineering/modification (GM), scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes, such as crossbreeding or grafting.
    I think when you take a closer look at genetic engineering/modification; you will discover that it is indeed completely different from natural breeding. This is quite clear when you look at the main stages involved in genetic engineering. This is how it has been explained to me.
    1. There is a process known as tissue culture or cell culture, tissue from the plant that is to be placed in culture.
    2. Millions of the tissue cultured plant cells are subjected to the genetic engineering/modification gene process. This results in the GM genes being inserted into the DNA of a few plant cells in the tissue culture (a method that is used to select desired traits or to reproduce whole plant forms from plant cells in the lab). This results in the GM gene being inserted into the DNA of a few plant cells in tissue culture. The inserted DNA is intended to reprogram the cells genetic blueprint giving completely new properties in the cell. The process is carried out either by using a devise known as gene gun, which shoots the genetic modified gene into the plant cells or by linking the genetic modified gene to a special piece of the DNA present in the soil bacterium (I think this soil bacterium is referred to as “Agrobacterium tumefeciems”). When the soil bacterium infects the plant, the genetic modified gene is carried into the cells and can insert into the plant cell DNA.
    3. At this point in the process, the genetic engineers have a tissue culture consisting of hundreds of thousands, to millions of plant cells. Some have picked up the genetic modified gene(s) while others have not. Then the next step is to treat the culture with chemicals to eliminate all except those cells that have successfully incorporated the genetic modified gene into their own DNA.
    4. Finally, the few cells that survive the chemical treatment are treated with plant hormones. The hormones stimulate these genetic modified plant cells to proliferate and differentiate into small genetic modified plants that can be transferred to the soil to grow on.
    5. Once the genetic modified plants are growing, the genetic engineer examines them and eliminates any that do not appear to be growing well. The engineer then does tests on the remaining plants to identify one or more that express the genetic modified gene at high level. These are then selected as candidates for commercial sale.
    6, The resulting population of genetic modified plants cells all carry and express the genetic modified gene of interest, But, they have not been assessed for health, environmental, safety or nutritional value, The fact that the genetic modified transformation process is artificial does not automatically make it undesirable or dangerous. It is the consequences of the procedure that give the cause for concern. In short, unintended, uncontrolled outcomes can occur during the genetic modification process and complex interactions occur at multiple levels within the organism as a result of the insertion of even a single new gene, hence a simple modification can give rise to many unexpected changes in the resulting crop or food produced from it. The disturbing part Curt, is that unexpected changes are especially dangerous because they are irreversible.
    You need to realize that GMO’s are living organisms. Once into the eco system they do not degrade and cannot be recalled, but multiply in the environment and pass on their GM genes to future generations. Interestingly, each new generation creates more opportunities to interact with each other organism and the environment generating more unintended, unpredictable side effects. The diversity and complexity of the effects as well as their unpredictable nature creates a situation where even a detailed safety assessment could miss the important harmful effects. In short the GMO technology is extremely risky and can lead to harmful, unpredictable consequence. A mild example is the herbicide resistant weed problem that we have. And no they do not, “also allow me to use less pesticides, which is better for the environment on our farm and around it”. It just is not true. This is just the very small tip of the iceberg. You may think you have safe technology, but in reality, it is like hauling around uranium isotopes in your corn planter.
    Needless to say, this is one the reason’s farmers are getting such a bad rap in the eye of the public. You may be well intended in what you are doing, but that does not give you a cart blanch card to operate recklessly, that is employ technology with inadequate risk controls. This stuff basically needs similar regulation and control as nuclear energy.
    Contrary to your statement, “genetically modified crops have been tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture and proven safe. You failed to specify what kind of testing. Tested for what? I think you will mostlikely find that most or all of this testing is basically performance testing. Long-term safety testing is another story. I hear my GM colleagues often claim that “no one in the US has ever gotten sick from eating GM foods.” The fact is that no one knows. Since GM foods have been introduced, millions of Americans have been hospitalized and millions have died, and no one has investigated to see if any of those cases have been due to eating GM foods. The HIV/AIDS epidemic went unnoticed for decades, and the relationship between smoking and lung cancer went undetected for generations. With the current level of safety testing, if GM foods do cause human health problems, it will be difficult to determine this, even though there may be many cases of illness. That is why we urgently need long-term safety tests that are relevant to human health done by people independent of GM vested interests. The safety testing done now is inadequate. Biotechnology companies often don’t even use the whole GM grain in feeding studies. Instead they tend to only use a protein extract that do not even come from the GM plant. The feeding tests are also only done for few days or a few weeks. Some safety assessment!
    Let me know your thoughts. I am not trying to change the world, but when I saw your remarks (in quote above, I just wanted to point out the inaccuracies.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      Michael, man has been tinkering with plants to make them more productive since the beginning of time. Present day corn and wheat looked or functioned nothing in the past as they do today. Man genetically manipulated them for his needs. Same is pretty much true with GMO crops. As for testing, it’s been rigorous and extensive, as Mr. Mowery said. Here’s what FDA has to say: http://www.fda.gov/…/FoodSc…/Biotechnology/ucm346030.htm. Safe. Don’t believe the Food and Drug Association? How about the American Medical Association or the National Academy of Sciences? Safe. Overseas, In 2013 the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) asked the European Union to allow the development of GM technologies and their application in agriculture. This would be more sustainable agriculture, because land, water and nutrient resources would be used more sparingly, they said.. EASAC also criticizes the “a time-consuming and expensive regulatory framework in the EU” and says that EU has fallen behind in the adoption of GM technologies. Safe.

      • Michael has seen this link before. http://sleuth4health.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/is-gm-food-safe-experts-around-the-globe-answer/ is a pretty substantial list of firmly grounded scientific organizations that are willing to say the debate on the safety of this technology is pretty much over. Let’s turn this argument 180 degrees. I had a professor at Texas A&M who told us that it’s not really possible to satisfy the scientific method in proving something absolutely safe. This is what the anti folks want us to do. It is however, possible to prove something unsafe. The first GMO crops were planted in the mid 1990s. As we approach two decades, 29 countries, millions of acres and mountains of data, you’d think that proof would emerge – if it existed. And as a bonus, we’ve drastically reduced the amounts of pesticide used in agriculture. Safe.

        • Michael Osweiler says:

          Hey Mike and Gene,

          Did you not read my post above. Come on guys.
          SAFE? Now? 10 years from now? 20 years from now? Are you willing to bet your farm on this stuff. That is put your deeds on the table for risk collateral.

          Please reread what I wrote.
          The fact is that no one knows. Since GM foods have been introduced, millions of Americans have been hospitalized and millions have died, and no one has investigated to see if any of those cases have been due to eating GM foods. The HIV/AIDS epidemic went unnoticed for decades, and the relationship between smoking and lung cancer went undetected for generations. With the current level of safety testing, if GM foods do cause human health problems, it will be difficult to determine this, even though there may be many cases of illness. That is why we urgently need long-term safety tests that are relevant to human health done by people independent of GM vested interests. The safety testing done now is inadequate. Biotechnology companies often don’t even use the whole GM grain in feeding studies. Instead they tend to only use a protein extract that do not even come from the GM plant. The feeding tests are also only done for few days or a few weeks. Some safety assessment!

          I read the AMA stuff. The
          AMA does call for mandatory pre-market safety testing of genetically engineered foods as part of a revised policy. Hmm! Risk?

          …………Let make a few final points. Keep in mind that Genetic engineering is 40 years old. It is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the One Gene – one protein hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong. The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding. Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.

          Interestingly, one argument I hear repeatedly is that nobody has been sick or died after a meal (or a trillion meals since 1996) of GM food. Nobody gets ill from smoking a pack of cigarettes either. But it sure adds up, and we did not know that in the 1950s before we started our wave of epidemics of cancer. Except this time it is not about a bit of smoke, it’s the whole food system that is of concern.
          Another way to look at this is to look at the approaches to food hazards with respect to GM foods. It can be Science-based. That is, if the food is safe, it is acceptable. GM foods are presumed safe; therefore, they are acceptable and any criticism of them is irrational or value-based that is, even if GM foods are safe, they are not necessarily acceptable for reasons of precaution, ethics, religion, culture, or concerns about corporate control of the food supply. Science-based approaches are insufficient. You need to get out of your simple box and address the above concerns.

          You mentioned FDA. I think that use to be Mike Taylor’s (from Monsanto) organization.

          • Mike Barnett says:

            Get real, Michael. People are living longer than ever. Millions of Americans have been hospitalized and yes, millions of Americans have died. And when they die in the hospital the doctor can usually tell them the cause. Thanks for commenting. My final point. Genetic engineering has gone on since man started eating plants. It’s just done a little different now.

  3. Michael Osweiler says:

    My last comment Mike.

    Is it the rudimentary/elementary responses that I get back from you folks that give me the understanding as to why conventional Ag is on the defense these days and why businesses like Chipotle Mexican Grill hammer away at the American farmer. And , your comment..”Genetic engineering has gone on since man started eating plants”. Wow! Obviously, you folks just do not get it. I really did not expect to convince you folks, but was at least expecting something back that had some substance. Oh well.

    Thanks for letting me air my comments.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m getting tired. I’ve been answering your tired old argument, Michael, for 10 years. And for 10 years I have seen no science that would change my mind. If I did, I’d change it. Genetic engineering. Plant breeding. Genetic modification. Different means to the same result. Your welcome.

      • Michael – how about responding to my link? Did you not look at it? http://sleuth4health.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/is-gm-food-safe-experts-around-the-globe-answer/ It would seem to me that there are a lot of “integrity challenged” people out there. The debate on this thing is really pretty much over, but it is hard to let go of something you’ve believe passionately for a long time. I admit, I’ve only skimmed your posts. It is difficult to argue with folks that have evangelical zeal. I am not a scientist. I suspect you are not either, but I go back to the links of science based posts that I trust. I congratulate you on the decisions you’ve made, and the kind of farm you choose to run. I think that if you could plug into a niche market, I hope you are successful beyond the dreams of avarice. But – if bashing the conventional becomes part of the marketing plan…you’ll hear from me.

  4. Michael Osweiler says:

    Mike

    Thanks for the kind words, however I do not take threats lightly. Not sure what you mean regarding bashing a convention. I am not really interested in what you folks do at a convention. Your lobbyist org has a unique history of bashing and belittlement, to those who take issue with FB policy and agenda items. But, the org seem to get by with it. Enough said. We have beat this issue enough.

    All the best to you on a personal note.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      Not sure I know what you’re talking about bashing a convention either. Don’t know what threat you are talking about because I certainly didn’t make any. And please don’t think what I said is a personal affront. I was speaking of the argument you more making. The best to you too.

      • I can certainly wish you the best, Michael. I thought I had “typoed” based on what you said. But – as I am sure you know, “conventional” is commonly used as a term to described the use of technology in agriculture…a great gift to a potentially hungry world. I did not threaten you and you know it. The movement you are part of likes to jab us and then claim we started the fight by responding. You have still not responded to that link with dozens of SOLID science organizations validating everything I’ve said here. That too, is a tactic of your movement. Best wishes.I hope you get very rich in your niche market…but you know deep down that it will never be more than that. I’m gonna try real hard to shut up now. ;)

  5. Sheri Smith says:

    “Truth is, genetically modified crops are not much different than traditionally bred crops. Genetically modified crops have been tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture and proven safe. They allow me to grow more food on fewer acres so I can feed more people. They also allow me to use less pesticides, which is better for the environment on our farm and around it.”

    As a farmer of GMO’s, you’d be a FOOL to bash them. Monsanto would make your life Miserable if you did. I get it. You have to make a living, and this is how you choose to do so.

    Not ALL of believe that CRAP that Monsanto say’s about their ‘Product’s’

    • Sherri – thanks for posting as it gives me a chance to respond to something a little different. I make it a practice to not defend Monsanto. They are quite capable of that. But-farmers are quite amused that you and many others believe that company has some mystical power over them. This is complete nonsense. They can farm GMO, non-GMO or organic. What do you suppose Monsanto would do? My opinion is based on talking to hundreds of farmers. I might believe as you do if all I had to go on was Internet hyperbole. Monsanto is just a company, better than some, worse than some. Farmers plan their crop, willingly signing an agreement not to save seed, because their costs are a lot lower. The reason for that is they can use A LOT less pesticide. And that’s the truth.

      • Sheri Smith says:

        Mr Hall,

        Since your telling me “That’s the truth” I (we) should believe you. And not believe all that other ” nonsense” ? If, GMO’s are so safe, why are ‘they’ spending’ multi-millions of $$$ to fight the labeling of GMO’s ? Everyone should have the right to know what is in their food supply, don’t you think ? That IS the TRUTH !

        • Sherri, the bigger question is, “Why would you not?” We have become a cynical society, all right. The answer to your question as to labeling is – because a safe food product has never been required to be labeled in a negative way – and – the label will cost a lot of money, which will be passed on to consumers, many of whom count every nickle in their food budget. That’s why we push for technology. It’s more efficient. The following is not for you, but in case some are reading with a still open mind. I count 22 established world science organizations in this link vouching for the safety of this technology. http://sleuth4health.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/is-gm-food-safe-experts-around-the-globe-answer/ Do you believe any of them?

          Or this nationally recognized neurologist? http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/02/inquiring-minds-steven-novella-gmo If I’m not telling you the truth, there is some pretty heavy evidence backing me up. The American Farm Bureau is ready to sign off on labeling, IF those that propose it can demonstrate a danger. Fair enough? But don’t hold your breath. No one has been able to do that in nearly 20 years. And that, really IS the truth. The best part? A media that has been asleep on the issue for 15 years is now reporting the story fairly. 29 nations and 10% of the world’s cropland is now planted in GMO. More every year. The debate is pretty much over, but a lot of politics still has to be yelled about. See you on the blog Sherri.

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