I attended a convention two years ago; the Monsanto Company handed out sample vegetable seed packets as a vendor. I planted the carrots this February and they grew! For a recipe, I made Glazed Carrots. At the convention, Monsanto researchers participated in a workshop on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) crops.
The Monsanto company grows seed crops for farmers, including grains and vegetables. They are involved in many aspects of agricultural research and development worldwide. It is a huge company with 20,000 employees. Monsanto is one of the first companies in the US to develop a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crop. (Discover Monsanto)
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Crops
GMO crops is an emotional subject with strong opinions. I was introduced to the debate while attending a presentation at the Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) in Houston in October 2013. There are two sides to every topic and the workshop gave the point of view of Monsanto which promoted the positive benefits of GMO crops.
What is a GMO — Genetically Modified Organism?
A hybrid crop is one where two plants with desired traits are cross bred — the result is that the end plant has improved qualities. The Honeycrisp apple is an example of this process. Selective breeding involves taking plants with desired traits and allowing only these to reproduce. After years and years, the plant takes on new characteristics. This is the case of wheat which has changed over generations. A GMO plant is one where a piece of genetic information from another organism (not necessarily a plant) is spliced into the plant crop. Resistance to diseases and herbicides are two of the main reasons GMO crops have been developed. (GMO Awareness)
Why develop GMO crops in the first place? It is a much quicker process than selective breeding — which can take centuries. Specific qualities can be introduced into the crop and the process can be controlled.
Successes and Failures
Although Monsanto did not develop GMO papayas, the workshop gave this crop as a GMO success. Papayas are grown in a relatively isolated area – Hawaii. The ringspot virus was inadvertently introduced into the area. As a new pathogen, the papaya had no resistance to the virus and the entire papaya crop was threatened with extinction. A GMO papaya with resistance to the virus was developed. Now 75% of the papayas in Hawaii are this GMO variety and the crop is thriving. (Modern Farmer).
There have been failures, too. Calgene (which Monsanto purchased) developed a new variety of tomato, the Flavr Savr, in 1994 — which delayed bruising after picking; thus increasing the shelf life in stores. However, the tomato lacked flavor, became mushy and was difficult to harvest commercially. The tomato was withdrawn from the market in 1997. (GMO Compass)
The opposition to GMO products is strong. Inadequate testing for safety for human consumption; unintended resistance chemicals and insects are some of the concerns. Monsanto has backed off developing GMO vegetables and fruits and is pursing other lines of research regarding fruit and vegetable crops. (Discover Monsanto)
In Hawaii, GMO papayas have gradually spread into the non-GMO variety and the controversy over the success of GMO papaya’s isn’t simple at all.
But more is coming. Golden Rice, which has large amounts of the precursor to Vitamin A is being developed. Blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency is a public health issue in developing countries. According to the Golden Rice Project, “Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and up to 2 million deaths each year.” (The Golden Rice Project) The beta-carotene in the rice is a highly available source of Vitamin A and the rice is being touted as a way to combat Vitamin A-deficiency blindness and disease.
Whether you are pro or con on the subject of GMO crops, it is a complex issue. I personally feel that going too fast on manipulating crop genetic material can lead to consequences that can’t be anticipated. Let’s be sure food safety is a paramount issue.
On the other hand, new virus and diseases threaten our food supply. The Florida orange crop is an example. A bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus. is spread from tree to tree by a tiny insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. It causes “citrus greening” where the leaves turn yellow and die and the oranges fail to mature. The entire orange crop in Florida is threatened with extinction. How can we live without Florida orange juice? We need new ways to fight back against these pathogens. GMO psyllids that can’t transmit the disease is one line of research. (Live Science)
There are eight food crops in the US that are commercially grown from GMO seeds (GMO Answers):
- Squash — Upjohn (now Seminis) — 1995
- Cotton — Monsanto — 1996
- Soybean — Monsanto — 1995
- Corn — Cibi Seeds — 1996
- Papaya — Cornell University/University of Hawaii — 1997
- Alfalfa — Monsanto and Forage Genetics — 2006
- Sugar beets — Monsanto and KWS SATT aG — 2006
- Canola — Monsanto — 1999
Interestingly, wheat is not on the list. There is no GMO wheat grown in the US. So when you see a label or advertisement for “Non-GMO” wheat, it is sort of misleading, in my opinion.
Monsanto Carrot Seed Packets
At the convention, the Monsanto representatives handed out packets for many vegetables — tomatoes, squash, green beans, corn, carrots. A Monsanto representative indicated that these are probably hybrid seeds, not GMO seed products.
I planted the carrots in February and dug them up in June. In Louisiana, carrots should actually be planted in the late fall – October. Generally, carrots is not a crop that grows well in the clay soil here. Nevertheless, the carrots grew. Although small, they had a sweeter flavor than those from the grocery.
Nutritional Value of Carrots
Carrots contribute carotene (Vitamin A) and fiber. They are low in calories. Since the carotene is fat soluble; the nutritional value of carrots does not change when boiled in water.
Dill Glazed Carrots
Here’s a simple recipe for glazed carrots. My family loved it. The carrots are steamed or boiled in a small amount of water until just tender. Reserve a small amount of the cooking water; add margarine or butter, brown sugar, a small amount of dill, salt and a pinch of pepper to the carrots. Let the the glaze come to a boil and thicken slightly. If I made this again, I would used dried dill weed, not the seeds. The seeds were too crunchy. The recipe is adapted from one I found on allrecipes.com and incorporates readers comments.
- 2 cups carrots
- 1 Tbsp margarine or butter
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dried dill weed
- dash pepper
Method and Steps
- Scrape or peel carrots. Cut into 4 ” sticks. If desired, cut larger diameter carrots in half lengthwise, then in quarters.
- Add carrots to small saucepan or skillet, add small amount of water. Cover and boil gently on stove until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Pour off cooking liquid, saving about 2 Tbsp.
- Add the margarine, brown sugar, salt, dried dill weed and dash of pepper to the carrots and cooking liquid in the skillet. Return to boil and gently spoon glaze over carrots to coat carrots with the glaze. Cook on low heat to reduce the glaze slightly. Remove from stove and serve.
Whether or not you are GMO pro or con, I advise reading and keeping informed on the subject. There is lots of information (and mis-information) available on the internet.
In the meantime, eat your vegetables — rest assured they they don’t (at least yet) come from GMO seeds (except some squash). Carrots are very nutritious, this recipe is a great way to get your family to eat them.
Discover Monanto http://discover.monsanto.com/
Papaya in the Crosshairs: A Heated Island Battle over GMOs by Messe Hirsch on December 13, 2013, Modern Farmer //modernfarmer.com/2013/12/battleground-hawaii-tiny-island-state-leading-battle-gmos/
Genetically Modified Tomato — en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_tomato
GMO awareness //gmo-awareness.com/
GM Free Cumru gmfreecymru.org/documents/tomatoes.html
The Golden Rice project wins the Patents for Hummanity Award in 2015, Golden Rice Project www.goldenrice.org/
gmoanswers.com © 2013-2015 Council for Biotechnology Information. Dr. Bob Goldberg, professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell, Developmental Biology at UCLA, on the //gmoanswers.com WEB site.
GMO Answers is funded by the members of The Council forBiotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont,Monsanto Company andSyngenta. “Our members are dedicated to the responsible development and application of plant biotechnology.”
Incurable Disease Threatens US Citruc Crop by Marc Lallanilla, May 10, 2013 Live Science www.livescience.com/30050-citrus-greening-destroy-orange-crop.html