The High Plains is an agricultural hot-spot.
Many residents across the Panhandles and eastern New Mexico make their living by growing, harvesting, and distributing food whether that be corn, beef, chicken, beans, or wheat. David Peckenpaugh has been a local farmer for many years near Perryton and has fed his family the fruit of his labor. He stands by his produce saying, "Every time I'm dumping a load of corn at the elevator, I have a tendency to pick up a handful of it, chew it up and eat. I do ?| I eat my own wheat, my own corn, my own soy beans, and it tastes good."
Farming nowadays is not the farming of old, with horses and plows. Long gone are the days of men in the fields pulling weeds. Farmers no longer simply hope and pray that insects don't plague or eat the crops. Science now plays a role in the successful production of most crops. Much of what we eat on a regular basis has come from a genetically modified organism, or a GMO.
"The big bio-tech companies have altered our food to have two different traits. Tonya Gonzales, Nutritional Health Code Chair at Amarillo's Natural Grocer's said. "One is herbicide resistance and the other is pesticide production. So basically they can spray massive amounts of herbicide on your plants, and your crop will still grow ?| Or it's got an internal pesticide where the bugs will eat is and they'll actually burst and die."
On the other hand, Peckenpaugh says that GMOs have played a large role in the success of his business.
"The genetics that have been put into the plants to make them resistant to herbicide and insects has totally changed the way farming has gone in the last few years, and I think will do-so in the future. What genetically modified inserts that have gone into the plant have done, have been to allow farmers to use less insecticide and herbicide that we once had to use to protect our crop." said Peckenpaugh.
According to Peckenpaugh, genetically modified crops do a better job of resisting weeds and insects and that the nation's farmers have become very reliant on that technology. Farmers used to be happy with 180 bushels of corn, but now they can expect 240 when it comes time to harvest!
"It's a more vibrant plant that produces higher yields," said Peckenpaugh.
Not everyone is happy about genetically modified food though and that's where Organic farming comes in. Ronnie Kimbrell is the owner and farm manager at Cimarron Organics, right here in Amarillo. Kimbrell states, "I became interested in organic farming over 20 years ago. When I did, I bought books and started to educate myself and just became convinced that growing without the use of herbicides and pesticides was the way I wanted to produce food. At the time, it just seemed like it was healthier and that's what I wanted to be able to provide."
A recent study was conducted by Stanford University that concluded: "The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods."
Additionally, it said, "Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria."
So while both forms of farming produce a nutritious and delicious product, an ORGANIC diet may keep you from eating foods that have been sprayed with pesticides and that may have antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Look for part two of this story where we'll cover organic farming pros and cons. We'll give you some additional food for thought, regarding your diet decisions whether they're conventional or organic!