Health board takes steps toward GMO education

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COLUMBIA - The Boone County board of health is taking steps to learn more about Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs.

The board invited University of Missouri soil science professor Dr. Bob Kremer to give an educational presentation on GMOs at its meeting Thursday.

Kremer's presentation will educate board members on the definition of a GMO, and explain the use of them in agriculture. 

"In these times a GMO is generally referred to as one of those plants that has been engineered by inserting a gene from a different type of organism," Kremer said.

He said the board told him his presentation will be followed by a discussion and that this meeting is the first of a series of discussion about genetically modified foods and crops in agriculture.

Lucky's Market, a natural and organic food store, sent its employees through GMO training a few months ago. Foods that are not GMO are sometimes labeled with the image of a butterfly.

"Back in October, when it was non-GMO month, we made sure that we put several of our team members through training to identity what products were non-GMO, to direct people to the non-GMO initiative butterfly image that they have on several of the products, and basically to get our team members informed so they could give that information to customers if they have questions," marketing manager Jackie Casteel said.

Casteel said Lucky's Market chose to offer non-GMO products for its customers who choose not to support GMO operations. 

During training she learned organic foods can't be classified as genetically modified, and also when cows are grass fed, the consumer can be sure they haven't been fed genetically modified food. 

Dr. Kremer said talking about GMOs is important because the health debate on GMOs is an emotional issue. Critics contend the products might transfer allergies or harmful genes.

Kremer said it is important for the public to be fully informed.

"I think they should be aware of many of the factors involved in GMO crops. A lot of issues are beginning to come forth on potential effects, not only on the environment, but foods that are being produced from these crops," Kremer said. "There hasn't been enough work looking at the different aspects of health and nutrition. Whether there is cause to be concern, or whether they are substantially equivalent and don't have anything to worry about."