Consumers have questions about where their food comes from, and Kansas farmers and ranchers want to answer them. So, Kansas Farm Food Connection, an organization made up of Kansas agricultural groups whose mission is connecting producers with consumers to engage in an open dialogue about where their food comes from, is hosting an event, "GMOs: Now We're Talking" to do just that.
Consumers can spend the evening at River Market Event Place in Kansas City on April 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. cutting through the hype associated with GMOs and learn from those in the know, including a mom with a Ph.D. in genetics, farmers, a chef, and a blogger.
"The goal of Kansas Farm Food Connection is to connect families with farmers over the idea of food and where it comes from," says Meagan Cramer, communications co-director at Kansas Farm Bureau, one of the organizations that make up Kansas Farm Food Connection. "GMOs are a hot discussion topic. We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to have a dialogue on GMOs and the misconceptions surrounding them, along with a chance to talk with the people who use them."
Cramer adds it's important to have a two-way conversation, allowing consumers to not only listen, but ask questions, and to provide producers a chance to hear consumers' concerns. "We've made it fun as well, so consumers aren't just coming to sit and be talked to. They're coming to learn and bring their questions with them," she says. "GMO covers such a wide range of questions. This provides an opportunity for producers to come in and just listen and also hear some of the questions folks might have as well."
On the agenda
Following, a social with food and drink, the event will kick off at 6:30 with a demo featuring Chef Charles d'Ablaing, executive chef at the Raphael Hotel, who will provide tips on cooking with USDA prime beef.
Chef d'Ablaing's menus showcase the modern, regional American cooking style that has been his signature since he landed in Kansas City in 1996. It is a style that incorporates regional bounty, his southern roots, and ethnic influences. His emphasis on quality ingredients, proper seasoning and precise cooking technique is reflected in a concise, yet diverse variety of appetizers, salads entrees and desserts.
A discussion on GMOs will begin at 7:20, featuring panelists from diverse backgrounds. A Q&A session will follow the panel discussion to give consumers a chance to ask questions and voice their opinions.
• Dr. Anastasia Bodnar, co-founder and board member of Biology Fortified, Inc., an independent 501(c)(3) that aims to encourage conversation about agriculture, biotechnology, food, and related subjects; Bodnar has a BS in Biology from the University of Maryland and a PhD in Genetics, with a minor in Sustainable Agriculture, from Iowa State University. In her research, Anastasia used genetic engineering and breeding to enhance nutritional traits in corn and investigated potential unintended effects of genetic engineering.
• Mary Mertz was born and raised in Chicago. After marrying her husband, a fourth generation farmer, they moved to Kansas to start a family where they co-own and operate River Creek Farms. Feeling as though she has had the best of both worlds, Mary feels it is important to be a strong advocate for agriculture, especially sharing the realities of farming with urban consumers. Mary is a member of the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Agri-Women.
• Bob Mertz is co-owner/operator of River Creek Farms, a fourth generation family farm that raises grain and produces livestock. Bob serves on the board of the Riley County Farm Bureau and is a graduate of Kansas State University with a degree in Animal Science.
• Angela Muir blogger at Handmade in the Heartland will join the panel and provide her perspective on GMOs explaining how she navigates the various information sources on this hot topic.
"We wanted to have a diverse panel because we wanted to look at the different perspectives and get different feedback," Cramer says. "A panel of farmers would be great, but that's just one perspective. Having a wide range gives an opportunity for people to hear from all sides."
A better understanding
Consumers will walk away with background information on GMOs, research related to GMOs, how farmers are putting them to use to feed a rising global population, as well as answers to any questions consumers have, and hopefully, a better overall understanding of where their food comes from.
"For example, Angela Muir will tell you she bought into everything she read online and heard on television that GMOs are all bad. She has since visited farms and developed an understanding of the connection farmers have with researchers and scientists, and now she's not afraid of the food she's eating. She often says, 'What I learned is you need to dig a little deeper when you hear things like that.'" Cramer says. "We hope consumers walk away knowing where to go for information and not being afraid of the food system."