Inside News

Former CEO sets record straight on GMOs

By McCartney Martin, Nebraska News Service

LINCOLN–Unfounded public fears about food people eat pose a major challenge for agriculture, a former Tyson Foods Inc. chief executive officer said Tuesday evening at a Heuermann Lecture hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Donnie Smith, who served as Tyson Foods CEO from 2009 to 2016 and currently is a consultant to the company, said that consumers’ lack of trust in industry practice is causing unnecessary harm to the food industry during his presentation titled “Global Food Security, The War of the Word.”

“People are fearful of food today and the way it’s being produced,” Smith said. “We have a huge challenge in front of us.”

Smith said the use of genetically modified organisms has been a controversial issue in past years. Opponents claim ingesting foods that contain GMOs can create health risks, as well as harm the enviornment.

GMOs are crafted through a laboratory process in which a plant, animal or other microorganism’s genetic makeup is altered. GMOs have been shown to improve nutritional quality of food, as well as efficiency in production and environmental sustainability. GMOs also give foods a longer shelf life, which creates less waste. Smith said roughly 25 to 30 percent of the world’s food is wasted each year.

Smith attributed the “hysteria” surrounding the use of GMOs to fictitious information and claims being spread rapidly on social media platforms as well as documentaries like “Food, Inc.”

“There’s no credible research that proves there’s been a single problem caused by GMOs in the past 20 years,” he said. “But today you see non-GMO labels sweeping across grocery stores.”

Smith said the only way to combat this problem is for the agriculture industry to speak up for itself and its practices.

“We need to take back the story and win this argument,” he said. “If people believe these claims it’s going to be extremely damaging.”

Smith said that the next generation of farmers and agriculture professionals need to be ready to not only defend their craft, but to also come up with solutions on how to feed the world’s population in years to come. Smith said that when he began his career with Tyson Foods in 1980, the world produced 2.1 trillion metric tons of food. By the end of 2017, the world produced about 4.5 trillion metric tons.

While Smith saw food production double in his professional lifetime, he said there are still at least 800 million food insecure people around the world and he is worried about the demand that is to come in the next 35 years.

“We have to become more efficient in the next 35 years in order to feed the world’s population,” he said. “We have to learn to communicate what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”


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New bills introduced this legislative session

By Sydny Boyd, Emma Olson and Nathan Hittle, Nebraska News Service

LINCOLN–The second week of the 2018 legislative session produced a variety of bills. Here are some of the notable bills introduced this week.

Several of the bills introduced related to agriculture:

LB 684, introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would change the beginning farmer tax credit requirements for farmers past their third year of farming.

A few bills also related to education:

LB 718, introduced by Sen.Steve Halloran of Hastings, would create the Higher Education Free Speech Accountability Act that would require secondary education institutions to adopt a free expression act.

LB 771, sponsored by Sen. Lynn Walz of Fremont, would provide free breakfast and lunch to all students who qualify for reduced-price lunches.

A number of proposed bills relate to healthcare:

LB 931, sponsored by Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, ! would provide requirements for opiate prescriptions.

LB 933, sponsored by Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, would provide prescription requirements for certain controlled substances.

LB 934, sponsored by Sen. John Kuehn of Holdrege, would require identification prior to receipt of dispensed opiates.

LB 715, introduced by Sen. Howard of Omaha, would allocate $50,000 to 18 local public health departments for improvement of preventative health programs.

LB 672, introduced by Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, would provide for medical release of a committed offender who is terminally ill or permanently incapacitated.

LB 801, sponsored by Sen. John Stinner of Scottsbluff, would create a Panhandle Beginnings Act to provide mental health services for children.

Many bills related to taxes:

LB 926, sponsored by Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, would exempt members of the armed forc! es on active duty and their spouses from motor vehicle taxes.

LB 961, sponsored by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, would change corporate income tax rates.

LB 962, sponsored by Sen.  Jim Smith of Papillion, change individual income tax rates.

LB 963, sponsored by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, change how often real property is inspected and reviewed for property tax purposes.

LB 798, sponsored by Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha, would remove taxes for feminine hygiene products, including tampons, pads and menstrual cups.

Other bills include:

LB 844, sponsored by Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, would adopt the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, and require employers to provide paid sick leave based on hours an employee has worked.

LB 712, introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht of Omaha, would provide for drug testing for applicants and recipients of unemployment benefits that were previousl! y fired for unlawful controlled substance abuse.

LB 688, introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would allow children attending a facility or center to apply sunscreen without a note of parental permission.

LB 755, introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, would delete the current restriction on operating an all terrain or utility type vehicle between dawn and dusk.

LB 769, sponsored by Sen. Dan Quick of Grand Island, would create a Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact to promote high-speed passenger rail service in the region.

LB 776, sponsored by Sen. John McCollister of Omaha, would revise the system by which county and city jails provide telephone services to inmates.

LB 785, sponsored by Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, would revise language regarding marriage to reflect the legalization of same-sex marriage across the United States.


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