The first-ever Food Dialogue was held at Iowa State University this week, an effort to help educate consumers about how their food is produced. Katie Olthoff, a turkey producer from Stanhope, was one of the panelists.

Olthoff says biotech crops, or genetically modified organisms, were the main topic among those attending the event in Ames. “There was definitely some heated discussion about the safety of GMOs, but Dr. Wayne Parrot, who sat next to me on the panel, did a fantastic job of citing why GMOs are safe.”

The panel also discussed biotech labeling but there was no consensus on whether the practice was helpful — or wanted — by consumers. Olthoff says there is a danger that biotech labeling will be confusing and even alarming. “More people were sort of in the middle on that discussion, agreeing that people need information about where their food comes from,” she says. “My opinion is that labeling is not necessarily the best way to do that, we need education along with that.”

She also fielded questions about hormone-free poultry. Olthoff says all poultry is raised without hormones, so the term is being falsely used to scare consumers and reap higher prices for the birds labeled as hormone-free.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)