Answering GMO Myths with Facts

Answering GMO Myths with Facts

A recent article in InQuisitr provides a great primer on GMOs, utilizing Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and GMOAnswers expert Katie Pratt to dispell myths around GMOs.

Two of the most trusted public scientists in the country, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, have received the ire of some dissenters as they have both come out to speak out in favor of GMOs.

When Tyson was asked whether he is pro-GMO, he responded, “I’m not pro-GMO. I’m pro-science,” as reported in Reason.com.

Tyson has repeatedly defended his findings by just sticking with the science and not the beliefs that people want to be true.

“When results are repeated and found to be true — that is objective, scientific truth. That is the kind of truth people should base legislation on. If you start basing laws that are not anchored in objective truths, it is the beginning of the end of an informed democracy,” Tyson said in Food Evolution.

Katie Pratt, a fourth generation family farmer and GMOAnswers volunteer expert, also provided answers to some of the common questions about GMOs.

How do you define a GMO? The acronym stands for “genetically modified organism” but really we need to be talking about the process of biotechnology, which is another form of breeding plants to be stronger and more productive among other things.

What is the controversy surrounding GMOs? I think GMOs became such a hot topic because it was something not a lot of people had heard of or knew much about. Twenty years ago, the first biotech crop (that’s how we farmers referred to GMOs) was available to farmers who make up less than two percent of the population. These crops directly benefited the farmer by allowing him/her to do more with less. And in agriculture circles biotech crops were discussed a lot! Along the way, someone else took notice and now GMOs and biotechnology are at the forefront of our food/farming conversations with farmers and non-farmers, alike. I just think the controversy lies in the fear of the unknown. Often times, once we do a little research, our minds are put it ease.

Where should people go to get the most unbiased information on GMOs? There are many great websites and organizations offering up information about GMOs. GMOAnswers, US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance and specific commodity organizations as well. Unfortunately, it seems if those sources are associated with “industry” then they are not credible. So, if that is the case, seek out a farmer. There are many of us online these days and we have absolutely no reason not to share the whys and hows of our farms, including our choice of genetically modified seed or not.

Some say GMOs are good for the environment, while others say no. What is your take? On our farm, we have seen real benefits to incorporating genetically modified seed into our crop rotations. We can do more with less. We have been able to cut our pesticide use in half with GMOs. We have more minimum till and no till ground, we are using cover crops on portions of our fields. We are spending less time in the fields with our tractors and other farm equipment, which means soil is staying put and building a stronger more fertile foundation for our crops.

What are your thoughts on the film Food EvolutionI’m excited. I’m excited for this, to hopefully, reach the masses, reach our classrooms and reach our population who is concerned about how we are to feed a growing population AND conserve, preserve and protect our environment. I’m excited that this film gives voice to scientists who I have a tremendous amount of respect for being able to take complex issues and explain them so we can all understand.

It seems like farmers have been rather quiet on the issue. Why? Gosh, I feel like GMOs are all I talk about and have been talking about for five years now. Because people tend to seek information from like-minded people, I think when they look for information on GMOs they might be starting from a place of bias already and therefore look for information to support that bias from groups and organization with similar opinions. That, and we farmers, don’t have a public relations budget for fancy ad slicks, labels and scary documentaries. We’re farming to support our families and often a family legacy. That comes first. It is not only our livelihood but our business.

Have you heard about farmers being forced into buying GMO seeds? I have heard this scary rumor, but have never heard a firsthand account of this happening to a farmer. I just can’t imagine it. We have so, so many seed choices, both genetically modified and not. And every farmer has seed salespersons calling on them every winter and seed catalogs (picture the garden seed catalogs that start arriving in January) cluttering the mailbox. We have so many choices. Farmers make decisions based on their soil types, market access, infrastructure, etc. They make decisions that are best for their business (i.e. farm) and their family.

Do you think GMOs are good, bad or neutral? Why? GMOs are another tool in our farm tool box. That’s it. The more options we have when it comes to raising a crop, the better we’ll be at raising quality, high-yielding crops, caring for our natural resources and positively contributing to our local economies. Just like tractor technology, soil, water, fertilizer, conservation practices, etc. our seed choice gives us more choice in our fields and our farms. All of these things work in tandem to make us better more efficient farmers.

What would you like to add about GMOs? As a mom, farmer and the primary food decision-maker/buyer for our family, I want to share this message with everyone. Do not fear your food. Please don’t. It isn’t worth the guilt trip we put ourselves on every time we navigate a grocery store. Instead, be aware, be informed, be comfortable and confident in the choices you make for your family. You might hear, “know your farmer, know your food” and think, “I don’t know a farmer.” Not a problem, we are present, all sorts online. Seek us out, the ones who raise organic, the ones who raise cattle on grass or on feedlots, the ones who raise corn, vegetables, fruits and nuts. We are here and are seeking a modicum of sanity in today’s food conversation.

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