A lot of misinformation exists among the general public regarding genetically engineered crops.
Part of that, I’m certain, stems from organizations that are so opposed to modern agriculture that they create fear where none should exist and nurture that fear with unsubstantiated and often outlandish claims about the dire consequences associated with genetic engineering—or other farm-related activity, program or product they think is contrary to their positions.
Part of the fault, too, lies in the industry’s failure to provide enough information to consumers about the benefits and advantages of transgenic research and crop development. The industry, and I include the agricultural press in this category, has done an adequate job of informing farmers of the efficiencies they can gain and the benefits they can create by adopting transgenic technology. We’ve all missed the boat, however, in educating the public about the advantages of genetically modified crops.
Consequently, many do not understand how GMO products are developed or used and they don’t appreciate the many benefits they provide, not just to farmers and the agriculture industry but also to society at large. People tend to fear what they don’t understand.
I recently received an email that points out how little the general public understands about transgenic technology.
The initial email read: “Mr. Smith-are you for real promoting Monsanto & their GMO seed with Roundup in it? Seriously-do you want your kids/grandkids to have deformities because herbicides are in the seeds that grow veggies, corn, wheat-then spread around as feed for cattle & other animals. All the companies involved in this need to stop promoting this GMO crap & stop getting $ from Monsanto to promote GMO seeds. Disgusting.”
Where to begin?
I often just let these nonsensical assaults alone, confine them to the trash bin and forget about them. But I did respond to this one. I replied:
“Where do you get your information that GMO seeds cause any kind of deformities? Did you read it on the Internet? Did you see it in a scientific journal? It's garbage.”
Perhaps I could have been a bit more circumspect, but something about the claims irked me. The correspondent soon replied:
“Give it 10 yrs. Just like DDT & other pesticides. How about Agent Orange used to defoliate in Viet Nam? I'm pretty sure Round Up (sic) weed killer says on the instructions not to swallow. If you're not suppose (sic) to swallow it why would you want to eat anything grown from a seed that is genetically modified with weed killer. Really think about it. Eat it if you choose but there are a lot of us who won't and who will boycott all companies who use any product made by Monsanto. And Monsanto pays big bucks to the powers that be so as not to have this info listed in the ingredients.”
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I gave it one more shot and explained that Roundup Ready crops do not include Roundup but are designed to tolerate Roundup application without harm to the plant. I didn’t tell him that wheat currently available is not genetically modified, but I did mention that no studies exist that show genetically modified products are harmful, cause deformities or threaten life as we know it.
I have heard nothing more from the gentleman—which is somewhat telling in that folks who choose to oppose anything without facts to back up their position will not be swayed by facts that go against what they already believe.
I also support his right to boycott any product he wishes, but I think if he ever faces the choice of going hungry or eating a GMO product, he’ll be happy to compromise.
In the meantime, those of us in agriculture should think of ways we can alleviate some of these irrational fears.