This article was updated on 1/26/2014.
Misinformation about GMOs is prevalent on the internet. Boy is it ever. For me, much of it harkens back to show and tell time when I was in elementary school. Remember that? Kids would bring clipped newspaper articles, beloved family trinkets, travel souvenirs, photographs, things of that nature. In third grade there was a kid named Owen who consistently brought articles clipped from the National Enquirer. Now for a third-grader, these articles were attention getting. After all, ‘enquiring minds want to know’! Alien invasions, two-headed dogs, man-beast hybrids. Wow!
But I never bought it, any of it, even when I was eight. I just thought it was stupid. Maybe that was the earliest evidence of my blossoming skeptic side. It was pure entertainment and nothing more, and truth be known, not really all that entertaining. I remember thinking, really Owen? Really? Again? I also remember the teacher clearing her throat and fiddling with her skirt to pause action just long enough to decide how to handle yet another of Owen’s absurd offerings. He was so excited to share the latest alien sighting.
The National Enquirer is still alive and well and is more about celebrities these days and less about two-headed dogs and though it has a presence online, I don’t even know if it still publishes an actual hand-held newspaper.
But public information about GMOs, specifically the information against GMOs, looks like it stepped write off the pages of the old style tabloid. You’ve heard of the organizations and their websites: Organic Consumers Association, Institute of Responsible Technology, GM Watch, Natural News – I could go on as there are many more. Just google “GMOs” and you’ll get screen after screen of these and other websites purporting danger, conspiracies, evil corporations, gag orders on research, career sabotage, poor clueless farmers duped by Monsanto, all the millions of shills worldwide who are paid to speak favorably of GMOs.
And all I can think of is, really Owen? Really? Again?
Takes One to Know One
I know just how this process works because for a seven month period, I was one of those believers of anti-GMO rhetoric. Perhaps it was a lapse in judgement, a period of forgetting that I could think rationally, who knows? – but there I was in the throws of government conspiracies, corporate control, dangerous pathogens,’ just label it’ (so we can ban it), all of the nonsense – and then, boom, my latent skeptic kicked in and I started to vet the information. It wasn’t easy admitting to myself that I could be wrong, but I forced myself to look at writings that explained the benefits of GMOs, writings that had research to back up claims that fewer, not more, pesticides had been used, writings that claimed safety equal to conventional food. I contacted a few people who impressed me with their knowledge and who, by the use of solid evidence, shook me up and set me straight. Since then I have not wavered. Look around my blog and you’ll see the process unfold in my posts.
And guess what else I have found? There are factual sites about the promise of GMOs out there too. Really good ones. There is well-founded, rational, highly vetted information about this technology. One only needs to look for it.
Good Information Exists on the Internet
I have mentioned and linked to Biology Fortified (biofortified) numerous times. This site lists published study after published study about GMOs, both public and private, as well as articles by experts on the subject. There are highly knowledgeable people out there and contrary to the conspiracy theorists, they are not shills of the biotech industry. This is what they study. This is what they love. This is what they do. This is why they are experts. This is why a rational person such as myself looks to them for the real information.
There is another very user friendly website that is similar to biofortified. It’s called GMO Answers. If you have never looked at it, please go there. Questions are posed by readers and answered by one of a panel of experts comprised mostly of scientists. There are also excellent articles about various subtopics that are written by non-scientist, independent types.
It is true that some of the scientists work in biotech, but not all of them, and even if they do work for biotech, isn’t it pretty logical that a PhD trained in plant genetics who wants a good job doing what they love would work for a biotech company? Does a lawyer go to law school so he or she can teach math? Does a doctor or surgeon spend years in medical school to sell cars? Where are plant geneticists and biologists supposed to work if not in cutting edge industries where they think they can best apply their knowledge and earn a nice paycheck?
Below is one question and answer directly quoted from the GMO Answers website:
By: Fran Castle, Global Senior Manager, Communications, BASF on Thursday, 8/15/2013 2:41 pm
Nature is the master of genetic shuffling and is constantly sorting and resorting DNA, causing both subtle and profound changes in all living things. People first began their own DNA management thousands of years ago, when they began crossbreeding plants to produce better foods or fiber. In 1953, scientists discovered the structure of DNA, and in 1973, researchers developed a method for cutting and splicing DNA. That method became known as recombinant DNA, or rDNA, because it enabled scientists to cut and recombine segments of DNA. Since then, researchers have learned how to move genetic material in the form of DNA from one plant or animal to another.
Genetic modification is much more precise than selective breeding. By transferring only certain genes from one plant or animal to another, researchers can introduce one specific trait without also transferring dozens of unwanted traits, as often occurs in selective breeding. And genetic modification is the only existing tool available for producing certain vaccines, drugs and diagnostics. Genetic modification in plants has been going on since the early 1980s. In 1986, EPA approved commercial growing of the first genetically engineered crop – tobacco plants resistant to a tobacco virus.