GMO's - Are They Safe?

The March issue of National Geographic magazine has the headline "The War on Science". The article contained describes a number of practices that have been scientifically proven, but which some are skeptical. The magazine asks the question: What's causing reasonable people to doubt reason? Examples include: The moon landing was fake; Climate change does not exist; Vaccinations can lead to autism.

Another of the bylines of "The War on Science" is that genetically modified food is evil. The intention of my article is not to alienate anyone, but simply to lay the facts out and let you decide. GMO corn and soybean crops command the vast majority of acres in the US. Well over 90% for soybeans and around 80% for corn. These crops have been adopted quite readily by producers due to their ability to withstand certain insect feeding or to survive a dose of a potent weed killer. This area of the state probably has the highest percent of non GMO corn grown anywhere in the Midwest. Producers have found that they can grow this corn that will yield well and be paid a premium because it's non GMO.

So why are people concerned about GMO use? After all, the government has tested these crops and approved their use in food and feed crops. And in fact, if you looked closely at the ingredients in many of the foods you eat, you're consuming them with regularity (unless you eat only organic products).

There are only a couple of GMO food crops available, including a few varieties of sweet corn, a couple of squash varieties and papaya. In fact, GMO papaya commands quite a bit of the market share, whereas GMO sweet corn and squash are minimal.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found quite a difference between scientists and the general public in terms of accepting genetically modified foods. 88% of scientists believe such food is safe as opposed to 37% of adult Americans. That's a huge spread. Why do scientists accept science whereas the general public is somewhat skeptical?

One of the arguments is that if the plant isn't bred through traditional methods, then it's not safe. After all, the reason that GMO's exist is that in nature, the set of DNA in GMO crops wouldn't exist. These plants have been artificially bred in a laboratory. Hence the term that has sometimes been used when describing such breeding: "Frankenfood".

The public is asked to accept the fact that crops genetically altered in a lab are as safe as crops bred through traditional breeding methods. But more and more are questioning all manner of science, as evidenced by the first paragraph above. But there is no scientific evidence that these non-traditional breeding methods are unsafe. And that's the point of the article, that the public has less faith in science, even though many parts of our lives are dictated by science based learning.

But it's tough to accept some facts if our intuition tells us different. For instance, the National Geographic article points out that Darwinism is tough to accept, even though most of us learned this at any early age. Our subconscious is tugging at science.

How much does media and advertising play into that decision? I would have to believe it does. How many consumers actually understand how GMO crops are bred? How many consumers are educated well enough to be able to make scientifically based decisions rather than emotional ones? Case in point- A consumer is deciding which of two frozen sweet corns to purchase. One has the label gluten free. How many consumers will purchase the frozen sweet corn that is labeled gluten free? How many consumers realize that corn never has contained gluten?

Who is right and who is wrong? We do live in a country that allows us to state our beliefs and follow those. We are given a choice. Which is a good thing! Freedom of choice is one of the tenants of why this country was founded. So we can make our own choices, based upon science, fact, emotion, being comfortable, etc.