GMOs: They're Still News

My Generation

As California gears up to vote on mandatory GM labeling, farmers need to brace themselves to hear a whole lot more about what we thought was old news

Published on: June 21, 2012

So, remember how I said I'd share more pictures from my nephew's wedding? Well. Given all the food talk going on this week, I decided to push farm wedding photos to next week and talk GMOs instead.

I know, I know. Wedding pictures with tractors are way more fun.

And I know, I know (again). We've been talking about GMOs in farm magazines for 15 years. This is not news to the agricultural community.

But it's becoming news to a whole lot of our country. Even as Europe begins to take a scientific approach to GM crops – something a lot of us thought we'd never see – consumers in the U.S. seem poised to swing in the opposite direction. After years of trusting in government, scientists and farmers, U.S. consumers seem to have suddenly begun giving credo to the scare tactics and vitriol pumped out by certain segments of our population.

Indeed, California will vote this fall whether to label GMOs in food. The debate is raging on blogs and at food forums like the Food Dialogues, hosted by U.S. Farmers and Ranchers this week in California.

Earlier this week, the American Medical Association issued a formal statement in opposition to mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Their position reads: "Our AMA believes that as of June 2012, there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education."

A nice bit of common sense, no? That maybe we shouldn't spend millions of dollars to do something that may provide more information but won't actually make our food supply any safer? Some of us might argue that money could be spent to, you know, actually improve food safety.

But our common sense isn't everyone else's. Yesterday, my new friend, Aimee Whetstine, alerted me to a blog post at 5 Minutes for Mom, which did little but offer scary half-truths and blatant misinformation on GMOs. It was originally titled, "GMOs – A Dirty Word I Wish I Didn't Have to Teach to My Children."

Yes, you read that right.

Following comments from several of us sharing facts and asking for a more balanced approach, the writers changed the headline and softened some of their more stringent verbiage. Be sure to scroll down and read Anne Burkholder's comment; she rocked it. Even better, the writers have asked Katie Pinke to help them with another, more balanced post. A minor victory, but a victory, nonetheless.

For farmers, this new emphasis means we need to tune in and be prepared to hear a lot more about GMOs. And know that much of what you hear won't be good. Be ready to share your thoughts, whenever you get the chance.

So I ask you: what would you tell a consumer with the same thinking as the "5 Minutes for Mom" writers? What questions would you like to see them ask? And how would you try to relate to their concerns?

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I see no problem with labeling GMOs. When I first heard of them, I was thrilled with the concept. What could be better than designer crops and animals? Now, I am not quite so sure. I know plenty of my fellow farmers who wish they did not have to plant them. There are plenty of studies that indicate they could be dangerous to our health not to mention the weed pressures we have now. I would rather not take that chance with my kid's health so we do not eat them. We have decided to grow common hybrids and old fashioned heirlooms on our farm. I also crossbreed my own animals and corn.

  2. Aimee Whetstine @ says:

    Holly, that last comment was from me, Aimee Whetstine. Didn't register before posting, so I was dubbed anonymous. All registered and set now!

    • Holly Spangler says:

      Thank you for registering, Aimee! You make such a great point about AMA and how their position is important to you as a parent. Props for science! And facts!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Holly, thank you for the call out in your post. It's been quite a week to say the least! I'm fascinated by the AMA's decisive statement. The AMA is a medical organization, not an agriculture organization. That appeals to me as a non-farming, suburban mom. I hope that message is shared far and wide in this debate. I believe consumers like me do want choices in food, and we want facts rather than hype to make the best choices for our families.