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?