The Great Debate On GMO Crops

Iowa Farm Scene

Believing in safety of genetically modified crops depends on trust and science.

Published on: November 4, 2013

Gary Munkvold, ISU seed scientist on the panel, added, "To me, these scare tactics are an example of trying to blame all the evils of the world on GMO crops."

ISU's MacDonald said she thinks "It's unethical for people who oppose GMOs to take food away from people who are starving and prevent them access to foods like golden rice that are genetically modified to prevent blindness." Golden rice is genetically modified to contain beta carotene, but anti-GMO activists have prevented the rice from being made available in countries poor and developing countries where it is needed.

Both sides in GMO debate can quote data, but here's the key question—Is the data being interpreted correctly?

Munkvold said GMO crops have added more than $100 billion to the bottom line of farmers globally. Most of the money, he said, stays with the farmer, not with the seed producers. Munkvold also said because GMO corn has resistance to insect damage, the crop has lower levels of mycotoxins that are caused by infections carried by insects, something documented by USDA studies.

Munkvold disagreed with Rosmann on trends in pesticide use. "Pesticide reductions have occurred," said Munkvold, "and they're substantial. There are many studies and they are unbiased. Each side in this GMO argument can quote data, but it comes down to whether that data is being interpreted correctly."

Rosmann ended with this comment: "Both sides can cherry-pick studies. I know what I see on my farm."

Horan ended with this comment: "I know what works on my farm, too. Biotech crops are the overwhelming choice of farmers in the U.S. and elsewhere if given a choice of what seed to plant. There has been an incredible effort globally to find something wrong with GMO grain, and no one has found it yet. That gives me a lot of confidence."