Tag Archives: GMOs

Mark Lynas on GMOs

Mark Lynas was originally extremely anti-GMOs, or as he says, GM. He helped to start a successful anti-GM movement in the mid 1990s, which grew to a considerable amount of power and influence. Today however (or at least back in 2013),  Lynas is supportive of using GMOs in agriculture. He had held many beliefs about GMOs and was scared of them, describing them as a type of “living pollution” that he thought would spread and go terribly wrong. He believed that GMOs were incredibly unnatural and that this kind of technology was too powerful for humankind. His campaign was involved with a lot of anti-science themes, such as that scientists were “cackling demonically” as they tinkered with the backbones of life. Lynas was very pro-science when it came to proving climate change, so when a critic of his anti-GM mindset pointed this out and directly challenged one of his beliefs- that GMs were bad because it is marketed by big corporations, would he be against the wheel because auto companies market them- Lynas read up on the science of GMs. After reading the science, he realized that changing genes to make plants more pest resistant would mean farmers could use less chemicals, not more. He learned that genes from different species get mixed all the time thanks to viruses, so humans aren’t the only one messing with genomes. Even then, GMs change only a couple genes, where conventional breeding mixes up the whole thing. In short, Lynas read up on the science, and the science proved many of his fears wrong or unjustified, and he realized the incredible benefits of GMs.

Dan’s GMO Assignment

The controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms has become a common discussion among just about everyone in the world today. With this wide discussion there has been many false accusations toward this technology, especially around human consumption. One reason these accusations have become widespread is because people believe that every crop farmers produce are genetically modified, which is again false.  According to bestfoodfacts.org (approved by Dr. Kevin Folta) there is currently only 10 crops that are approved for production in the United States. These 10 crops include: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, squash, arctic apples, and innate potatoes. The three most used in the United States are corn, soybeans, and cotton because of the great demand for these commodities.

The demand for these commodities is one of the biggest reasons that GMOs were invented and with the demand ever growing they will continue to emerge. However people must understand the science behind these products and all the research that is done before a crop is approved because farmers really are trying to produce what’s best for the consumer because in fact farmers are consuming these products as well. This is what brings up the topic of agvocacy because in order for the misconceptions of GMOs to clear up there has to be a push to clarify them with scientific facts, which is something I believe is going to become bigger in bigger in everyday life.

Source: https://www.bestfoodfacts.org/what-foods-are-gmo/

Mark Lynas at 2013 Oxford Farming Conference

During a 2013 conference on farming Mark Lynas spoke about GMOs. Mark Lynas originally was against GMOs and was publicly speaking against them. He thought they were run by large corporations and only benefited the rich. Mark said that this was not the case and that many small and local farmers benefited from GMOs. Mark also said that one of the reasons he did not support GMOs was because he thought they used more pesticides. He later found out that this was also not the case and genetically modified agriculture used less pesticides than non-modified types of agriculture. He has now switched his view points on this matter. He has done his research and truly believes that GMOs will play a crucial role in feeding a rapidly increasing  human population. Mark stated that by 2050 there would be around 9.5 billion people on the earth and that we would have to increase our current agriculture production by over 100%. He also said that one of common myths people believe for why the human population is growing is because developing and poor nations are having a lot of babies. He went on to say that this not entirely true. The main reason the human population is rapidly growing is due to the increase in medical care. Today more and more kids are making past childhood and reproducing. Mark said that there are a around 2 billion children around the world who will be responsible for the 9.5 billion human population. Overall I found this video insightful and shining light on some myths that I thought were true.

Mark Lynas and GMO’S

The misconception of genetics and the important role they play in everyones life is huge. In Mark Lynas’s video I had the chance to view both sides of the argument “are GMO’s bad” which helps me understand the reason people tend to have different opinions. Mark was originally against genetically modified organisms because he did not know the actual science about them at first. But once Mark learned how important this technology is he quickly changed views. With the world growing at a rapid place Mark realized that there would be no way to feed everyone if farmers were not growing GMO crops, which was truly the reason Mark changed sides.

As a 4th generation farm boy I understand the importance of this technology and 100% support the use of GMO’s. I do believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but lets be honest there isn’t any proof that GMO’s are harmful to humans and as a matter of fact their good for us because their supporting our ever growing population. I thought Mark’s video was a good video to kind of open my eyes to other ideas but also teach me that people do not like GMO’s because they are ignorant to the subject and just need to be taught the facts just like Mark had to.

Mark Lyans Video

Mark Lyans help found the anti-GMO champaign back in 1995. He believed that GMOS would increase the use of chemicals, that they only benefited the big companies, that they robbed farmers of their seed, and that it was dangerous. However, as he wrote his books, he changed his mind. As he travelled around the world writing about climate change, he wanted scientific data to back up his research. So he learned how to read scientific journals and informed the world about climate change. However, he had some back lash from people who didn’t believe him to which he said “I have science to back this up”. A couple books later, someone finally called Mark out on his hypo-criticism saying something along the lines of “You call yourself an environmentalist as you lecture about climate change but you don’t agree with the use of GMOs.”

So, Mark did some research and found out that everything he believed before was untrue. It turns out that GMOs actually decrease the use of pesticides because they are modified to be able to fend for themselves, GMOs are beneficial to the companies and to farmers, that GMOs may or may not rob seed but the seed farmers are already getting does that anyway so it doesn’t make a difference, and that GMOs are actually safer than mutagenesis. Mark also found that there has never been an incident where GMOs hurt someone, however many people have gotten sick from organic foods.

Mark realized that without GMOs, there would be no way to feed our growing population without wasting all of our resources and, being an environmentalist, that is against his morals. GMOs help conserve land and water while still producing high yields and without have to cut down more trees. They also reduce runoff of chemicals because less have to be applied.

For all of the reasons that Mark mentioned in his video about why he changed his mind about GMOs are the same reasons why I have been a fan of GMOs since I was a kid. We cannot feed the world by 2050 on just organic. Organic is a niche that has greta benefits but it is not sustainable. We need to be able to have GMOs and organics live together peacefully or else, quite frankly, a lot of people will die whether it be from malnutrition and disease or from depleting our resources. I try to talk to nonbelievers about GMOs in the hopes that they will see that we need GMOs around. You can eat whatever you want, but you need to realize that your way of living can’t be for everyone.

CRISP/Cas 9 Gene Editing

CRISPR/Cas9 is a system that has just recently been discovered around the early 2000s and is taking the science world by surprise. This system is much more accurate compared to early gene editing systems, which makes it the new technique scientist are using. The way this system works is by targeting a specific genome and altering it. While you may think it sounds simple you might be surprised because quite frankly working with DNA sequences is very complex and hard. When looking further into the process there are two molecules used one being the Cas9 and the other being RNA. Now when a scientist picks out what DNA sequence they want to cut out in order to alter the genes they first need Cas9. This molecule is an enzyme that is inserted into the DNA sequence and cuts at a specific location in order to alter the DNA sequence where the scientist pick without harming the whole gene. Though in order for the enzyme to cut out the specific location it needs guide RNA to show it the right path. That means that the RNA is responsible for leading Cas9 to an exact spot in the DNA sequence and then performs the cut. Once the cut is made the cell recognizes the change in the DNA and tries to repair itself. However before the cell can repair itself the scientist uses a DNA repairing machine to introduce changes which will then become part of the gene. Once this process is complete the gene has the desirable trait the scientist picked out and now the process is done.






Guest Lecturer: Dave Mayonado

When you think of the Monsanto, an American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, what is the first thing you think of? Many people think of the documentary Food Inc. where Monsanto is portrayed as thugs of the agricultural industry. The problem is this is where people stopped doing their research. Most people don’t consider Monsanto’s point of view. This is why I think having Dave Mayonado as a guest lecturer was so important! We got to hear Monsanto’s side straight from the company. Mr. Mayonado gave a history about Monsanto and how they became the agricultural giant they are today. He then went on to talk about Genetically Modified Organisms and new techniques like RNAi technology which allows gene silencing. Gene silencing presents the possibility of turning off specific genes, which might have many practical agricultural applications. The most exciting part about this new technology is how it can be presented to consumers. This technology doesn’t involve inserting new genes into a different plant which is a scary thought for consumers. Throughout his presentation Mr. Mayonado made it a point that GM crops are the most thoroughly studied foods in the world and that their safety has been consistently demonstrated. Seeing both sides for every argument is always important so you can form your own opinion on the matter. I felt as though this lecture was one of the most beneficial because it allowed us as students to grasp more information and so as we go out into the world we can educate others.

To Label or Not to Label?

Food labeling is something that is necessary and helpful in many situations, such as allergies or sensitivities. However, labels have been used as a sort of propaganda, in that if one label mentions being “_______-free,” the competing product is therefore implied to contain whatever this blank may be (gluten, sugar, steroids/hormones, GMOs, etc). It is important for products to be properly labeled, and I do believe that the public has the right to know what is in the products they are consuming, however there should be limitations. Certain items simply cannot contain gluten, or maybe dairy, and therefore labeling them this way should not be able to be used as a competitive marketing technique.

Consumers recently have become more interested in what their food contains more than ever before, which is good in that society wants to be healthier. However, in order for labels, especially GMO labels, to be beneficial to both society and the industry, education of the public is necessary. GMOs are an agricultural technological tool that have allowed agriculture to excel, and should not be demonized due to misunderstanding. I imagine that because of society’s insistence on labeling, companies will be pushed into GMO labeling in the close future. If so, I think it would be helpful to include educational information on the packaging as well, in hopes that the public will be more open when given more information.

Regardless of the laws placed on labeling, further education about GMOs is still necessary for people to get both sides of the story, and to fully understand what exactly is being offered to them so they can make an educated decision.

The Power of Words on a Food Label

Everyone that goes to the grocery store and reads food labels knows that there are so many different words and phrases that may sound good but do not actually know what it means. People choose to believe something written on a label that sounds good without looking further into what that exactly means. It could have no meaning or not have the positive effect on food production they think it does. For example, people believe organic is healthier and GMOs are harmful but in fact, organic is proven to be healthier and GMOs are not harmful. There is nothing wrong if someone chooses to eat organic but they should be aware of all the facts. The fact that a few words on a food label that may not have any meaning can influence many consumers into buying that product is mindboggling. Adding more words onto labels could potentially overwhelm the consumer even more. But, I do believe adding GMOs to the label could potentially be a good idea to give consumers complete transparency into how our food is produced. With adding GMOs, we must first set the record straight will all the other confusing words and phrases on labels to not confuse consumers even more. If more research is done by the consumers, there would be less confusion when it comes to purchasing everyday foods. Maybe the companies should also be more clear on exactly what their words mean so consumers are not misguided. Like with gluten-free or any “free of this” put on a label when they normally aren’t found in that product, to begin with, to cause people to think the product without those words on their label is bad.

Label Me Undecided

A hot button issue in today’s agricultural landscape is whether or not to label GMO’s in our food products. It is very difficult for me to have a strong opinion one way or another because I understand each side of the argument. On one hand I believe that consumers should have the right to know exactly what is in the products they are purchasing, especially a product they are putting into their bodies. I can recall feeling extremely upset to learn that lobbyists from major food production companies like Nestle and Kraft fought tooth and nail to prevent labeling legislation from being passed. The problem with GMO labeling is that it puts companies in a very difficult position that could cost millions of dollars. The truth is that there are already so many misnomers when it comes to food labeling and in general regarding how are food is produced. Additional labeling could very well create more confusion for consumers. Based on all the research that has been done on GMO products, scientists have yet to discover any negative health effects or risks attributed to biotechnology and GMO’s. I do not see a problem with companies advertising their products as non-GMO; however I personally do not believe that all products containing GMO’s should be required to include such information on labels. I do believe consumers should become more educated on GMO’s and the onus may fall on major food production companies to do so. Until GMO’s are proven unsafe in any fashion, there should be no labeling requirements.

Should genetically modified organisms/ingredients be labeled for consumers?

A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, corn etc… One of the biggest controversies in the food world today is determining whether food products containing genetically modified ingredients should be labeled so. The argument for labeling comes down to the right to know: Consumers should be well informed of what’s in their food.

One of the cons of labeling food products that contain genetically modified ingredients is that the majority of consumers have no idea what GMO means or they see other products that are labeled Non-GMO so they think if a product is genetically modified it must be some terrible thing. Therefore, food manufacturers hesitate to label their products in fear that sales will go down. There needs to be outreach and educational programs for consumers to learn more about GMOs. This is tricky for food producers to do because consumers might not believe information that is coming directly from them.

Another reason food producers advocate for keeping GMO labels off food products is how expensive it would be for them to change their labels for maybe one or two states that require it. Also, adding genetically modified to a label suggests that the food might cause health problems. This is exactly what anti-GMO and organic food marketers want consumers to think. Labeling food products genetically modified will be more expensive for the company and if consumers don’t know what GMO means it provides no useful information to them

All the disadvantages aside, consumers should be well informed of what’s in their food. I firmly believe that food producers need to be open and honest about what they are putting in their food, it’s the first step in creating trust between them and the consumer. However, I do understand their hesitation, with so many consumers being uneducated it wouldn’t be a smart move, financially. Labeling genetically modified products might be what food producers need to show consumers that they want to create a stronger relationship by being transparent with the public knowing that it might affect their sales negatively.

Pros and Cons of GMO labeling

Labeling food that has GMO ingredients has become a very controversial and heated topic in todays society. Especially with more people wanting to go organic and wanting to be more careful about what they eat. GMO labeling could lead to many pros and cons so figuring out what the best choice is for both consumers and producers is very hard.

First the pros, labeling which products have GMOs will allow consumers to have knowledge and be able to choose a product they feel is best for their lifestyle and values. Today consumers are all about transparency, GMO labeling will allow for a stronger relationship between producer and consumer. A stronger relationship will allow the trust of farmers by consumers to continue to grow. Also, producers with a niche can squeeze their way into the market. Consumers are willing to pay higher prices so industry will benefit and new players will emerge.

Second the cons, the big word here is misinterpretation. Labels could become very confusing for consumers, things such as “natural” mean little to nothing but consumers start to believe its more. Consumers tend to have not enough knowledge when looking at labels. As soon as consumers sees “GMO ingredients” they’ll put it back on the shelf and reach for the organic choice which in reality may not be the better choice. Organic is another word with much misinterpretation due to nothing actually proving its better for your health or the environment. Lastly, the effects on the poor. GMO ingredients are perceived to be unsafe when in reality thats not true. The poor will become food insecure and end up spending money on food because labels scare them away.

Technology in Agriculture

Dr. David Mayonado from Monsanto provided great insight on what exactly GMOs are and why they are so important. He explained how intensive research and the adoption of new technologies constantly help to improve and increase production. With the implementation of always improving mechanical, chemical and biological tools, US crop productions have increased greatly. He explained to us exactly what a GMO is – the making of a copy of a gene for a desired trait from one plant or organism and then using it in another plant. These products have found to increase yields while directly decreasing the need for pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. The best part about GMOs that is often misunderstood or mislead, is that they are completely safe for human consumption – with over 2000 research studies to back this up.  Dr. Mayonado also covered RNAi Technology and how gene silencing presents the possibility of turning off specific genes – which could potentially have many practical agricultural applications. It was fascinating to get a scientific lesson and perception behind GMO’s and this lecture helped me to further understand them and their importance.

GMOS- Dave Mayonado

Dave Mayonado’s lecture was absolutely my favorite this semester, and probably one of my favorite speakers I’ve ever been able to see. I am absolutely intrigued by GMO’s, not only about what they are and how they are developed, but by the public’s perception of them and how easy it is to influence people to think one way or the other. With a major in American Politics, seeing people develop an opinion and never listen to others, is something I see everyday. GMO’s is such a controversial topic, and to see people hear the actual facts about them but still believe that they are dangerous and whatnot is very interesting. Growing up in such a small town that was dominated by agriculture, it is very cool to see GMO’s help small time farmers succeed and profit. GMO’s are safer than I thought and  allow more underdeveloped countries to help feed their communities with higher yields and less money going in to keeping a plant alive. I hope that I can continue learning about GMO’s and keeping up to date about new technologies developed.