How a ‘GMO Survivor’ Really Feels About the Value of Sound Science

While running errands on a recent Saturday morning, I learned just how strongly people feel about what they eat, and it was all because of my T-shirt. First on my honey-do list that morning was getting a few soil amendments for the garden, so I set out for the garden center.


I approached a young saleswoman who, it became clear, was not going to be much help. She waved in the vague direction of the back of store, and the message was clear: Go away.

I couldn’t understand what was going on at first, then I recalled the words on my T-shirt: “GMO Survivor.” Genetic modification of crops simply means doing in a lab what plant breeders have traditionally done, only a whole lot more precisely and quickly, which usually means cheaper. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are widely considered safe by scientists and, in fact, have been consumed by Americans for many years in the form of genetically modified corn and soybeans.

In our industry, there are just two genetically modified crops — papayas and apples. The latter is the product of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF) with its “Arctic” line of apples that, when sliced, do not brown like traditional apples.

I still needed the soil amendments. So I went to the gigantic home improvement chain store, and the woman in their garden center was extremely pleasant, saying they not only had what I wanted, they had a whole host of alternatives I might find of interest. I loaded up my shopping cart, and as I headed off to pay the woman called out “I love your T-shirt.”

People really do feel strongly about GMOs. That’s all the more reason that growers need to stand together on the messaging around them. However you feel about them, using the issue to increase sales is a detriment to the entire industry.

Couldn’t help thinking about that after learning that a large California vegetable grower admitted to making that very mistake.  Mann’s Fresh Vegetables removed the “non-GMO” label from its products and issued a press release to explain why.

They thought it would be beneficial to use the non-GMO verified logo on the packaging in an attempt to appeal to millennial customers.

“When we prepared our packaging for Canada, we were told that we could not use the non-GMO verified logo there, because there are no GMO lettuces. This made us think deeper about the logo’s use and the perpetuation of food fears. The fact that we were also seeing the logo used on water, sea salt and — no joke — kitty litter made the decision an easy one.”

It’s an admirable move. Growers need to stand together in favor of sound science. They also need to do everything in their power to educate people about how GMOs play a major role in furthering agricultural production in a positive way. Getting the conversation started is as easy as putting on a T-shirt.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Submit a comment below.

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Avatar for Russ Willenbring Russ Willenbring says:

Monsanto was the big push for Roundup and look at where that is taking them. They also pushed for GMO crops. Where do you think there corrupt profit thinking research going to end up 10,15,or 20 years from now? I am betting the same way.

Avatar for Matt Matt says:

I guess I am going to go the other way. Being in one of the states with the largest number of Organic and Non-GMO growers I can say the opposite is true. MANY of my opportunities to sell produce are specifically because I only grow NON-GMO vegetables.

The development process of a GMO is NOT the same a traditional hybrid. Nature does not normally allow genetic material to cross species boundaries, yet this is specifically what most GMO breeders are doing. Taking genes from soil bacteria, animals, fungus and inserting it into plants.

The technology of the future is marker assisted selection. The ability to use traditional plant breeding techniques (Hybridization without chemicals, electricity, mutagenicity, etc.) and find the plants that contain the desired genes without having to wait for an entire growth cycle to complete. This respects nature, provides ALMOST all of the benefits of GMO’s and drastically cuts the development time for new hybrids.

It is getting really old reading the tired story of GMOs are going to save the industry. You want to know the sad truth? Smaller farmers make more money growing improved varieties that are off patent. They can save seed, legally replant it and actually MAKE some money. Many farmers have been making very slim to no profits the last DECADE. They have to compete with large multi-national companies who grow their crops in semi third world counties where labor costs next to nothing.

The NON-GMO verified project has helped MANY smaller growers to get a little bit of a leg up bringing their products to market. Once someone has such a large slice of the market that they feel they can dismiss those buyers who search our the non-gmo label, then they don’t need those buyers anyway.

The next time your growing for your family think about who will have your back. Will it be the huge multi-national who doesn’t really need you as a customer, who wouldn’t even notice if you stopped buying? More likely it will be the small seed company that relies on it’s growers to stay in business. Those companies who breed varieties that are what younger people are clamoring for (Non-gmo and Organic). Those are the companies that will have your back.

Almost all GMO breeders have so many technology fees added on to their seed that it negates much of the added profit.

Avatar for Rob Bright Rob Bright says:

What a steaming pile of antiscience, agrichemical/ biotech industry propaganda! Despicable misinformation!

Avatar for Richard Molinar Richard Molinar says:

It is sad how uninformed people are about the GMOs. First of all, nature does not make crosses between species (only a few exceptions). And definitely does not make crosses between genera, not between classes, not between orders, and not between kingdoms (plant, animal) ; but GMO does do this. This reminds me of the movie Jurrasic Park – “Ian Malcom: Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Besides the main crops of alfalfa, soybeans, seed corn, papayas, etc, we also see GMOs in squash and sweet corn.

Avatar for William Pilacinski William Pilacinski says:

I have a similar T-shirt that on the front reads “I (heart symbol) GMOs – SEE MY BACK FOR WHY” and on the back has data from the Brookes & Barfoote papers with actual scientific data on the benefits of GMOs to date, along with additional things it could do in the future, including saving up to half a million children from going blind EACH YEAR by eating GMO Golden Rice. And to address Matt’s comment below, I worked with USAID on GMO crops for Bangladesh and the Philippines and I know that the anti-GMO movement, including NON-GMO VERIFIED, has prevented valuable foods from being approved for poor people in developing countries. Those that buy organic food should know that a portion of the too much they pay for organic goes to prevent Golden Rice from being approved and allowing children to continue to go blind from vitamin A deficiency.

Avatar for Steve Bright Steve Bright says:

Watch this on YouTube/ Science Fourm Genetically Engineered Food :The Science Behind The Controversy

Avatar for Dave Dave says:

I find it amusing that often the same people asking us to believe in “sound science” on climate change are the same people that refuse to believe “sound science “ on GMOs.

Avatar for Kevin Edberg Kevin Edberg says:

Eating is an intimate act: we are taking things into our bodies, and therefore all people have the right to make their own determination about what to put in their bodies. “Sound science” is a tricky thing, and it is constantly changing. Thalidomide and DDT are just two well-documented examples of how scientists, regulators and practitioners all got it wrong on fundamental issues of product safety and impact, with horrendous consequences. Monsanto SWORE that that their “sound science” would never result in resistance but now we deal with rampant resistance and the next treadmill of dicamba. Further, our regulatory approaches are not only based on “sound science” about safety, but rather is filtered through a regulatory lens of cost/benefit, too often influenced by fake studies and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of lobbying. But I return to my central point: people get to make choices about what they choose to eat. Agricultural producers get to figure out how to meet those needs in whatever ways they wish, and can make work.

A little more humility and respect, yes from journalists and Meister Publications too, would be welcome.