Michael Robin Robin's picture
Why do so many people oppose GM technology, in the face of overwhelming clear and convincing scientific evidence that it causes no harm and offers great benefits, both now and in the future? How can those of us in favour of it effectively make our case?

A:Expert Answer

As a farmer, I have had the opportunity to hear concerns about how we raise our food.  Many times I have been asked if I am an organic farmer or where they can buy my products.  It seems the majority of consumers that have come into contact with a farmer have only done so through farmers markets.  There the consumer meets the producer, develops a relationship and trust is built in the product as well as in the producer.

 

When I direct the conversation towards questions about GMOs I am often met with a negative reaction.  GMOs are associated with big companies and big farmers out to make money.  Using science, facts and figures about the many benefits of GM seeds falls on ears that don’t trust the research because they don’t trust the people using it or developing it.  

 

This disconnect between the conventional farmer and the consumer didn’t happen overnight, but it has grown into a movement.  When people join a movement they take responsibility in promoting and advocating the message.  Small farmers and organic foods have become a movement that deserves to be respected as we search for ways to incorporate trust of conventional food production.  

 

Perhaps we can focus on education and transparency as we strive to improve consumer trust in GM foods.  Fear will always be used as a tool to place doubt about the safety of GM foods so it is essential to put fears to rest by coming up with creative ways to develop trust.  

 

Websites are an important tool in education but they are not very personal.  Personal stories seem to resonate the most when connecting people to ideas.  When we went through the farm crisis of the 80s the public at large had great empathy for farmers because faces of families were involved in the reporting.  Putting faces on farming will be important if we want to create a movement that supports conventional farming.

 

Moving from fear and distrust to dialogue means that both parties have to be willing to listen. As we listen to the concerns the consumer has about GMOs it will help if we are understanding rather than defensive.  As long as food is plentiful we will have more of a challenge to show the value of increased crop yields.  The reality of shrinking farm acres, water usage and chemical runoff can help us portray the positives of GMOs as the right thing to do right now for the environment.  How we share that message and tell our story will be critical to the future of GMO development. 

Comments

Eleni Mary's picture

Because it is NOT safe. Hellllo??? How do you not see this?

Michael Robin Robin's picture

Yes, it *is* safe. I believe the science, which overwhelmingly supports this position. I could ask you your own question: how do you not see *this?*

GMO Lies's picture

Perhaps this documentary will shed some light on the topic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUd9rRSLY4A#at=415

gmosrock's picture

Perhaps those of you who are in favor of GMOs will be able to more effectively make your case if GMOs are labelled, allowing consumers to directly see how it affects their health. And perhaps the scientific evidence that it causes no harm and offers great benefits, both now and in the future, is not in fact overwhelming clear and convincing.

achood4mu's picture

@Eleni Mary - I believe GMOs are safe too. One thing that helps convise me of this fact is that there are thousands of safety studies that have been performed on GM crops that confirm their safety. In contract, there are just a handful of studies that are cited over and over and that have scientific flaws that questions the safety. This weight of evidence is amazing to me,

rickspalding's picture

"Offers great benefits" please extrapolate. If you are talking about "feeding the world" that is a fallacy. The dubious yield GMO supposedly creates has been torn apart. WHen it comes to tilling for next year, we have a major problem. In the end, if the consumer wants to eat GMO that is their choice. How can that be their choice when they don't know what is in the food. Here we go now with more false premises and endless logical loops to everyone's answers.

Michael Robin Robin's picture

Regarding labeling:

First, since GM-produced foods are no different than other foods, there is no need to label them.

Second, people who are philosophically opposed to GM-produced foods can already avoid them by looking for the organic label. I’ve also seen “GMO free” labels out there, added by manufacturers who see a competitive advantage in doing so.

Finally, I suspect the push to label GM-produced foods is simply a strategy for a de facto ban of the technology through the back door. GM-produced foods can be sold in Europe, but they must be clearly labeled. This has led to no GM-foods being available, as manufacturers don’t want to have to add a label to their product that will frighten people and harm sales.

Michael Robin Robin's picture

Regarding benefits: there are already many out there, and many more coming down the pipe. First, existing benefits.

Less tillage required, therefore less fuel burned, ergo better soil conservation and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Better crop protection with herbicide resistant crops. Instead of having to use several products to control different kinds of weeds, farmers can use one product. Again, fewer passes with the sprayer, and less fuel burned.

Easier on the environment, i.e. conservation of non-target species. Rather than using rather toxic pesticides to control insects, GM plants (e.g. Bt corn and cotton) have the pesticide incorporated in the plant. This means only those pests that try to eat the plant are affected; all others are unaffected. Also, the toxin is very specific – it only affects certain insects, and is harmless to humans. Some examples of this sort of thing are chocolate (toxic to your dog) and onions (toxic to your cat).

Potential benefits, or ones to be soon available are increased nutrition (e.g. enhanced vitamin A, iron) and reduced fertilizer use (nitrogen-fixing wheat).

As for “feeding the world” I agree this may be a bit hyperbolic. I think we will need knowledge from all sectors to meet this challenge, but it would be folly to ban a valuable set of tools like GM for no valid reason.

I could go on, but all this material is widely available. Which gets me back to my original question: in the face of overwhelming clear and convincing evidence to support its value, why do so many people oppose GM technology?

cudspan's picture

Michael Robin Robin says:
First, since GM-produced foods are no different than other foods, there is no need to label them.

I'm getting very tired of this argument. It's an absurd reduction... There's no difference between hydrogen and helium either, because both are made up of sup-atomic particles. There are huge differences, even if there are no differences in immediate nutritional analysis.

One difference is the in the economic paradigm. In short, promoting Roundup assumes there is one way to farm. GMOs build in a dependence on this paradigm.

Another difference is in the environmental impact. You claim Roundup actually reduces the use of toxic herbicides. According to the NY Times, Roundup Ready cotton has resulted in Roundup resistant pig weed. The result? Monsanto is subsidizing more toxic herbicides to clean up this mess. The additional toxins is a bad enough problem. Worse is the inevitable result of plain old natural selection. If you introduce this stuff in the environment, you cannot predict the results of co-evolution. Sorry, but we're just not that smart.

I could go on with other ways in which this stuff is "different" from conventional foods. The point is, it IS different. And I want to know when my dollars are paying for it. Plain and simple.

This is no back door to ban GMOs. On the contrary, not labeling is a back door to sneak GMOs into my diet. Please, let's keep our terms straight here.

Michael Robin Robin's picture

Well, I give up. I see that there is pretty much zero chance of me changing anyone's mind here, and I still don't see an answer to my original question.

From what I've seen of this forum so far, the CBI is wasting their money. It's no different than dozens of other forums out there that are basically firing the same old tired volleys from their firmly entrenched positions.

That's all, folks!

Seeking.the.Truth's picture

Since GMO foods are no different? The very FACT that they are DIFFERENT is the reason they are PATENTED.