**Let me go ahead and give full disclosure here. I am a former college intern of Monsanto. I am no longer employed by Monsanto. I am the wife of a farmer who uses biotechnology on the farm. I am an agriculture teacher who talks about the science of biotechnology every year at school. I have answered questions for the website gmoanswers.com because 1) I am an agriculturist with experience in production ag and communications, 2) I actually teach what I talk about, 3) I am passionate about the consumer understanding where their food comes from. That being said, all of the opinions below are just that–my personal opinions. Enjoy my soapbox rant! ;) **
Jared and I have expanded our little farming operation to include more produce this year–mainly tomatoes, sweet corn and watermelons. One of the things I have been most excited about is going to the farmer’s market to sell our products. To be honest, I was a little nervous going by myself. The oppressive heat has been doing a number on my stamina as a pregnant produce salesmen and I quickly discovered that it doesn’t matter how much shade, how many fans or how many helping hands you have… when the thermometer is still climbing at 10 a.m. and it’s already 95 degrees outside it’s time for the preggosaurus rex to find an air conditioning unit!
Despite the heat, I found the farmers at the Marianna Farmer’s Market to be absolutely delightful! I was unsure of market etiquette, where to set up, what to expect, how to price, etc.. but they just took me under their wings and showed me everything I needed to know! One of the other farm wives, Ms. Larry even took time to teach me a thing or two about the government assistance coupons so that Jared and I can prepare to take those for Florida next year in addition to Alabama’s coupons. It was a wonderful experience that reminded me of how much I love the community that raised me!
I also had the wonderful privilege of seeing many of my former customers from Bryan’s (a pillar-of-the-community general store I worked at in high school), as well as getting to hang out with my brother and a few of my FFA members that stopped by to chat (Ok, let’s be honest, they wanted to see if I had turned into a waddling preggosaurus rex since school let out! :) )
In the midst of all this happiness, HE walks up. You know who I’m talking about. The boisterous, opinionated type with the attitude that shouts his opinions from the rooftops when no one has asked for them. He falls in many categories but this individual was particularly opinionated about GMOs, biotechnology, agriculture and science in general.
Ahhhhh… the shade tree scientist. Fixing other people’s opinions one belligerent argument at a time. Let’s take a moment and appreciate their minimal research and their bent to believe the first thing they hear.
He approaches my table he looks at my innocent bi-color sweet corn with discontent. “WHERE is the yellow sweet corn?” he demands. I tell him that all I have is Obsession bi-color sweet corn, I assure him it’s a great variety. “THIS is a GMO! I can tell–because it’s bi-color! That stuff causes cancer!”
Now pardon me if my next statement comes out not on point at all… because honestly I was so taken aback by his declaration that all I remember was giggling at his dramatics and saying something about FDA research showing that biotech products were just as safe as conventional varieties. I was not quick enough to think on my feet and point out that bi-color corn is a result of cross pollination not recombinant DNA technology.
He scoffed, “You think the FDA actually knows and honestly tells us the truth?!”
I think to myself, “I certainly hope so. I mean the odds are pretty much in my favor here… we live in a developed country with one of the most secure food systems in the world… so yeah, I think I’m going to have to side with the FDA on this one Mr. Shade Tree Scientist.”
At this point, he peels back the collar of his shirt and points to something on his collar bone. “You see this melanoma?! This thing was caused by GMO foods! I’ve got a lawsuit against some big chemical company about this! I’m lucky I’m not dead! It’s been here 12 years!”
Again thinking to myself, “Alllllrighty then… probably has nothing to do with the fact melanoma is usually caused by sun exposure and that you look like a dried raisin. It’s definitely the GMO corn sitting on my table… which is in fact, not GMO corn. It’s Obsession… not Performance Series Obsession II, but yeah it’s totally a corn generated melanoma.”
At this point, my FFA students are looking on with mouths wide open and there’s really nothing else I can say. This fellow is not going to sway my opinions of GMOs and I’m not going to change his mind. So I just point across the market to another vendor who has a solid color corn and bid him adieu.
Although the incident chaffed me a bit and made me want to launch into teaching mode (I mean, I just rewrote my lesson plans on this very subject yesterday in preparation for maternity leave) it was really not the best situation to engage in a meaningful conversation with someone. I’m pretty sure as passionate as both of us felt about the topic we’d probably have ended up in a heated argument which benefits no one, especially my two lovely students who were looking on in disbelief. I am glad that they were there to witness this slight incident though. It adds value to what they are learning in class as well as provides confirmation to why I am so passionate about their Ag Communications competition!
In the end, you have to make up your own mind when it comes to GMOs. I am of the opinion that they are safe. I have come to this opinion through research, through talking with scientists, through looking at articles on both sides of the line and through reading peer reviewed studies. I have also seen the effect of poverty on the GMO choice. Most folks who are anti-GMO aren’t starving to death or living in an underdeveloped nation. Most anti-GMO folks have the disposable income to choose to pay more for organic or for “naturally grown” foods. I encourage you to check out GMOs… ask the hard questions and look at peer reviewed science, if it’s good the evidence will stand up for it’s self. If it’s not, the answers you find will be as flimsy as the USDA’s definition for organic.
All in all, I want you to be educated.
Know where your food comes from.
Know your farmer.
…and don’t yell at his wife as she’s peddling sweet corn at the local market! :)