We cover a lot of topics in the magazines published here at Penton Farm Progress. Among them, none has become more controversial than GMOs.
My first brush with biotechnology was back in 1996. I was a college intern at Growmark, a large farmer-owned cooperative in Illinois, and I sat in on a presentation about RoundupReady soybeans. I think I was maybe 20 at the time and it struck me that this kinda seemed like a big deal. During the early years of our marriage, we were studying and trying and before long, planting RR soybeans and Bt corn.
The stories evolved from covering the technology to covering management of the technology. Refuge management, chemical rotation and more. Global market acceptance and rejection. Today, we're writing about consumers and food production far more than we've ever done before. It's a good and right evolution. But we also felt it was time to give due diligence to the idea of labeling foods containing GM products. I spent several weeks researching and interviewing, collecting volumes of pages of interview notes. I spent time walking corn fields with farmers, and talking with people all over the country. In my mind, the story wouldn't be complete without solid interjection from consumers, and so I talked with several Chicago women who've been sufficiently interested enough in GMOs and food safety to commit time to the Illinois Farm Families program.
If there was a solid take-away for me, it's this: people are concerned and they want answers. Farmers have answers. But there are a lot of groups that stand to profit from the extinction of GMOs; organic groups are one. That profit motive makes them solidly entrenched, and motivated to spread misinformation.
I learned last week that getting quoted in a tweet with @MonsantoCo is the sure-fire way to bring out every last crazy person on the internet. For a story on food safety, I was called soulless and un-Christian, and that's the printable stuff. I was on the phone with a colleague when another tweet came through and I just shook my head and told her I'd read it to her but my kids were in the house. Good night.
If there was one conversation, however, that gave me hope we might find some middle ground, it was with Minnesota farmer Carolyn Olson. She and her husband, Jonathon, raise organic crops and conventional hogs. She sees room for everyone, and the chance to embrace both types of production, so farmers – and consumers – have a choice.
Choice: that's all we're asking for.
In the meantime, here are links to every story in this series. Please click away, share and pin!
GMOs: The Fight to Label: This is the entire package of stories that ran in the magazine, including several great links.
Urban Moms on GMOs: Three Chicago moms offer their take on biotechnology and labels.
Would GM Label Ensure Food Safety? Iowa State food scientist discusses food safety and GMOs.
GM Labeling: Dollars Make a Difference: Oklahoma State ag economist Jayson Lusk shares grocery scanner data and consumer choices
Farmers Talk: GMOs and GM Labeling: My farmer podcast friends and I discuss some of the more interesting interviews I did in this series.
Psst: Organic Extremists Think You Don't Exist: This is an opinion piece on my conversation with the Organic Consumers Association, and the things I've read on the internet but never actually heard someone say out loud.