GMOs are now planted in 28 countries and on 444 million acres around the world. But why?
Of course, there is a lot of misinformation on the Internet with many different topics in life. Thanks to many lobbyist groups, the topic of GMOs has become riddled with misinformation that stems vastly from people who’ve never farmed a day in their life. So why listen to the people who don’t have firsthand knowledge over actual farmers themselves? That would be like going to your auto mechanic to clean your teeth, or asking a medical doctor to fix the engine in your car! Everyone has a specialty in life, and it’s important to connect with those of us who devote our entire lives and careers to this. On our farm we grow several different types of crops, which do include GMO corn and soybeans. If 90 percent to 95 percent of certain crop farmers are choosing to grow GMOs, there must be a reason for it, which brings me to my first point:
Myth #1: Farmers are forced to grow GMOs.
No, we aren’t forced to. No, the government doesn’t pay us to. We grow them because we want to and they help us, you, and the planet. Since the inception of certain GMO crops, insecticide spray is down 85 percent, while overall pesticide spray is down 37 percent, crop yields are up on average 21 percent. If farmers can produce more crops on less land while using fewer inputs, less pesticides, fuel, etc we are going to jump on it. Please allow us to do our jobs.
Myth #2: They aren’t safe, and aren’t well tested.
BLATANTLY FALSE. GMOs are the most regulated and tested crops in plant breeding history and are proven safe by nearly every major food safety authority in the world. There is no peer-reviewed evidence that show GMOs are harmful, but there is peer reviewed evidence that they are safe, and this evidence can be found in the links here. These facts just cannot be denied.
Myth #3: They are drenched in toxic herbicides, and Roundup is the devil.
Not at all. As farmers, we are licensed and trained in proper application of any crop protectant products (also known as pesticides) and are well aware of safe application, toxicity, and handling. And let me just tell you: Compare Roundup to the products farmers had access to back in the 1960s and ’70s, and you’ll be singing praise to Roundup. This is part of the reason why it’s so popular. With an LD50 value of 5600 mg/kg, it is actually less toxic than table salt (available at your local Walmart!) and only affects an enzyme found in plants, not humans. At a rate of 22 ounces per acre with spray two days a year, a couple of soda cans’ worth misted over an area of land the size of a football field is hardly anything to fear. Organic and non-GMO crops often times use MORE pesticides than GMO crops do, many of which are actually more toxic than Roundup. Nothing is perfect, but they are all important tools and feeding 9 billion people will never be perfect. As with anything in life, the dose makes the poison.
Myth #4: They cause cancer.
Again, they are the most tested plant breeding method in history, and there is zero peer reviewed evidence of this. The World Health Organization (WHO) did at one point claim that Roundup was a possible carcinogen, but they measure hazards, not risk, and their methodology for coming to this conclusion was flawed. Also, according to the WHO, everything causes cancer except for maybe your toothbrush. I’m not kidding. According to them, going to Disneyland might give you cancer. So will playing cards, working the night shift, or being a hairdresser. Seriously, it’s pretty nuts. Look it up.
Myth #5: They cause farmers in India to commit suicide.
No. Debunked numerous times. Again, farmers have a choice. If a farmer doesn’t want to plant GMOs they don’t have to.
Myth #6: Monsanto is a greedy company that has control over farmers.
Look, Apple is a big company because people buy their products. They like iPhones. They want technology. Monsanto is a big company. Who buys their products? Farmers. Why? See myth No. 1. And if you actually study the history of Monsanto itself you’ll see that the Monsanto of today and the Monsanto of decades past are literally two completely different companies. It is also a myth that they’re lawsuit happy to farmers. Contrary to some beliefs, Monsanto has never sued a farmer for cross pollination. Oh, and before anyone asks, the answer is no… Monsanto doesn’t pay me to tell you they’re not that bad of a company. We pay them, that’s how this whole “farming” thing works. So clearly, Monsanto is just a shill for big Farm Babe. Or something. Because … conspiracy theory? (Haha.). Just once I would like someone to yell “Syngenta!” or something other than Monsanto, because they aren’t the only company that makes GMOs, nor are they the biggest. In fact, Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta was one of the first pioneers of GMO technology.
Myth #7: GMOs are patented, and farmers are not allowed to save seeds.
First off, many different crops hold patents including non-GMO and organic seeds. This is just like any type of business — if you spend years of research developing a product you want to protect it, just like clicking “I agree” on a software license. Farmers choose to sign contracts, and we don’t want to save seeds for many reasons. Seed saving hasn’t been popular in about eighty years. And remember, I’m talking farming and not gardening here. On our farm, we plant 35,000 seeds in one acre of corn, with 750 acres of corn. If you do the math, this is more than 27 million seeds. Do you really think we have the time to save seeds? It just isn’t feasible. Learn more about Monsanto GMO contracts and seed saving here.
Myth #8: GMOs don’t germinate the following year because of terminator technology.
It is true that the “terminator” gene was developed, but it has never been commercially available. Look up volunteer corn; it’s a thing. This is just another myth.
I could go on and on with this but you get the point. As farmers, we just really hope that people actually come to us and learn from us. If you ever find yourself reading something negative and scary about GMOs online, check the source and the author. Are they trying to sell you something? Who is the author and what is their background? Is the information peer-reviewed? If you have any other questions, seek out your favorite farmer. We are always here to help decipher fact from fiction.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.