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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

You Can Lead a Horse to Water

By Danielle Beard Hayden

Agriculturists across the nation rejoiced when Forbes released the article, “The Debate About GMO Safety is Over, Thanks to a New Trillion-Meal Study,” but is the debate really over?

Those who were adamantly anti-GMO are still touting ‘fish genes spliced into tomatoes’ and ‘infertility and tumors in lab rats’ propaganda. While the pro crowd waves flags of ‘but, we’re feeding the world’ and ‘because, science,’ leaving those left on the fence about GMO’s wondering what to believe.

Maybe it’s time agriculture, as an industry whole, takes a new approach to the GM-crop debate. Instead of reacting to those whose minds are made up, the industry becomes proactive in making facts readily available for those still trying to decide.

Some may argue, “the information is already out there, what more can we do?” Consumers are hungry for knowledge about their food, and they want it in elementary terms, and not only do they want it in an understandable fashion, they want it from sources they respect and relate to. They want to hear it from friends, mothers, doctors, bloggers, etc. With all that being said, how does the industry begin to get the facts to these sources?

Education without attitude.

Dropping the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ edge and working non-confrontational information into everyday conversations is a good start. Most don’t even realize what comes from genetic modification and what doesn’t. Explain that there are currently eight crops commercially available from GMO seeds in the US — Corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and squash.

Another common misconception is that Monsanto is the only company producing GM seeds. Introducing an information tidbit that Bayer CropScience, BASF, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont and Syngenta are also companies that work with plant biotechnology can help to subtly dismiss some of the misinformation that is floating around about GMO’s.

Honesty without fear.

It’s important to not try to educate past your own knowledge. Have no idea when asked about GMO’s banned in some European countries? Admit that you don’t know. Better to stick with what you do know, than risk losing any credibility. Suggest researching together or asking someone who would know the answer. Also encourage asking for themselves at or looking for online sources that have .edu at the end.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. However, teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry. Share an article explaining that GMO’s are safe and they may or may not believe it, but educate the basics of what GMO’s actually are and you are giving consumers the seeds of knowledge they need to research their own conclusions.

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