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For the Holidays: Change Your Beliefs Around GMOs

November 24, 2014
Recently re-published by AgriPulse, three renowned guest authors wrote a great opinion piece in the Des Moines Register on the beliefs and narratives around GMOs and organic food.

The authors include Nina Fedoroff, Ph.D., a plant biologist who has served as science and technology adviser to the secretary of state from 2007-10, Ken Cassman, Ph.D., an international agronomist at the University of Nebraska, and Marshall Matz, former counsel to the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee specializing in nutrition and food security. 

In their piece, The Ghost of Thanksgiving Future, the experts discuss while 2014 looks to be an abundant Thanksgiving, dramatic change in beliefs will be needed if we are expected to feed 9 or so billion at the global dinner table on Thanksgiving 2050:
"The beliefs and narratives that need rethinking are those around GMOs and organic food.

"Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are crop plants and animals improved by modern molecular techniques, rather than older, often less precise methods. GM crops, such as insect-resistant corn and cotton, have been in commercial production for almost two decades. They are now grown in 27 countries on more than 400 million acres by 18 million farmers, more than 90 percent of whom are resource-poor, small-holder farmers."

GM crops have increased farm income, reduced pesticide use, soil erosion and carbon dioxide emission, and benefited consumers by decreasing fungal toxin contamination of corn, they argue.
"It's a fact that neither people nor animals have been harmed by consuming food or feed containing GM ingredients. Even decade ago, we thought that people would be reassured as evidence grew, as it has, that GM crops are safe. But that's not what happened. Instead, more and more people have come to believe that they are dangerous."

These attributes of GMOs are especially important since it's been estimated that to meet the challenge of global food security, the world's farmers will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than all they've produced in the last 10,000 years combined.

So how does changing our belief system around GMOs and organics help to feed a rapidly growing population? The authors address:
"Our belief systems and narratives matter, perhaps more than ever in the age of electronic social media. The organic food industry supplies a mere 4 percent of our food, but amplifies its message by promulgating the myth that organic food is more healthful and environmentally sound.

"As well, GMO story-telling and fear-mongering have intensified in recent years, driven by individuals and organizations that profit from persuading people that they are dangerous. This is influencing politicians worldwide and impeding the development and introduction of more nutritious, hardy and environmentally friendly GM crops and animals.

"Belief systems are notoriously resistant to facts, even mountains of them. And real people don't change their minds and hearts as fast as characters in stories.

"But we urgently need to change our beliefs about food to realize the benefits of investing in advanced, science-based food production systems that can address the difficult challenges of making our agriculture both more sustainable and productive even as our numbers continue to grow."