How do you feel about GMOs? Do you feel like you know enough about them?

If not, what would you like to know from a farmer about GMOs? Do you think GMO foods should be labeled? Why or why not?

Samantha Weiss Hills


Voted the Best Reply!

Mark E. August 20, 2015
I'm an organic farmer but I have a really hard time relating to some of my peers because I don't like the way the GMO debate is being handled by opponents. The recent extended piece on is a great article that makes many excellent points. I see many of the same tactics being used by the non-gmo groups as being identical to those of climate denier and anti-vaccination groups. There needs to be dialogue but the conversation has become impossibly polarized.
Uncle J. August 20, 2015
Its a hard question. Clearly GMO foods offer some exciting potentials: hardier plants, more productive plants to alleviate famine, plants that need less water, etc.
However, GMO engineering can create radically new organisms that have not been in our ecology before. I worry about unintended consequences. Few new things that we try play out with some unintended consequences and the scope for disaster with GMO is huge.
But is a generalized, non-specific fear enough to forgo the positive potentials?
I am undecided, but I do favor labeling, as opposed to banning.
AntoniaJames August 20, 2015
You might find interesting this piece in the Washington Post a few months ago, which addresses GMOs, among other food-related topics of interest:
Meghann C. August 20, 2015
Human have been genetically modifying their food since they started growing it millennia ago, choosing parent plants and animals based on desirable traits. The Internet and the populous's outrage fetish have demonized it, like gluten , fat and carbs in their turn, without even the attempt of understanding.
702551 August 20, 2015
True, hybridized plants and animals created by breeding was done slowly over time and did not have major implications on a global food production system.

In the old way, if something didn't work out, well, it would die and you'd try something else. If I cross Orchid A and Orchid B to create AxB and it grew spines, it doesn't even mean anything to the person across the street.

Today, if some unexpected consequence emerged from a megafarm, it could be very costly, both in terms of money but possibly the environment.

I'm definitely not against hybrids, cultivars, breeds or other altered plants and animals. I do hope that there is a lot of caution and careful observation before slowly introducing these new things to the consumer marketplace.
nabi August 20, 2015
But you fail to see the politics and control behind gmo's when you wither the concept down to demonization and compare it to food trends. The organizations creating these genetically modified foods are looking to not only manipulate the foods we eat but to patent seeds creating a situation where food is no longer independent.

Cross breeding plants to create new varieties of a plants compared to splicing a bacteria or pesticide into a plant ( GMO) is a new concept and is not what humans have been doing for centuries.
Alex W. August 20, 2015

The ownership of the seeds is a side of the conversation that I think often gets overshadowed by possible health concerns and it's a shame because it's an extremely important part of the discussion so thank you for bringing it up.

I'm curious, though, could you describe a situation where food actually IS independent?

PieceOfLayerCake August 20, 2015
There's a huge difference between botanical hybridization and actual genetic alteration. The *potential* problems lie in the fact that organisms have a less diverse genetic sequence than the amount of proteins that make up their characteristics. Which means, when you fool with one aspect of a creature, there's no way to tell what you're inevitably altering in addition. There are scenarios that suggest that we could be activating all sorts of allergies and sensitivities by altering simple genes that promote productivity and strength.

While they are just unproven scenarios, if rather eat something completely unaltered and not have to worry about it.
Sam1148 August 20, 2015
Try as might. You'll never be able to cross breed a salmon with a tomato.
nabi August 20, 2015
I mean independent more as an expression in having access to seeds that have been passed down through the ages that have not been manipulated or are owned by an enterprise. Yes, I know that many of seeds used to grow our foods are hybrids probably created and sold wholesale in order to grow foods that are predictable but GMO foods go against this grain by posing seeds that will never be passed down in that sense. This is a dilemma because truly independent seeds may not be part of our industrialized diets today but seeds that are heirloom are still part of the diets of many "non-industrial" peoples of the world -- by allowing GMOs an opportunity to become the the dominant seed - you slowly take away seed diversity and ultimately the ability to pass down seeds to future generations.
Sadly this may not be a matter to people since farming as an occupation is dwindling worldwide as people living in rural settings are moving to the cities but no matter how technical we become as a world we will always need food.

So as long as farmers are dwindling and seed patenting is not seen as a problem- a scenario can result where another natural resource like water is privatized and controlled by a few people. GMOs also promote monoculture which in itself poses problems for food security globally.
702551 August 20, 2015
I feel uneasy about GMOs. I definitely don't know enough about them and frankly, I'm not sure if there is anyone on this planet that has a comprehensive understanding about their implications to the overall health of the planet's ecology.

I'm not sure if a farmer would be the best source of information about GMOs. Plant scientists -- botanists, geneticists, and others -- would likely be a better group of people to start answering questions, but my guess is that we won't know the real world impact to the global ecosystem for a generation or two.

Because there are so many unanswered questions about GMO foods, prudence would dictate that they should be fully disclosed and labeled and leave it up to the consumer to decide whether or not to eat it. Public safety should take priority over agricultural economics and marketing.
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