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I really enjoyed reading about Julie's journey.

"I've learned to respect the views of people who are educated on subjects about which I was concerned — for example, farmers, biotechnologists and, yes, even those who work for Monsanto. I recognized that some celebrity actor knows no more about science than I do — and shouldn't have as much influence on public opinion as a university-educated professional.

I even found organic farmers who support GMOs for a sustainable future.

I have come to realize that biotechnologists and farmers are not evil, paid-off or misguided. They kiss their babies before leaving for work and strive to make a better world like the rest of us.

I've realized the harm that comes from being uncritical. That those who aren't speaking from a position of knowledge or education can hurt my family — by not vaccinating children, by controlling what's taught in schools and by lobbying governments into making wrong decisions.

To pay it forward, I now run several fact-based Facebook sites. I try to help others who are confused and fearful about agricultural practices, as well as other controversial topics like vaccines, pesticides, chemicals and the often-misinformed portrayal of scientific research.

I'm every bit as committed to good health as I was as a teenager and young mom, but I've learned so much about what really constitutes truth and what represents distorted propaganda for other agendas."

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I worked with Ask and Entomologist and +Biology Fortified, Inc. to put together the first in a series of infographics, the first of which explains how the Bt trait in GMOs works. For more detailed information about the trait, see:

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“[Y]ou’re attacking them because their junk food isn’t healthy? They’re cookies. Let them be cookies.”

Kavin Senapathy's latest on the new non-GMO Girl Scout cookies.

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+Layla Katiraee, +Kavin Senapathy and I respond to comments on our Medium article from last month, addressing some of the socio-economic concerns that were raised.

"The concerns that many readers have regarding the strength of multi-billion dollar agricultural conglomerates, the undue power of these companies in our political and regulatory system, and other such factors are concerns that we share. Again, these are not factors unique to discussions on GMOs or even exclusive to agriculture. These factors impact all of agriculture, whether the crops grown are GMO or Non-GMO, grown using conventional or organic farming practices. As tempting as it may be to simplify these complex political and economic problems to a GMO debate in search of silver-bullet fixes, by reducing our scope we are prevented from finding genuine solutions to these issues.”

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+Anastasia Bodnar, +Layla Katiraee and I wrote about why we avoid non-GMO labels.

Whether something is a GMO or not is often irrelevant to the issues that consumers are concerned about (pesticide use, nutritional value, sustainability). It's the trait the matters, as we discuss in this article. The continued perpetuation of the idea that the breeding method tells us anything useful about these issues is a disservice to consumers who have valid concerns and questions about the products they are purchasing.

The dichotomy of GMO or non-GMO is an oversimplification of a complicated issue and assumes that consumers are too ignorant to know better. This dichotomy does not help consumers and does not accurately reflect current scientific knowledge. I do not support non-GMO labels because they contribute to the idea that facts are irrelevant.

#FactsNotFear #Moms4GMOs #Dads4GMOs

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A good perspective from Nathanael Johnson on that NYTimes article about GMOs.

"The New York Times story treats GMOs as a single entity to be accepted or rejected. The main thrust of that National Academy report was to suggest that we should stop treating GMOs as a monolith and assess each crop on its merits. It’s not clear that non-GMOs are better: Europe’s rejection of genetic engineering has led to a surge in crops bred via mutagenesis — which has a higher likelihood of generating genetic unknowns — as well as non-GMO crops bred to work with herbicides. Even if we decide that genetic engineering isn’t worth the risks, we’ll face risks in other forms of breeding.

And GMOs really aren’t all associated with industrial farming. The disease-resistant papaya is a wonderful innovation. The insect-resistant eggplant seems to be reducing pesticide use in Bangladesh. This banana, this cassava, and this rice could all truly improve the lives of small farmers if those new crops make it over the technical and political hurdles.

I agree with the Times’ milder point — herbicide-tolerant soy isn’t going to be the key to saving the world. I’ve written that, in the grand scheme of things, GMOs don’t matter. If we decide it’s just too culturally fraught to accept genetic modification, we can survive without it — in the same way that we’d survive without computers. We’d figure something else out!

But it would be a shame if we on the liberal coasts decided the technology was useless just because we have a hard time seeing the benefits that are clear to Midwestern farmers. Zoom out far enough, and you’ll eventually reach a point where all human effort barely makes a blip. That’s fine — it’s always useful to step back and look at the big picture.

But if we want to figure how to make our food system more equitable and sustainable, we’re also going to have to zoom in on the realities of agriculture on the ground."

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Dr. Andrew Kniss responds to a recent The New York Times article questioning the value of GMOs. He clearly breaks down the problems with the data selected, the problems with using this data to draw the conclusions drawn and the very problem with the question asked.

"I really hope the conversation can eventually move beyond whether GMO crops have met some arbitrary initial expectations, regardless of the origin of those expectations. If that means we all need to simply acknowledge that GMO’s have failed to meet those goals, then fine. I concede. Not because I think the data overwhelmingly support that conclusion, but because this is a tiresome conversation that distracts from much more important issues in agriculture. GMO’s have not (and will not) result in an agricultural panacea. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have value."

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As I've often said, the focus on the genetic methods used to develop seeds is a distraction from adequately addressing issues of sustainability in agriculture and food security.

"Genetically improved crops have benefited many farmers, but it is clear that genetic improvement alone cannot address the wide variety of complex challenges that farmers face. Ecologically based farming approaches as well as infrastructure and appropriate policies are also needed.

Instead of worrying about the genes in our food, we need to focus on ways to help families, farmers and rural communities thrive. We must be sure that everyone can afford the food and we must minimize environmental degradation. I hope that the NAS report can help move the discussions beyond distracting pro/con arguments about GE crops and refocus them on using every appropriate technology to feed the world in an ecologically based manner."

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This is a few months old but it has come up repeatedly in recent discussions (including a discussion with my husband in the middle of the grocery store about why I refused to buy non-GMO sugar).

There are real consequences to consumer demand for non-GMO sugar and none of them are about what consumers want from non-GMO products: more pesticide applications, more toxic pesticides used, a switch to imported sugar (often from places with less stringent pesticide regulations) and a switch to sugar cane, the burning of which is a huge problem for human health and the environment.

Andrew Kniss discusses here the difference in pesticide use on GMO Roundup Ready sugar beets and non-GMO sugar beets.

Make sure to compare the preview image with the corresponding image in the article for RR sugar beets to see the differences in frequency of pesticide applications and which pesticides are used.
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