Support the science based benefits and proven safety of GMO crops to feed a growing population
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I admit I did not know much about GMO food growing up either. I grew up on a farm where my dad grew sweet corn and my grandfather grew strawberries. As a kid I remember having a friend over and pretending the the corn fields were a maze to run through. The strawberries were pieces of red candy that I would fill up on every May afternoon after school. I did not think much about food, how it was grown, or the work that went into growing it. My ignorance continued until one day in 1999 I had a taste of how cruel people can be. I had decided to pursue my Master's degree in Crop and Soil Environmental Science. There was a Virginia Tech research station not far from my hometown where I was going to do my research. My research was on a virus called Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV). This virus causes tobacco leaves to become mottled and deformed which reduces the quality and yield of tobacco that has the disease. I was looking for new sources of resistance to TMV from other non-cultivated species of tobacco. This meant I grew thousands of small pots of tobacco plants, inoculated them with the virus, and did a genetic study to see if any plants would resist the virus. I had two greenhouses full of tobacco plants when I received a phone call from my adviser one Sunday night. When that call came through I had just gotten back from a vacation with my family. Life was good and my research was going well. It is funny how your life (especially an emotional 21 year old) can flip upside down in a matter of moments. The call from my adviser told me that someone had broken in the greenhouses and destroyed all my plants. This was almost half a year of work that was destroyed in moments. I did not know what to say or what to do. Questions popped through my head in quick spurts. Why would someone do that? Can I still graduate on time? How can I fix this? I went to bed in shock and went to the research station the next morning to see the damage. I used to have pictures, but I have misplaced them. When I toured the greenhouse the glass was broken to allow entry. My shock went to anger. Before the vandalism, my tobacco plants were spaced side by side in in jiffy pots by the hundreds. Instead of tobacco plants, I just saw footprints where people had systematically walked over every single plant smashing the jiffy pot, soil, and plants into a blob of mud in the water in which everything was sitting. The research station I was working at did all kinds of research. They were primarily a tobacco breeding station, but also worked on forage grasses, fruits, and berries. Another project they were working on was a collaboration with a small start-up company that wanted to use GMO tobacco for the production of a medicine. There were some small plots of this GMO tobacco on the station and evidently there were some people that did not agree with the project. Come to find out the station was targeted because of the GMO tobacco from that small start-up. Those plots were destroyed as well. They had taken scythes and mowed it down. It was our and the police's assumption these vandals had thought my plants were GMO as well and I had gotten caught in the crossfire of their hatred. I spent days cleaning up the mess. I had to gather all of the broken pots, plants, and mud up and discard it. I relined all the bays with new plastic. Thousands of new jiffy pots were filled back up with soil. New tobacco seed was germinated and transplanted to the jiffy pots. In the end, I managed to graduate on time, but a new world had been opened. A world in which there were people in the world that used hatred and vandalism to distill fear and negative publicity towards GMOs. The police never found out or caught the people that destroyed my plants. These vandals came in thinking they accomplished their mission, but the only thing they did was make me want to find out more about GMOs. Why would someone resort to such violence over plants? They did not have their intended result with me. Instead I became more interested in GMOs and understanding what they were and how they can hopefully change the world. I have made transgenic plants for 13 years and believe in what I do and the safety of what I and the businesses hope to deliver. We are ordinary people that have families. I have 3 kids and the safety of my kids is more important than anything, just like anyone with kids will relate to. I am not going to feed my kids something I do not think is safe and yet they eat GMO food every day of their life. We are people and we care. We care that the population is growing and will need more food. We care that water is becoming more scarce and crops are harder to irrigate. We care about finding solutions to help farmers have better yields. The anti-GMO propaganda is everywhere from the same type of people that destroyed my plants all those years ago. Instead of buying into that propaganda, find out who we really are and what we really do. It is a transgenic world and there is nothing scary or unsafe about that.
There are many benefits of GMOs including:
- Higher yields to feed a growing population
- Decreased use of pesticides
- Humanitarian solutions like Golden rice (a rice with increased vitamin A) to get nutrients to areas of the world where malnutrition is an issue.
Best of all GMOS are safe. The American Association for the Advancement of Science put out the following statement:
"The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques."
I talk about GMOs in more depth in my personal blog. Check it out to get more info on GMOs at http://atransgenicworld.blogspot.com/ Then advocate to others the facts on GMOs so we can make a difference with a world changing technology.
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