Follow the science on GMOs, biotech

Farm Forum

Recently I traveled to St. Louis to talk to some cotton farmers about social media and how important it is for farmers to share what is happening on their farms. Or, more importantly, why they make the decisions that they do.

It was a great experience, and one that made me realize that even in such a diverse industry, farms across the nation have a lot in common.

We are at a time in our society that everyone is realizing the importance of our food system. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe there is a soul in the world that doesn’t understand how important food is to society, but it wasn’t until more recently that so many were concerned about not just the end product, but the process in its entirety.

And that’s where our work needs to start.

While I was in St. Louis, I sat in on a leadership symposium at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The featured speaker was Mark Lynas, a former activist against genetically modified organisms who, after years of destroying research and protesting scientific studies, realized that although caution is always prudent, science is science. Authentic scientific research is hard to argue with, and science (true, peer-reviewed scientific studies, not just flawed research) has shown the value of cropping technologies.

Lynas apologized to the research world in January for his part in hindering progress. He wasn’t proud of what he had done, but what troubled him the most was the fact that he was so willing to buy into what the other activist groups were selling. It was concerning to realize that he would ignore the science behind biotechnology.

Lynas grew determined to see a more equal world. Poverty is a terrible thing to witness, an even more terrible thing to stare in the face. Once you’ve lived with hunger – true hunger – you’ll never forget that feeling. Ever. And I do have to agree with him that we have seen great progress in our time in the reduction of poverty across the globe. Yet, I do believe we can all agree that we have a lot more work to do.

Does that mean that we should jump into biotechnology and genetically modified crops without hesitation or questions? Definitely not. But

we cannot keep looking back, we need to move forward to provide for our growing population.

So where does this leave us? Do people have the right to know what’s in their food?

Of course. People who make purchases have the right to determine what they want to buy. But as Lynas remarked, “On the other hand, we can’t stamp a skull and crossbones on every label.” And those at the market shelves should be well aware that places such as Whole Foods are making a great living by thriving on the fear surrounding GMO foods. In fact, it’s one of the most successful marketing ploys today.

How do I sum up my whole experience? I can quote Lynas: “You don’t stop learning when you leave school.”

Val Wagner loves raising her four boys on the farm in Dickey County, along with her husband, Mark. Catch her blog, Wag’n Tales, at, or follow one of their cows on Twitter at Cows_Life. Contact her at