Michael A. Fest's 500 Words | An average Joe on GMOs.

Michael A. Fest’s 500 Words | An average Joe on GMOs.

In our ongoing project, Michael A. Fest, an installation and maintenance technician for fuel storage and dispensing equipment, gives his 500 words on GMOs.
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I stumbled upon the GMO Skepti-Forum on g+ many months ago when it was in it’s infancy. Until that time, I had no idea what a GMO was. However, I became curious. I soon discovered that I had been eating GM foods for a significant portion of my life and since so many people had such vocal opinions on why I shouldn’t be eating them I decided to pay more attention to the conversation about them. What I discovered was a disparity of opinion based upon the kind of misinformation and emotionally charged rhetoric that is prevalent on such topics and what seemed to me to be sound and reasonable evidence. At this point I decided to look further into the subject.

Humanity advances and benefits itself by it’s ability to change and adapt. A lot of brilliant people work every day in their respective fields of interest doing things that improve the lives of us all. I am not one of them. I am an average Joe. My job is to maintain things that keep society functioning. Most of us have jobs that serve the same purpose as mine. My perspective of GMOs in society is based on the arguments I have observed and the realization that each of us “average Joes” should learn how to evaluate the information that supports those arguments. I believe we should listen to the brilliant people and weigh the arguments against them with a critical mind. We should inform ourselves with open minds by trying to gain a working knowledge of the subject at hand, listening to the experts and learn how to recognize misinformation and bias while ascertaining the credibility of the information we see. Pervading social media are the examples of how much this is not the case. I hope this is just a vocal minority and that most of us realize how to truly evaluate sound logic and truth.

My perspective on GMOs as an average Joe leads me to the following conclusions:

  • A preponderance of scientific data shows that the foods we eat derrived from GMOs are of no greater risk to human health than foods that have not been genetically modified.
  • (Any possible) Corruption in corporate and political agendas has not played any significant role in the approval of GMOs.
  • Resistance to the acception of GMOs is greatly influenced by those who are most proficient at the art of selling disinformation. Those that can sway an opinion based on emotion over factual evidence profit in support of their position.

I simply don’t see why a “ban them all” mentality is prudent. There are some obvious benefits to GMOs which can’t be ignored such as increased nutrition, tolerance to drought, increased yields and reduction of pesticide use. These potential benefits, for me, outweigh any negative ones. I also believe that there is no single solution to the challenge of  feeding the planet and that the best solution likely involves an amalgamation of different methods. Eliminating GMOs would hinder efforts to feed the world more economically and efficiently. It would stifle ingenuity by restricting the methods available that could be combined into more effective solutions.

Of course there are negative aspects of GMOs. Cross pollination can cause an organic farmer to lose their certification. Built in pesticides can lead to more resilient pests. Herbicide resistance can lead to aggressive weeds. Adapting to change is an effective human trait which we have demonstrated repeatedly throughout history. We can overcome these issues. No solution is perfect. So long as we maintain vigilance, and the positive efforts outweigh the negative consequences, the negatives are manageable. The most significant negative I can see, the one that gives me greatest concern, is the adament resistance to GMO technology based on the misinformation so prevalent on social media.

I hope that the merits of GMO technology gain greater acceptance. The Golden Rice Project in particular has so much potential to reduce the tragedy of blindness and malnutrition that it befuddles me to see how it’s implementation has been suppressed by unfounded fear and negativity. I also hope that corporations would choose to communicate their decisions on the ingredients they use more effectivily rather than succumb to pressure from well organized groups launchng misguided attacks on their products. Corporations and individuals which choose to profit from misinformation should be called to task. I hope that such entities eventually find themselves in a position where they have to explain to their followers why they were catering to such misinformation.

My greatest fears are that the vocal minority continues to push it’s agenda without significant contest. I fear that the pattern of irrational opinion and bias on social media will increase rather than decrease and that public perception and corporate stance on important issues will reflect that opinion. Hopefully, my fears will turn out to be unwarranted.

In the future, I would hope that the preponderance of information and opinion found on social media was based on rationality and the ability to recognize credible sources of information. I would hope that most of us would be inclined to gauge the weight of our intentions and check our facts before we become social media activists. I believe we have the right to our opinions, but we also have the obligation to research our facts before we present them.

If you would like us at GMO SF to share your story, please see our previous post: Callout for Your Stories! In 500 Words, What is Your Stance on GMOs in Society?
Photo Credit: IRRI Photos | CC