Break the silence on GMOs – with a story

thanks for asking

Image via the Kansas Farm Food Connection.

A recent article argues that it is Time for Farmers to Break Their Silence on GMOs, and I heartily agree. I recently spoke at the GMOs: Now we’re talking! event hosted by the Kansas Farm Bureau, where Bureau President, Richard Felts, asked me what farmers should say. Is there a quick fact or something that could reassure consumers about the safety of modern agriculture, particularly of GMOs?

My response is that most people won’t respond to a quick fact. Even if they would respond to a quick fact, it might be a different fact for each person, depending on their own concerns and background, and what they might have heard about GMOs from friends or through social media. Instead of facts, I believe we need to focus on telling our stories – whether we are farmers or scientists. Continue reading.

GMO Potatoes on The Daily Show

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is not afraid to tackle tough issues with a comedic eye. While The Daily Show has tackled science-related issues such as climate change, evolution, and vaccines many times, genetically engineered crops have not been a frequent feature. Last night, Aasif Mandvi started to change that, and with hilarious results. Watch The Return of a Simplot Conspiracy, where Aasif serves up a meal of Simplot potatoes, with a side-dish of Jeffrey Smith.

Continue reading.

Bill Nye, Science Guy, and GMOs – oh my!

Bill Nye caused a bit of drama over his stance on GMOs with the publication of his recent book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. Biologists were dismayed by some of the unsourced claims he was making, and what seemed to be a failure to investigate the science on this issue. And for someone who has been such a strong supporter of evidence, even famously noting in his debate with creationist Ken Ham what would change is mind on a topic:

Those of us who support evidence-based positions on scientific topics like evolution cheered this response enthusiastically. And realizing that if he really meant that–and it seemed to me biologists really took him at his word–we hoped Nye would look at the actual evidence on GMOs. Kevin Folta wanted to help Bill examine the evidence, and offered to use the debate format to do so.

Although the Folta/Nye event didn’t happen, it seems that Bill really did decide to look again at the GMO issues. He attended the excellent Intelligence Squared debate to learn more and asked questions. He visited Monsanto to hear their side of the story. And soon we found out that Bill was revising his stance and his book. Continue reading.

Should science be a democracy?

DNA sign by Thomas Hawk via Flickr.

DNA sign by Thomas Hawk via Flickr.

A January 2015 survey conducted by agricultural economists at Oklahoma State found that 82% of Americans want their food labeled if it contains GMOs. The same survey found that 80% of Americans want their food labeled if it contains DNA.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. After the initial face-palm, my feelings of intellectual superiority gradually ebbed when I realized that my husband would be in the 80% of the population that doesn’t know that all food, unless it’s highly processed, contains DNA. My better-half has a degree in International Relations and Peace Studies. He is a consultant with high-tech companies. He’s amazing at his job and can charge a premium for his consulting fees. It’s safe to say that he is well educated and knows what he’s doing. However, his last biology class was 17 years ago. He’s reviewed every article I’ve written, and nearly every time it’s been followed by questions on matters that I’d consider to be basic science. Continue reading.

Better Know a Scientist: Entomologist Erfan Vafaie

Erfan Vafaie. Image from Texas A&M.

Erfan Vafaie. Image from Texas A&M.

This is the first in a new series called “Better Know a Scientist”. The goal of these interviews will be for scientists to share their research, for us readers to gain more knowledge in a field we may not be familiar with, and to learn a bit about the individuals doing the research as well. I’m going to be interviewing my friend, Erfan Vafaie (@sixleggedaggie), who blogs at sixleggedaggie.com. Over the past few years, we’ve sent each other papers that we’ve found interesting, and I’ve asked him about bugs and GMOs to get his insights and perspectives. Like me, he is also an Iranian-Canadian, but lives in Texas.

Here we go! Continue reading.