About This Project
We are testing the hypothesis that wild animals such as squirrels and deer prefer non-GMO corn, and avoid GMO corn.
What is the context of this research?
Anecdotal reports suggest that animals avoid eating genetically engineered or GMO corn when given a choice, while others suggest that animals have no preference. With the right materials, this is an easy experiment to do, but there are no peer-reviewed, published scientific studies to answer this question – yet.
In this experiment, we will send ears of GMO and non-GMO corn to volunteers. Adults and children, individuals and classrooms can be part of the first Citizen Science experiment to test claims about GMOs. Everyone’s results will be combined in a peer-reviewed scientific journal article.
What is the significance of this project?
If there is something that makes animals avoid GMO corn, we should know about it. Such a finding would have widespread impacts. If animals don’t have a preference, then we can focus on other issues.
In addition to answering an important scientific question, this experiment is an opportunity for people from diverse backgrounds to connect with science. How many people get to test popular claims about an emerging field of science?
Volunteers of all ages will learn how to conduct an experiment. They will develop critical thinking skills as they collect data, interpret results, and see how research is published. Volunteers can share their results with friends and even present the results at school!
Please read the FAQ below for more information about the experiment!
What are the goals of the project?
Our goal is to distribute up to 980 experiment kits to our Citizen Scientist volunteers. Each kit includes a feeding stand and corn for two experiments: two ears of GMO corn and two ears of non-GMO corn.
We will provide clear instructions so each volunteer can conduct two experiments to test the research hypothesis. They will send pictures of their corn to us for analysis. Once we have collected the results, we will analyze the data, present the results to our volunteers, and write a paper that we will submit to a scientific journal.
We have exceeded our fundraising goal to get 980 kits assembled and ready-to-ship, and are sending the first wave of kits out to our Citizen Scientist volunteers in the second week of November. We still need additional support to provide the remaining kits for free to kids and schools! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today for any amount to help with this important project.
The GMO Corn Experiment was successfully funded using the Experiment.com crowdfunding site, which enabled us to put the kits together, pay for the shipping for the first wave of kits, and publication fees for our future peer-reviewed publication. We bought supplies and rented equipment to assemble the feeding stands. We hired some people to help us with the stands, to sort and barcode the ears of corn, and to package the kits for shipping. The numbers below are approximate, but a full accounting will be provided at the end of the experiment.
- Experiment kit supplies (980 kits): $2,000
- Labor (980 kits): $4,000
- Shipping (400 kits): $4,800
- Publication Fees: $1,400
- Total: $12,200
There are still several hundred kits available, and we need more funds to send them to additional Citizen Scientists, including providing them free for schools. Your generosity will make it possible for more kids to be Citizen Scientists. Please donate today to make this possible! We want many people to be a part of this experiment, so we will make every dollar count!
How to Join the Experiment:
You must be located in the United States and be 18 years of age or older. A $25 donation guarantees you one of our experiment kits (while supplies last). Due to limited funds and our goal to make participation free for schools, we cannot guarantee that signups who are not donors will be able to receive a kit. Schools and classes do not need to donate to participate, but everything is appreciated!
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How do I sign up as a Citizen Scientist? Do I have to donate?
Everyone who donates $25 will get to be one of our Citizen Scientists. Donations of more than $25 will help pay for kids and schools to participate. If you want to be considered for a free kit, sign up to be added to our waiting list.
2. Why can’t I just get my own corn to do the experiment?
There are good scientific reasons why we are providing the corn for this experiment. First, this GMO and non-GMO corn are from very similar varieties called “isolines”. That way, we know the main difference between them is the genetically engineered traits, not other traits like taste or color. Second, these ears were grown in side-by-side plots, meaning that the growing environment was nearly identical. (The plots were separated to limit cross-pollination between the two different varieties.) Third, all of our Citizen Scientists are repeating the same experiment with the exact same varieties of corn, so we can combine the results together. If we find a difference between GMO and non-GMO corn, we can rule out other genetic or environmental factors as possible causes. Lastly, the corn was donated by Monsanto, at our request, so we could do the experiment with the latest varieties. We did all the legwork to get a signed “Material Transfer Agreement” that allows us to publish the results.
3. Is it safe for animals (and people) to do this experiment?
Yes! This corn we was grown for the purpose of being eaten, and the genetically engineered traits have been approved by the FDA, EPA, and USDA. There’s nothing experimental about these varieties, which are grown by farmers every year. Feeding squirrels corn in your backyard is a common practice, and is even suggested by the Humane Society as a way to keep them away from your bird feeders! There will be no touching or handling of wild animals in this experiment, the corn is just being left out for them to nibble on and our volunteers will take pictures of the results.
4. How will I know which ears are GMO and non-GMO?
The ears in each experiment kit are labeled with a number, but the labels do not say which ears are GMO. Why? This is called “blinding” and is an important part of the experiment. This keeps Citizen Scientists from accidentally (or purposefully) altering the results. We will keep track of the labels and will tell you which ears were which once the experiment is complete. In addition, this information will be posted online in a password-protected file before the experiment, and we will publish the password when the experiment is done. That way everyone can verify that the results are true. Think of it like a surprise waiting for you after you finish your experiment!
5. I do not live in the United States – will I be able to participate?
Every country has different laws regarding the approval of genetically engineered crops, and the movement of seeds in and out of the country. A lot of this is for very good reasons such as preventing the movement of plant pests and diseases around the world. The corn we are using in this experiment was grown in the United States, and contains traits that are approved for the United States. Currently, we are only offering to ship the experiment kits to addresses in the United States, but we are currently working on making it possible to ship them to Canada as well. We will make an announcement when and if we are able to include our northerly neighbor in this important experiment!
6. Can my child do this for their science fair project?
Yes, we totally encourage your child doing a science fair project around this! We are asking our volunteers to agree not to share their results publicly until we have a chance to analyze all the data and prepare it for publication. In fact, for students who want to go the extra mile with their experiment, we will provide guidance on how to record extra data that will make it more useful for a science fair project. Then, once the big paper with everyone’s name on it gets published, everyone can unleash their projects on the world in unison!