Commentary: GMO grass mix-up is embarrassing
Last week, reports flew through over the internet and the social media universe that cows in Texas were dying from eating genetically modified grass. To make it worse, they died of cyanide poisoning! What was not clearly explained was that drought-stressed grasses create prussic acid, which is cyanide. It is a natural process, not something created in a Frankenstein’s laboratory of GM plants.
Mainstream media was quick to point out the sensationalism by capitalizing on the word cyanide as opposed to prussic acid poisoning. Throw in some GMO terminology and you have a recipe for a panic in the making thanks to mainstream media.
The grass called into question is Tifton-85, which is a Bermuda grass. It is not genetically modified. However, thanks to the media story, the wrong information is now circulating the internet, raising alarm and frightening people over something that does not exist.
Fortunately, there has been a voice of reason this week. The American Medical Association has announced that it does not support the labeling of foods containing GM ingredients. The scientists said, “there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is focused on consumer education.”
Despite its science-based approach, critics claim the AMA is being duplicitous because on one hand it says there is no difference in GM and non-GM food, but it supports GM foods be tested for public health and that the government have continued oversight of bioengineered crops and livestock.
Continually testing GM crops and animals is a good idea. If the government didn’t, the anti-GM crowd would clamor for it. In this case, the anti-GM groups are being duplicitous. They don’t want GMOs, but they want GMO foods tested. In the meantime, it’s easier to just scare everyone into thinking everything that grows out of the ground can be potentially harmful to humans and livestock.
In the end, shoddy journalism and a rush to sensationalism won the day and scared the public. It convinced people that some man-made, super weeds were deliberately poisoning cattle. This is a story that never should have happened in the way it did. That it did is embarrassing.