Commentary: GMOs: It’s all in the name

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Genetically modified organisms. GMOs.

I’m not sure who thought up the nomenclature for this biotech wonder, but the acronym GMO probably contributes more to public fear and misunderstanding than anything else.

GMO. It sounds scary. Genetically Modified Organisms. That’s even more frightening. Those are words and phrases activists can hang their hat on, and let me tell you, they’ve done one fine job of hanging hats.

GMO is a phrase easy to malign, fits well on a protest sign, rolls off the tongue with an ominous sound and has been a cause of consternation for farmers who have found this safe and proven technology essential to improve crop yields and reduce chemical use. Yet the push for labeling has never been stronger and GMO venom continues to spew from the Internet.

So let’s quit catering to the anti-GMO crowd and start calling GMOs something else.

Agriculture can take a lesson from pharmaceutical companies.

I just read an article about drugmakers’ use of the tobacco plant as a fast and cheap way to produce biotechnology treatments in an experimental Ebola therapy.  The treatment consists of antibodies that bind to and inactivate the Ebola virus. They’ve been called “plantibodies.”

What a novel idea. Connect the unfamiliar with the familiar and come up with a people-friendly name. Who could hate plantibodies?

The process to produce the plantibodies, via the tobacco plants, is called “pharming.”

Technology is not going away, despite the best efforts of those who love to see our food system digress instead of progress. But the terminology we use can lead to bitter battles or smoother sailing.

I vote for smoother sailing. I love the plantibodies idea. BioAg, envirofarm? Or perhaps it should be called RTI, for Rapid Trait Improvement. Put on your thinking cap and help me out.

Awareness and understanding of GMOs are two different things. Polls show most everyone is aware of GMOs. Let’s help them understand by giving the technology a non-threatening name.

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California  |  August, 14, 2014 at 02:46 PM

Really good point! Those of us who are scientists need to remember that the vast majority of Americans have little to no education in math and science. The average person also gets their news from the internet and television. Giving some thought to what we name things might really help.

Altus, Oklahoma  |  August, 15, 2014 at 09:27 AM

Excellent Point! MEP More Efficient Production EFP Efficient Food Production IFP Improved Food Production HFP-C Higher Food Production less Chemicals GFF Greater Food for the Futures MEFP More Efficient Food Production MEBF More Efficient Basic Foods EBFP Efficient Basic Food Production EBFS Efficient Basic Food Seeds First Blush...someone can beat these...

August, 15, 2014 at 10:24 AM

Tell that to the farmers in India committing suicide. I have seen the effects of GMO's on my goat herd and it's not pretty. If GMO's are so great why do they fight labeling it in the grocery stores? Why is it banned in 26 countries. These positive comments must be from Monsanto workers. No sell. It's playing God and I don't like the sneaky way they implemented it

Oklahoma  |  August, 15, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Monsanto workers??? There is no way your goats were negatively affected from eating genetically modified grains, all other things being equal, like no spoilage, un-balanced ration, etc. What a ludicrous statement to make about an animal with a stomach that can handle tin cans. Enviro-whackos like you are the problem-not farmers who are trying to feed the world. Replicated research has proven you are wrong...

kansas  |  August, 15, 2014 at 02:50 PM

Rhondar - the goatherd from "somewhere"… a secret underground bunker lined with tin-foil, possibly? Does rhondar translate as mentally ill' in Hindi?

Texas  |  August, 15, 2014 at 02:58 PM

GM seed manufacturers trumpet: "We have a billion hectares now under GM cultivation!" Which is roughly 3.86 million square miles. Or 2.47 million acres. Or 10 percent of the world's arable farmland. There's a reason other nations require the labeling of GM food; why the U.S. doesn’t; why the GM industry won’t label their products; and why they keep results of eating this poison secret. Why the labeling of GM-contaminated food is important Congress, where gratuities for elected seals climb quickly toward four and five figures when critical votes for things like, say, food safety for humanity come up, refuses to require the labeling of GM food. And the agencies tasked to require and regulate the labeling have been staffed with (courtesy of political “contributions”) the GM industry’s ex-employed and ex-employees tasked to regulate food and the labels on it. The GM industry began trying to force-feed this crap to America and the world in the late ‘90s, and worked and met and discussed and refined the technology to do it decades before that. The sterilizing and sickening toxins they've spliced into humanity's food are no accident. It's a deliberate effort to "rid the planet" of useless eaters; deemed so by self-anointed psychopaths wadded in wealth who're in the process of purchasing the world and its resources for themselves; "culling" humanity in the process. Take a look at how the wonderful folks bringing you this genetically modified food (and animal feed) keep dragging their intent behind their curtain to keep it hidden from the public. Genetic Fallacy: How Monsanto Silences Scientific Dissent

indiana  |  September, 11, 2014 at 09:47 AM

Facts LMiller: In 20-plus years on the market, GMOs have not caused or contributed to a single illness or death. This is not industry hype; it is common and accepted fact. Every leading health organization in the world stands behind the safety of GMOs. Extensive and continuous studies on GMOs are being conducted to ensure their ongoing safety for consumption.

Marc Cronin    
Oregon  |  September, 11, 2014 at 10:15 AM


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