Commentary: GMOs: It’s all in the name
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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