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Update on GM Crops and Perceptions

About once a year, I post an article that lends support to the continuance of developing and using genetically-modified [GM] crops for agricultural production. Granted, using science for supporting documentation of this effort seems to be in the minority nowadays, but we in agriculture must endeavor to keep the objective view out there.

Below are results from recent information sources about GM crops or GMO’s.

The US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) conducted its annual Perception Benchmark Survey to measure consumer opinions about agriculture. Consumer Food Connectors’ (CFC’s*–see below) attitudes about environmental sustainability, GM crops [GMO’s], and technology were solicited. Interestingly, about half of the CFC’s associate increased yields [55%] and increased efficiency [49%] with the use of advanced technology on farms and ranches. However, biotechnology was viewed by these respondents as unfavorable, with only 11% favorable to GMO’s. The authors concluded that it is critical to connect technology used on the nation’s farms and ranches to consumer and environmental benefits.

[*CFC’s are adult men and women ages 21-65 who 1) do not personally work or have immediate family who work on a farm, 2) are very involved in or make all household decisions and purchases related to food, 3) do not have a strong pre-bias against conventional or non-organic farming, and 4) actively engage in conversations about food issues and agricultural practices in person and online.]

An Executive Summary of the results from the 2016 survey entitled “U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, National Corn Growers Association GMO Farmer Survey” provides the following key findings.

    Farmers believe that biotechnology helps raise crops more efficiently, and that the environment and sustainability practices associated with future crop production will suffer if GMO technology utilization is reduced.

    Farmers identified soil health [95%] and precise use and application of pesticides [94%] as key factors in protecting the environment.

    78% of farmers that identified environmental impacts as the greatest concern should GMO seeds not be available foresee increased negative impacts that include more water and pesticide use. 98% of farmers ranked using GMO seeds as the top contributor to their ability to lessen their environmental footprint.

    87% of responding farmers indicated that GMO seeds allow them to minimize pesticide and herbicide use in their operations.

    78% of responding farmers indicated that using GMO seeds allow them to use advanced farming practices such as conservation tillage.

    64% of responding farmers indicated that using GMO seeds allows them to manage resources such as fuel, time, and equipment more efficiently.

    The majority of the responders [94%] believe that marketing absence claims [see below examples] can be misleading to consumers because this likely promotes GMO deselection as being healthier to an uninformed food purchaser.

Please note the glaring discrepancy in the above survey numbers; i.e., only a small percentage [11%] of the CFC group gave a favorable view of using GMO’s, while the opposite was true of farmers. And guess which group is vastly larger in the general public.

Below are examples of marketing absence claims that will mislead a consumer toward GMO deselection.

    I watch Jeopardy on Monday through Friday nights at 7:30 PM. One of the prominent ads during the telecast is for a well-known vitamin brand. And a prominent phrase in the ad is “Now Verified Non-GMO and Gluten Free”. For those who are not familiar with GMO’s and their safety, the implication in this ad is that a vitamin that is not designated “non-GMO” is bad.

    Another TV ad for a well-known yogurt product states that it is “now with non-GMO ingredients”. Again, the connotation here is that the opposite is bad. Just think of the effect this short phrase will have on those consumers who do not understand just what a GMO is, and are equally unaware of the vast body of scientific evidence that shows no negative effects of GMO plants or their derived products.

    Just today, two things along this line caught my eye. 1) An ad for a prominent brand of grape juice was shown on a TV program I was watching. To my surprise, the term “non-GMO” was prominently displayed in the ad for that product. 2) I bought a jug of a major brand of orange juice at our local supermarket. Prominently displayed on the label was “NON GMO Project Verified” with the website URL “” underneath. Again, what message do these ads and labels send to an uninformed consumer who will assume that the opposite is unhealthy?

Where does this GMO negativity stop? I strongly suspect it will not. In fact, I even more strongly suspect this “marketing gimmick” will take on the property of a snowball rolling downhill–it will just pick up more snow.

Now the question that becomes even more critical is “How do the production and scientific sectors of agriculture counter this”? I don’t have the answer. But I do know that we must continue at every opportunity to counter this “snowballing” of GMO misinformation that seems to be increasing. The future of US agriculture likely depends on it.

Click here, here, here, and here for previous articles on this website that present the positive side of using GM crops for increased production and environmental benefits, as well as for contributing to the sustainability of US agriculture.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, Jan. 2017,