On GMOs, schools should share facts, not propaganda

A handful of school districts in Minnesota recently held “GMO Awareness Day,” purportedly to educate students on the foods they eat. Instead, these districts used taxpayer money to repeat disproven claims and misleading rhetoric. I find it troubling that five school districts in Minnesota have engaged in a propaganda campaign aimed at young children.

The press release put out by the Hopkins, Minneapolis, Orono, Shakopee and Westonka school districts is made up of misleading claims and outright falsehoods. I don’t have the space to refute them one by one, but here is the reality: GMOs have been tested extensively – over 2,000 studies. These studies, and the leading regulatory and food safety organizations in the world, found GMOs to be perfectly safe. There is nothing to be aware of other than the tremendous societal and environmental benefits offered by GMOs.

Schools are supposed to be places of education, logical thinking and science, but a handful of school administrators seem to disagree. Apparently, they believe that schools are the place for misleading political agendas and propaganda campaigns aimed at developing the minds of young children without highlighting the other side of the issue.

Dave Ladd is the president of RDL & Associates.

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Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 12/15/2014 - 11:04 am.

    Let’s just say this is debatable …

    “There is nothing to be aware of other than the tremendous societal and environmental benefits offered by GMOs.”

    One man’s propaganda is another’s truth.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 12/16/2014 - 01:12 pm.

      propoganda or truth

      Call it what you will but when facts are presented they usually aren’t called propaganda. Stating mistruths and using them for political purposes is called propaganda which is exactly what the schools were doing.

  2. Submitted by John Cricky on 12/15/2014 - 11:20 am.

    Lobbyist

    When Minnpost publishes a letter by a lobbyist, shouldn’t that information be disclosed?

  3. Submitted by Susan Albright on 12/15/2014 - 11:43 am.

    Author’s company

    Re Mr. Cricky’s comment, MinnPost does disclose relevant affiliations. We’ve added the author’s business information to his letter.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/15/2014 - 05:50 pm.

      Actually

      You’ve added the name of his business.
      To make it informative, the following is a quote from his Web site:
      “Working with our strategic partners, including firms headquartered in Washington, D.C. and St. Paul, MN, we have the capacity to integrate federal and state lobbying, public affairs and communications services in a bipartisan fashion so as to provide cost-effective strategies for our clients.”
      In other words, he is a lobbyist with a vested interest in the issue.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/15/2014 - 07:35 pm.

        So…

        The name of his business was sufficient, then? Seriously, I’m all about full disclosure, but pulling a specific quote from a website seems to be a bit beyond disclosure, doesn’t it?

        • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 12/16/2014 - 02:23 pm.

          Don’t you think the fact he’s a lobbyist is necessary?

          I mean, isn’t it important that on his company’s site (actually it’s WordPress), he touts their “message development and delivery” ??

          If someone is posting in the role of a paid propagandist, don’t you think he has an ethical obligation to disclose it ? His post is part of an activity he’s getting paid to do – and I for one would like to know: who’s paying him ??

          Don’t you think that if MinnPost knew about it, they have an obligation to disclose it ??

  4. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/15/2014 - 02:30 pm.

    Propaganda

    “One man’s propaganda is another’s truth.” Ain’t that the truth. Er…

    For what it’s worth, truth does not equal fact. By interpreting data provided by scientific studies we know that the Earth is NOT 5000 years old; we also know that the GMOs on the market have been found safe. That doesn’t prevent some people from believing that both sets of scientifically tested (and confirmed time and time again) facts are propaganda. For the same reason that I object to young earth creationism being taught as a scientifically valid theory in public schools (or any school that receives public funding), I object to an anti-GMO curriculum in public schools. While there might be valid reasons to scrutinize some GMOs, the safety and agronomic efficiency of commercially available varieties really aren’t those reasons.

  5. Submitted by Steven Bailey on 12/15/2014 - 08:45 pm.

    The only real GMO facts

    Whether you believe god created man 6000 years ago or you believe in evolution there is a shared fact. For over 5975 years people ate non GMO foods. We have no idea whether these foods are safe or whether they can cause catastrophic harm in the long term. None of the current GMO foods are engineered for enhanced nutrition but primarily for tolerance to chemicals to improve yield and profit. Our history is replete with cases of companies doing incredible harm for profit. Just look at the criminality of big Pharma companies in the past 10 years involving unsafe drugs. GMO foods have far too many possible catastrophic downsides to use them without further and extensive observation. The other argument is why should some sociopath corporate legal entity have the right to hide or lie to me (a natural person) about what I choose to buy. Isn’t informed purchase one of the basis points of the capitalistic model?

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/15/2014 - 10:58 pm.

      Historically

      Just because we didn’t eat GMO foods for 5975 years (or however many years you want to choose), doesn’t make it unsafe. We have a pretty good idea just how safe they are, but no amount of evidence will convince some people. Did you know that there’s a museum full of dinosaur bones that claims that dinosaurs lived at the same time as man? No matter how much evidence there is, there will be no convincing such people that dinosaurs and man never coexisted (unless you want to count birds).

      GMOs specifically created to provide improved nutrition or other benefits:
      -Golden rice, a nutritionally enhanced rice specifically engineered to combat vitamin A deficiency.
      -Various algae engineered to produce healthy oils, such as omega-3 fatty acids.
      -Bacteria engineered to produce insulin.
      -High oleic oil producing sunflowers and soybeans.

      Even if we ignore the existence of GMOs specifically created to have benefits other than to improve yield and/or profit, we can’t ignore the fact that, as the population grows, so must our food supply, and on even fewer acres than before. Sure, someone’s profiting, but what’s the alternative? Would you rather we feed only those nearest an organic farm just to spite those who make money off of farming or developing engineered crops? The rest can either starve or be culled? I don’t think so.

      It took hundreds to thousands of years to create many of the common foods we eat, at least the ones that are suitable for mass production, like corn or wheat. You wouldn’t recognize what corn was before man forced it into the form it is today, or even the form that existed before we knew how to insert specific genes into it. We do not have thousands, or even hundreds, more years available to achieve what we managed to do before modern molecular genetic engineering.

      Even with genetic engineering tools, it may be that we’re reaching the maximum biological limit of food production for many of the common crops. There are just so many carbons, nitrogens, and oxygens that a single plant has time to incorporate into the appropriate section during the growing season. That means we need to figure out other ways to increase yield–by increasing plant density, by increasing plant efficiency, by using traditionally uncultivatable land, by introducing new traits from other organisms, and by harvesting every last piece of the crop. That means we’ll have to be more aggressive in providing nutrients to the plants, as well–making plants that don’t naturally associate with beneficial bacteria start cooperating with them, making roots more efficient at pulling water out of soil and air, making leaves lose less water during the day. Further, we need to do it all with less energy input.

      We can expect not only another 2-3 billion humans by 2100, which is only 2-3 generations away, and a climate that we can’t predict. For the forseeable future, we’ll only have this one single planet to grow our food upon. We either have to grow it better, cheaper, and more nutritiously, or we have to accept the fact that a portion of the population will starve, just as it does now, but in greater numbers.

      It’s fine if you want to be informed, but being “informed” is a much more neutral position than you have taken.

      • Submitted by Steven Bailey on 12/16/2014 - 07:31 am.

        Doubt

        Your argument is one that constantly and with little change shows up on many discussions about GMOs. GMOs are contaminating non GMO crops (fact). The number one reason for GMO crops in the world today is pesticide tolerance which is declining in effectiveness. There is starting to be a growing scientific body of studies that show the chemicals used on GMO crops may not be as safe as the industry has been saying (there is that lying for profit thing again). Just a couple years ago Scotts got criminally convicted of knowingly using a mildew-cide that was toxic to birds on their bird food. (they knowingly used it for 5 years killing tens of millions of birds)

        The argument for food production doesn’t hold up for two reasons. The first is that we already produce much more food than the population requires but we are very inefficient in distribution. The second is that every single planetary system we need to survive is in decline and there is no chance (even if every promise of GMO abundance were true) that we will survive 2 to 3 billion more people.

        You completely ignore our right to not be lied to about what we purchase.

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/16/2014 - 03:10 pm.

          Interestingly

          This is just my argument, not anyone else’s. If it happens to coincide with what others have to say, then maybe there’s more than a grain of sense in it. I did not develop my point of view based on what I was told by companies that develop GMOs. In fact, I believe that the overuse of a single variety, GMO or otherwise, reduces diversity and increases mass crop failure risk, a position that is very much not in favor at Monsanto or Bayer. Rather, my argument is based on a background in molecular biology, with a pretty extensive understanding of genetic engineering.

          As to your point about chemicals used on GMO crops, that is a separate issue. Can and should companies move away from the use of neonicotinoids? Maybe. Probably. However, their use is not new nor is it the number one evil some would like to make it out to be. We are ALL responsible for declines in bird and insect, particularly pollinator, numbers. Do you have a nice green lawn? If so, it’s likely you’re a contributor to bee declines. Do you let your cat outdoors? If so, you likely contribute to the needless death of hundreds of birds a year.

          As for your food production arguments, those also don’t hold up to a 50% increase in population in less than 100 years. Particularly in combination with climate instability and decreased water availability (people drink water, too). Even if we have enough for the population today, it doesn’t change the fact that crops are, inherently, perishable. It’s like the admonishment that parents used to give the kid that doesn’t clean his plate “There are kids starving in China (or Africa or India)!” Yeah. So? The food is here now. It won’t be edible by the time it got to that starving kid. That hasn’t changed much. We can only grow certain crops in certain areas. We can dry down major crops, mostly grains and soybeans and ship them elsewhere. What do we do with excess lettuce or tomatoes? Well, we can process them. But it would seem that processed food makers are bad guys, too, now (disclaimer, I work for one–obviously I don’t believe the bad guy bit).

          You’re right. You have a right not to be lied about regarding what you purchase. But it’s not GMOs that take that right away. If you decide to make the claim that you didn’t know there were GMOs in your food, then you’re completely ignoring the fact that modern farmers choose to plant mostly GMO crops (for increases in yield, profit, and/or convenience). It’s safe to assume that most of the food that’s available for mass market has a GMO ingredient. If you want it to not have GMO ingredients, go for the “organic” label or grow your own.

          For what it’s worth, I have no idea what the Scott’s case has to do with GMOs. If true, and I don’t feel like hunting it down, it was pretty dumb. But I don’t know how the addition of a mildew preventative after harvest, I assume to increase the shelf life of the packaged seed, has to do with GMOs.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/16/2014 - 11:45 am.

      Agriculture for at least the past 10,000 years is based on genetic modification.
      The only question is whether modern techniques for genetic modification are somehow qualitatively different from the traditional methods of breeding, which also produce genetically modified species.

  6. Submitted by Peter Doughty on 12/16/2014 - 06:45 am.

    Bye-bye science

    Over 2000 pro-GMO studies, you say? What an impressive number. No citation of even one,though. Hmmm . . . It’s rather reminiscent of that drunkard Sen. Joe McCarthy’s claims of “lists” of communists in the U.S. government.
    By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, Mr. Ladd, “science” bought by industry is a big reason why science in general now has such low–and declining–regard in American culture. Oh well.
    The modernist conceit is to go ahead and do something merely because one can (and because it can make a profit NOW, and because one’s fellow travelers have bought the regulatory machinery). Me, I hold to the precautionary principle.
    “There is no greater evil than men’s failure to consult and to consider.” ― Sophocles, “Antigone”

    • Submitted by Steven Bailey on 12/16/2014 - 08:17 am.

      Spot on

      There was a good article a month or so ago about the Precautionary Principle and GMO’s. I do not have the link but I am quite sure it was related to Cornell University which stated applying the PP to GMOs at this time gives a big no to going forward with GMO’s.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 12/16/2014 - 11:37 am.

      science

      It would have been helpful to have the latest pro-GMO study referenced although the point of the article was the fact that schools are giving anti-GMO info without studies or proof. If you have some proof or evidence that what he is writing is not correct please also post those studies sir.

      • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 12/19/2014 - 01:32 pm.

        The burden of proof

        belongs to the people who are altering the makeup of the DNA of the food we eat.

        You are what you eat. And we are learning more and more every day that this is absolute truth.

        • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 02/10/2015 - 11:45 am.

          burden

          First of all who are you to decide who has the burden of proof. Second, that proof is already there if you care to read it. The absolute truth is that anyone who says GMO is bad for you is a blatant liar.

  7. Submitted by Michael Friedman on 12/16/2014 - 01:55 pm.

    Public relations

    The primary public relations talking point, here and elsewhere, is that GMO food is safe to consume.

    Even if no future studies come along to disprove that, one can still want to avoid GMO food (and want sufficient labeling to do so) because of: the environmental impacts of the heavy pesticide use on water, evolutionary impacts on the food chain (especially as pesticide resistance increases), influence on monoculture and soil degradation resulting (short-term production increase could lead to long-term reduction), and economic impact of allowing private ownership of plant genomes. There absolutely are not 2,000 studies promoting environmental or societal benefits, and it’s a public relations pro’s writing trick to seemingly link positive studies about food safety to unproven benefits that may very well be the opposite.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 02/10/2015 - 11:48 am.

      pesticides etc.

      Show me where there is impacts from heavy pesticides on water. This has been proven false and if you need a link I can provide one but if you look in my other comments you will see it. Pesticide use has been proven to be very efficient. Monoculture? Can you be more specific what that is? I have never seen one single farmer in the U.S. that raises strictly one crop. Every one I see rotates between corn and beans or sugarbeets, alfalfa, or any number of other crops. You see some corn on corn but never corn on corn all the time. It simply does not make sense for farmers.

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