I Helped Develop GMO Crops. That Doesn’t Make Me a Villain.
Greedy companies don’t make GMOs. Real people do.
I spent ten years in college, earned four degrees and worked for ten years in research and development roles at two major agriculture companies. Developing new GMO corn hybrids is a bullet point on my resume. But this isn’t a story about what I did. This is a story about who I am. It’s an attempt to dispell the image you have of a GMO-scientist.
Humanizing the villain
I worked for a company that everyone loves to hate. The negative perceptions people have about that company don’t align with my experience working there. There’s always talk of “evil” and “greed” and “poison.” Take it from someone who spent time on the inside; these words don’t accurately describe my former colleagues or their mission.
People who work in the agriculture industry are compassionate. They care about other people and improving access to affordable, healthy food. They are invested in rural communities and want to see small towns succeed. They’re fishermen, grandmas, little league coaches and PTA members. They’re not villainous, mad scientists looking to instill evil into the food chain.
Everyone loves to hate big ag. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand that these companies are the only ones equipped to develop technology and solutions to feed 9 billion people in the very near future. Most people don’t know that by the time a new GMO-trait hits the market, it’s been through, on average, ten years of testing with a cost of over 100 million dollars. That’s just one GMO trait. The truth is, big ag companies are the only ones with the research capabilities, human resources and capital to solve the significant food challenges we’re facing.
I created GMOs, but I’m a lot like you.
I grew up in a small Iowa town, surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland. I’m a mother, a daughter and a friend. I also happen to be a scientist that helped create GMO crops. When I see people personally attacking researchers working for large agriculture companies, it strikes a nerve with me. Because I was one of them. When I hear people talking negatively about GMOs and spreading misinformation about their safety, it bothers me. There are a lot of smart people that have spent their lives studying crop science to deliver innovative agriculture technology, only to have their work minimized by people who clearly don’t understand its value or the global food challenges we’re facing.
Somehow GMOs have become an “us” (the average consumer) versus “them” (greedy corporations) debate. But food security isn’t about making money or taking sides. It’s a global humanitarian issue, and the people with skin in the game to solve these challenges are being forced to defend themselves. It isn’t right. The scientists I was fortunate enough to work with are some of the most humble, brilliant and passionate people I’ll ever come across in my life. They have families just like you. They care about the environment and believe in sustainability. And like me, they believe strongly in science and technology that will feed 9 billion people in the next 30 years.
Finding commitment and purpose in a cornfield
When I hear of people eliminating GMO foods from their diet because they are concerned about their safety, I’m disappointed. Because for years, I monitored fields of GMO crops. I took thousands of observations and notes. I understand the scrutiny that these crops get before they make it to the market. In that regard, they’re safer than anything you’ll ever eat.
When I see people sharing junk science online, it irks me. Because I’ve poured days of my life into creating this technology that I really believe in. I’ve missed special birthdays and holidays with my family to walk miles in a GMO-corn field in the middle of summer. I was there every day to ensure that the food your family and mine are eating is safe and available at a reasonable cost. I showed up on the hottest days, the wettest days and the longest days because I wanted to make a farmer’s job easier. I spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears to deliver new GMO products to the market. It wasn’t a respected career path to some, especially for my city-dwelling family and friends. But I chose to look beyond the haters, to the farmers struggling to feed their families in Africa. I understood the positive impact that I was making, the hope I was creating for someone else.
My ask of you
So, the next time a bogus article about GMOs crosses your news feed, I hope you’ll stop and think of those people just like me that are devoting their time and talents to solve some immense global food challenges. Whether you choose to eat GMOs or not, it’s time to recognize that there are real, rational, thoughtful, compassionate people finding innovative solutions to the food security problems that are knocking on our door. They’re just like you. They don’t have ulterior motives, and they aren’t making millions. They choose this career because they’re passionate about its potential.