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Agriculture has a convincing story to tell about biotechnology

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In today’s world of fake news, one of the greatest myths is that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, cause cancer, autism, allergies, gluten intolerance and other illnesses. Science and extensive research make it perfectly clear: GMOs are safe.

The Council for Biotechnology Information points out that GMOs have not caused or contributed to a single death in the 20-plus years they have been on the market. In the spring of 2016, the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine released results from an extensive study concluding “no substantial evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered crops and conventionally bred crops.”

Adding to the credibility that GMOs are safe is the backing of the federal government. Congress appropriated $3 million to fund the Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative, which calls for the Food and Drug Administration to work with USDA to provide education and outreach to the public on agricultural biotechnology.

As part of the initiative, FDA held a listening session in Charlotte where the public could weigh in on GMOs. Some who testified said GMOS are unsafe and cause autism and make people sick. At the hearing, Bryant Chapman, a dairy, beef, poultry and grain farmer in Alexander County, N.C., and Don Duvall, a grain farmer from Carmi, Illinois, countered the argument with  convincing testimony on both the safety of and need for GMOs.

“I’m not a communications or consumer research expert, but as a farmer I know the importance of telling a story of my farm to my neighbors and my community. I hope FDA will be able to work with real people with real stories who can help reach consumers with accurate trustworthy information that is also grounded in science,” Chapman said at the hearing.

“For the more than two decades that genetically modified products have been grown there has not been a single documented incident of harm to human health resulting from genetic modification,” grain farmer Duvall emphasized. “GMOS reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment. We’re using less fuel, less chemicals, less inputs and that results in a healthier environment.”

Agriculture has a convincing story to tell on the proven safety and need for biotechnology. The daunting challenge is many consumers still believe the “fake news” that GMOs are unsafe. Hats off to Bryant Chapman,  Don Duvall and other farmers who take the time to tell their stories to consumers.

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