GMOs: An Education Problem?

by Drew Lindenberger, Political Science major

In the midst of a heated debate amongst the American public about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a shocking trend came to light as part of Pew Center Study about the disparity between the beliefs of the public and the scientific community: while 88 percent of scientists call GMOs and their products safe for consumption, a mere 37 percent of survey respondents from the general population said they felt the same way.

At the heart of the issue, there are numerous disagreements between factions of Americans that disagree on about GM crops. Some issues at the core of disagreement include the safety of GM foods, the ethical business of the companies entrenched in the biotechnology industry, and whether or not products that contain GM materials should be labelled as such for the human consumer. As evidenced by the wide margins of disagreement between the American public and the most informed communities, it appears that on the whole, the U.S. is facing a perception problem; or deeper, a failure of education.

Throughout modern history, the government has made it their business to protect public health through education. Government funded public service announcements have educated the public about drugs and alcohol, tobacco, healthcare and other government services, and more. The fact is, it is the public market’s job to make sure that major issues in the country are at the bare minimum, understood by the public. GM science and biotechnology are no different. The government, including the FDA, the USDA and Congressional appropriations committees have already authorized support for certain GM crop projects. If this is going to be the case going forward, education has to be a priority for public spending, or no debate on the key issues will be efficaciously held.

The lack of education isn’t just on one side or the other, either. Both pro­-GMO populations and anti­GMO populations exhibit a relative misunderstanding of key issues like who benefits from the industries, and potential dangers to both the public and the ecosystem.   abroad, it is imperative the government action cover the knowledge gap.

Pew Study: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public­and­scientists­views­on­science­and­society/

Want to learn more? http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/the­gmo­debate­5­things­to­stop­arguing/2014/10/27/e82bbc10­5a3e­11e4­b812­38518ae74c67_story.html

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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