For the last five years, my sister-in-law has asked me to speak to her freshman-level biology class at Mayville State on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a geneticist or a scientist or a plant breeder, but I do have some knowledge of the history and development of GMOs. In 2004, I was working on my master's thesis on the economic impacts of genetically modified (GM) wheat. Turns out that GM wheat was never commercialized, but that project brought me closer into the world of GM traits and seeds.
So I went to Sarah's class last week and did a little teaching. My main point to the students was this: the worst thing about GMO is.......the name! They all agreed that they had eaten food with GMO ingredients in it within the past 24 hours. Something with sugar? GMO. Something fried in oil? Likely GMO. But what is GMO? It's the most advanced level of plant breeding that exists. We talked about classical breeding, molecular breeding, and marker-assisted selection. The next step in plant breeding was gene modification to get the progeny plant to exhibit the desired characteristics in the fastest way possible. Gene modification is also the goal in classical breeding, it just takes several generations to arrive at the desired progeny.
We hear plenty of negative information regarding GMOs in mainstream and social media. I am for sustainability, strong science, and healthy food. I am not for trying to scare people about the food that they eat with inaccurate information. Solid research must continue. I will rely on the real scientists to help provide solutions and innovations that will help farmers, food processors, and food eaters. I hope the students will have a slightly different perspective when they hear people talking about GMO crops.
It was fun to go back to college for an hour. And I appreciated everybody's attention.