Sponsored By
Farm Progress

What’s a GMO?What’s a GMO?

Not strawberries, not lettuce, not blueberries — and definitely not cows! Here’s a look at common misconceptions about GMOs and a tool to share facts.

Holly Spangler

August 9, 2018

2 Min Read
LABELS: “All the labels make it harder and more confusing,” says Donna Jeschke of GMOs and non-GMOs. She and her husband, Paul, farm at Mazon, Ill., and do consumer outreach about agriculture.

Mazon, Ill., farmers Paul and Donna Jeschke have talked to hundreds of nonfarm consumers over the past few years, and there’s a refrain they hear over and over: People have no idea what a GMO really is.

“They think everything has a GMO component to it,” Donna says. “They’re always surprised when you mention the 10 that exist commercially now.”

The 10 crops that are commercially available and approved by USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, sugarbeets and summer squash.

Paul adds that the most blatant misconception he hears is that people think non-GMO means pesticide-free. “They think GMO is a pesticide-infested plant and that it produces its own toxic pesticide. But it’s hard to blame people for not understanding that.”

Paul will often go on to explain that with rootworm-resistant corn, for example, the corn produces a protein that the bug can’t digest. “Vertebrates can, however,” he says. “And if we don’t use that GMO plant, the alternative is to put a pesticide on the ground in April that’s persistent enough to still be there at the end of June.

“I don’t care to do that if there are other products available.”

What else do the Jeschkes hear, as they host Chicago tour groups on their farm and moderate discussion panels about the new “Food Evolution” movie?

Consumers often think wheat is a GMO, likely because of the controversy surrounding its initial development — but they don’t realize it was never brought to market. Consumers also tend to think strawberries and blueberries are GMOs, because they’re often labeled non-GMO in grocery stores. They ask what farmers do to cows to make them non-GMO, because they see non-GMO milk labels at the store.

“All the labels make it harder and more confusing,” Donna says — in some cases, intentionally confusing.

At the end of the day, the Jeschkes know food is often an emotional issue, and people will make decisions based on emotions and not facts.

“How do you balance the conflict between emotion and science?” Paul asks. “Especially when emotion is more of a motivator than science for many people.”

Looking for an easy way to share the facts about GMOs? Check out the infographic below, and download it to share with friends.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like