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Non-GMO Month pushes oft-refuted misinformationNon-GMO Month pushes oft-refuted misinformation

Ron Smith 1

October 6, 2016

2 Min Read

I was not aware until earlier this week that October is Non-GMO Month, a time apparently set aside to wallow in ignorance and ignore science, a time to offer unsupported and repudiated claims about the health hazards of genetically modified food — scare tactics more appropriate for Halloween than for an entire month of blatant misinformation-mongering.

Non-GMO Month is not listed on any of my calendars, in case you were wondering. Hallmark has not issued greeting cards to honor the occasion, and I don’t think we get it as a paid holiday.

I did receive this notice, however: “October 1 marks the beginning of Non-GMO Month, the largest outreach campaign of the Non-GMO Project, according to Non-GMO News.”

This announcement came in a news (?) release from a company called Pereg Natural Foods. Can we see a hint of bias here — a bit of self-serving puffery?

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I get similar emails almost every week, sometimes from multiple sources, and I typically drag these missives to the convenient garbage can icon on my computer desktop. But this one offered some particularly good examples of baseless, oft-refuted claims that anti-genetic engineering proponents rely on to promote their cause —which mostly consists of self-serving propaganda.

Take this gem for instance:Non-genetically modified means that plants or organisms are left as they are, as they were created in nature.” Hmm, does that include all the hybrids developed over the years, the genetic improvements from crossing one cultivar with another to achieve a desired goal — higher yield, for instance?

And this: “Some scientists, consumers, and environmental groups cite health and environmental risks associated with foods that have been genetically modified (designated GMO).”

That one had me at “some.” I scrolled through the rest of the text to discover just who “some” includes. Who are the scientists? Odd, none are named. Neither are any specific “environmental risks” enumerated.

We also are given a definition of GMO: “This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” Frightening stuff, but baseless.

The clever copy writer who concocted the puff piece devoted most of the remaining verbiage to promoting Pereg Foods, listing several different kinds of “all natural, kosher, vegan, non-dairy, and gluten-free” products.

My take on this, and it seems legitimate, is that Non-GMO Month was created as another marketing ploy that uses misinformation and gullibility to enhance sales.

But maybe I’m just cynical.


About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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