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I Plant GMOs in My Fields, Not in My Garden

Back in early February, I sat in my kitchen in front of my laptop preparing to Skype for the first time. I know, I know. My lack of techy-ness is shining through. I use my computer for work, my phone to talk to people and the TV to watch. Old school.

On the other side of my computer screen sitting in a studio in L.A. was Larry King, – as in TV-host, journalism legend Larry King – a panel of celebrity “experts” and one scientist.

Ensuring Skype worked properly sent my anxiety levels through the roof, even more so than facing off with Larry King about the hottest topic in food and farming . . . until I realized who was asking the questions and how much they didn’t know.

The topic was none other than GMOs and the panel of “experts” included celebrity chef Curtis Stone, actress Mary Lou Henner and former NBA-player John Salley. The scientist was Dr. Bob Goldberg from the department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology at UCLA. He knows science and biotechnology.

During the hour long show the panel spoke to numerous guests and bantered amongst themselves about the value of biotechnology in agriculture. I did not hear any of that though, as I waited in my kitchen for the notification bell to ‘ding’ on my computer. I thought when that happened I’d be able to see who I was talking to and hear their conversation prior to my interview.

When the bell ‘dinged’, I saw just me on my screen. Uh oh. Then, I heard Larry ask, “Let’s start with why you use gm-seed on your farm?”

I didn’t expect this to be a friendly interview, (i.e. Mary Lou’s first question, “Do you feed your children these crops?” referring to our acres of field corn.), but I did expect if folks were going to be on a webcast they’d be somewhat up on the facts. Not the case.

When Chef Stone in so many words called me a hypocrite because I plant genetically modified seed in our fields and not in our gardens (He said I plant organic seeds. I do not buy seed labeled organic.), I realized who I was talking to – another uninformed food consumer.

This doesn’t make Chef Stone a bad person. In fact of all the panelists I thought he was pretty nice. But I wonder if he hadn’t taken Mary Lou’s advice to “google it” to find out about biotech and agriculture. After all, if it’s on the internet, it must be so.

Only eight crops have commercially available genetically modified seed – corn, soybeans, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, squash, and cotton. As a back-yard gardener, I can’t plant a genetically modified squash seed in my garden, because I am not a commercial grower.  A tomato labeled non-gm is labeled as such because you can’t grow/buy it any other way. A head of lettuce labeled non-gm says so because no gm-lettuce exists.

As Chef Stone pointed out approximately 70 percent of processed food may contain an ingredient derived from a genetically modified crop. However, the science states that these sugars, starches and oils are no different compared to their counterparts derived from non-gm crops. Even more arguments speak to the genetic make-up of said ingredients – can a sugar really be genetically modified when a sugar is chemically a compound with no genes to be found?  I know that high school junior year chemistry, Mr. Simpson’s class.

I’ve pondered this interview quite a bit while weeding my garden and plucking beetles (already!) off the plants, wondering if that gm-squash seed would kill those buggers so I don’t have to. GM-squash is disease resistant. No help to me.

This interview still irritates me, which is why I haven’t shared it until now. I’m all for robust discussion challenging what we hold to be true, but posing as an expert and sharing an opinion as fact isn’t right.

You can watch the full Larry King Now episodes here (see below). It is a two part series and I do recommend watching both pieces in their entirety; however, for shameless self-promotion kicks, my less than stellar performance is after the first break in Part 2.

Larry King Now: GMOs, Part 1 – http://www.ora.tv/larrykingnow/gmos-part-1-0_67n9d1hiobfr

Larry King Now: GMOs, Part 2 – http://www.ora.tv/larrykingnow/gmos-part-2-0_2lxel99gjetc

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10 responses to “I Plant GMOs in My Fields, Not in My Garden

  1. Thanks for trying to get the GMO point out there! Its not easy as usually other people think they know the pitfalls but that is from the consumer side and without much insight into the actual growing of crops. I have faced the “kids” question as well, people on social media felt enraged enough at my inability to admit to how bad GMOs are by saying, “you will learn when your kids fall sick from eating it”. One wonders at people who have no qualms driving into private areas to score points!

  2. This was a biased panel from the start! Only one expert on the pro-GMO side? The other people were hardly qualified as “experts.” They are communicators whose job is to sell themselves. They make money for causing a stir, not for conducting actual research and knowing real facts. I think you did a good job with what was thrown at you; you can’t argue with people who won’t listen to what you’re saying. How very frustrating.

    • Yes, this was biased, and obviously meant for sensational purposes. But for me, even with an intent not meant to inform, some of the basics – like you can’t plant a gm-veggie seed because they don’t exist – should be a given! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Carly Holcomb

    Great job at explaining why you grow what you do on YOUR farm. The panel was missing the boat completely on self-educating. I just listened to a speaker today explain that humans fear the unknown, which is exactly the case in the GM v. Non GM debate. Everything you said went in one ear and out the other to the panel, and every comment you had, was responded with a fallacious statement. Keep telling your farm story!

    On a side note, I found it humorous that they want to eat what the “bugs” are eating….there are a lot of things that insects eat that I have absolutely no desire to eat! But it was their defense mechanism against a fact, I suppose.

    Great job, Katie!

  4. I thought you did a fine job defending GMO’s. Don’t beat yourself up about it – the deck was stacked for publicity. Apparently Marilu was too busy trying to formulate her next attack instead of listening to you explain that GMO seed are commercial, not for planting in your garden. I watched the whole thing. Truly, only 1 expert on the panel, who was very well spoken, albeit not miked well (by design??? Hmmm….), and very cool under a lot of pressure. Keep farming! We appreciate all that you do!

  5. I think consumers don’t understand the difference between GMOs,GEOs, and Hybrid seeds. If it isn’t heritage or heirloom it’s a GMO. I’m not sure consumers even understand that there are GEOs out there. Gardens are usually Heritage or Hybrid. Heritage is open pollinated and Hybrid is (usually ) sterile and won’t come back on it’s own if seeds are saved. If they do come back they are not exactly like the mother plant. An no one seems to grasp cross pollination. Everyone wants the simplicity of buying at the store or restaurant, but they want the farmers to meet the demands and yields with heirloom varieties. ( of course not possible ) To bad the media doesn’t explain this better. Of course you know all this I’m just thinking out loud. :) Your blog is very nice to read, keep at it.

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