Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
Is the mule-horse story a good metaphor for the GMO con-
troversy? Scientifically it is a horrible metaphor. After all, a GM
corn or soybean seed differs from its non-GM counterparts by
one or a few genes, whereas the horse and mule are so differ-
ent they do not even have the same number of chromosomes.
It is easy to tell a mule from a horse, but very difficult to tell a
conventional from a GM soybean seed.
The metaphor does work for those who fear and oppose GM
foods, though. Just as it seems rather “freakish” that a horse can
give birth to a mule, GMOs have been labeled “Frankenfoods.”
There is a GM corn that produces its own insecticide to con-
trol rootworms. As a result, animated YouTube videos like
“GMO-A-Go-Go” put a Frankenstein-like face on an ear of
corn, influencing some to believe that GM foods truly are
freaks of nature.
To what extent does the public experience anxiety about
GM foods? Polls show that 93  percent of Americans (who
responded to a survey) support mandatory labeling of GM
foods. This may overestimate true concern, as simply asking
people this question suggests there is a problem with GM
food. That is, asking the question itself changes the person's
beliefs. Think about it: If a telephone survey asks you whether
you believe the water you drink to be safe, don't you auto-
matically become suspicious it is not? If there was no problem
with the water, why would someone be calling you about it?
At the same time, these polls are conducted using valid sur-
vey protocols, and it is hard to ignore such a large percentage
of citizens.
A different kind of survey was conducted by Jayson Lusk
of Oklahoma State University, where 1,004 Americans were
surveyed, asking them if they could think of a time they lost
trust in the food system. If they answered yes, he then asked
them why. This was an open-ended question, so they were
not primed by the survey to think of GMOs. About 40 percent
said they had indeed lost trust, and of those 413 individuals,
GMOs were mentioned 24 times. From this we can say less
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