GMOs: It’s all in the name

By Mike Barnett

Genetically modified organisms. GMOs.

I’m not sure who thought up the nomenclature for this biotech wonder, but the acronym GMO probably contributes more to public fear and misunderstanding than anything else.

GMO. It sounds scary. Genetically Modified Organisms. That’s even more frightening. Those are words and phrases activists can hang their hat on, and let me tell you, they’ve done one fine job of hanging hats.

GMO is a phrase easy to malign, fits well on a protest sign, rolls off the tongue with an ominous sound and has been a cause of consternation for farmers who have found this safe and proven technology essential to improve crop yields and reduce chemical use. Yet the push for labeling has never been stronger and GMO venom continues to spew from the Internet.

So let’s quit catering to the anti-GMO crowd and start calling GMOs something else.

Agriculture can take a lesson from pharmaceutical companies.

I just read an article about drugmakers’ use of the tobacco plant as a fast and cheap way to produce biotechnology treatments in an experimental Ebola therapy.  The treatment consists of antibodies that bind to and inactivate the Ebola virus. They’ve been called “plantibodies.”

What a novel idea. Connect the unfamiliar with the familiar and come up with a people-friendly name. Who could hate plantibodies?

The process to produce the plantibodies, via the tobacco plants, is called “pharming.”

Technology is not going away, despite the best efforts of those who love to see our food system digress instead of progress. But the terminology we use can lead to bitter battles or smoother sailing.

I vote for smoother sailing. I love the plantibodies idea. BioAg, envirofarm? Or perhaps it should be called RTI, for Rapid Trait Improvement. Put on your thinking cap and help me out.

Awareness and understanding of GMOs are two different things. Polls show most everyone is aware of GMOs. Let’s help them understand by giving the technology a non-threatening name.

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

3 Responses to “GMOs: It’s all in the name”

  1. Let’s just call it what it needs to be called: meals. We are feeding the world, and if the activists have their way, it will make it increasingly hard to accomplish this.

  2. Billy B. Brown says:

    Bravo Mike, the renaming of GMOs is long overdue.

  3. As a row-crop farmer I find GMO crops essential to the success of my farming operation. In fact, I have spent the last few days spraying cotton with Roundup and or Liberty.

    The technology is amazing. I hear that in two years we will be able to spray cotton with Banvel. Who’d a thunk it?

    I wonder how much Monsanto takes in in “technology fees” each year? Isn’t it interesting that such a savvy company, clearly employing many genius caliber researchers dropped the ball and allowed the PR war on their breakthrough discoveries to get so far out of hand?

    It is sad really, that s such a successful multinational corporation would turn to the customers who pay them billions of dollars and sign their overbearing “technology agreement” to be able to purchase their seed, to repair the awful debacle they ignored for so long it is probably unsalvagable.

    Mr Barnett, your idea of rebranding would have been an excellent undertaking about 10 years ago.

    As it stands today, the concerned “consumer” won’t be satisfied until we are back farming in 20 acre plots, hand hoeing weeds and picking off insects by hand too. The calories consumed using those methods will mean we farmers have very little overage to sell to the hungry populace.

    Perhaps a little hunger will clarify some of the general public’s confusion on the benefits of GMOs. At this point the anti-GMO crowd resembles a religious cult. They remind me of the folks who worship at the alter of Climate Change.

    Good Luck getting between a religious zealot and their demonization campaign. It is a futile undertaking. A few will burn themselves out and eventually see the light, the rest will die blaming all the world’s ills on genetically modified organisms.

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