If farm animals eat GMOs, then GMOs will be in meat, dairy and eggs.

Definition: The idea that when livestock consumes genetically modified feed, that genetically modified DNA will be passed to their meat, dairy, eggs, etc.

This idea first started appearing when news broke out of a study that suggested that GM feed was harming livestock. It suggested that pigs that were raised on GM feed experienced higher rates of intestinal problems.

The impact of this idea has caused much protest in society. Many internet documentaries began appearing such as this one, which seem to show the perspective of all the people who are anti-GMO including farmers and scientists.

The audience most affected by this are farmers. If scientific evidence actually shows that GM feed harms their livestock, then their farms would be at economic risk from loss of livestock.

It’s estimated that over 70 percent of harvested GMO crops are fed to food producing animals. However, GMOs have never been detected in food that came from animals that were fed GM feed.

Almost all the food that humans and animals eat contains DNA and proteins. The DNA and proteins found in food are processed by the digestive system. During digestion, any DNA from your food is broken down into the basic components that make up all DNA. Similarly, proteins are broken down into one or a few of the amino acids that exist in nature. Studies were done to measure the potential for DNA to be transferred into animal tissue. No intact GMO DNA has been detected in animal tissue.

Alison Van Eenennaam, Ph.D., extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis, conducted a 29 year study that involved trillions of meals of GM feed. She states that, “Genetically engineered crops are digested by animals in the same way as conventional crops. Evidence to date strongly suggests that feeding livestock with genetically engineered crops is equivalent to feeding unmodified feed sources in terms of nutrient composition, digestibility and feeding value.” She also explains that “Genetically engineered DNA, or the novel proteins encoded therein, have never been detected in the milk, meat or eggs derived from animals fed genetically engineered feedstuffs. Several studies have documented that small fragments of plant-derived, but not genetically engineered, DNA can pass into the tissues of animals that consume the plants.”

GMOs Harm the Environment

Definition: Genetically modified organisms have more adverse effects on the environment than positive effects.

People have been questioning the environmental impact of GMOs ever since they were first being commercially sold. In 2000, just a year after GM crops began to overtake farms, DB Whitman wrote an article that described some of the environmental concerns that people had regarding GMOS. One of these concerns included that GM corn was causing high mortality rates in monarch butterflies.

This idea has made a great impact socially, with many anti-GMO people using this as another reason to protest GM crop production. These people are mainly concerned with the increased pesticide usage. The government has several organizations doing everything possible to calm the public by keeping GM regulations very strict.

The audience most affected by this term are farmers and the companies that sell GMOs because their livelihoods depend on selling GMOs, and they have to undergo all the processes of producing GM crops while abiding by the constantly changing rules and regulations that the government enforces. They also have to deal with the protestors who give them flak for farming non-organic crops.

This term persists because there has not been very much publicity of the all the positives of farming GM crops, and because there has been an increase in glyphosate in the past 20 years.

GMOs help us through the most stressful environmental challenges. They can help preserve biodiversity because increased productivity in already cultivated lands spares less productive lands from being heavily cultivated.  There has been improved tillage practices, reduced insecticide use, and environmentally safer insecticides that contribute to sparing these lands.  According to PG Economics from 1996-2005 GMO crops have led to higher yields and thus could contribute to preventing poverty and food shortages in troubled areas of the world. GMOs help reduce soil erosion by killing weeds and leaving them in the fields to protect the soil and encouraging farmers to practice conservation tillage. They also help with soil moisture retention which leads to less irrigation and have better drought tolerance because of their GM traits. This conserves water usage. GMOs have lead to an 8.1 decrease in pesticide use because of the added trait for insect resilience.

 

Most Crops Are Genetically Modified

Definition: The idea that almost all crops are genetically modified including fruits such as strawberries and crops like wheat.

Though it is unclear as to when or where exactly this idea became popular, it is most likely due to the rise in genetically modified products on the market. Many people think genetically modified foods are everywhere (and there are plenty) but that is because so many products contain some form of corn which is one of the few GM crops.

This idea impacts our culture in an interesting way. Because people have misconceptions as to what is GMO and what isn’t, advertisers have been using that to their advantage. Today there are plenty of foods out on the market that are labeled “organic” or “GMO-free”, which is true but unnecessary. Why? Because many products that are labeled “GMO-free” do not even have a GMO counterpart.  However, because there are so many people who do not know the difference, they end up buying the more expensive, “organic water.”

Or maybe they were coerced into purchasing this “organic rock salt”.

The audience most affected by this idea are consumers and companies. Most parents and gym-rats/nutritionists are very health conscious than say, a 20-something-year-old bachelor who enjoys eating pizza for dinner every night. But you don’t have to be a super-healthy-food addict to be tricked into buying the unnecessarily expensive organic foods. Last week I bought “organic” bananas from Kroger and it wasn’t until I did this research that I found out there are no GM bananas sold in the United States. These companies are affected because the ones who take advantage of the new labeling laws are getting more revenue from making their organic, GMO-free labels bigger and more eye-catching.

This idea persists because people confirm this belief with their experience. People see so many products that are labeled GMO because there may be GM corn or sugar in the food. They also see that manufacturers are needlessly labeling things organic. For example, salt and water as pictured earlier have no DNA, so it is impossible to genetically engineer them.

Today there are only ten GM crops being commercially sold: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potatoes, squash, and apples.

GMOs Cause Cancer

 

Definition: The idea that consuming genetically modified organisms/foods is linked to cancer or will increase your likelihood of getting cancer or will give you cancer.

This idea first came about when a team of researchers from the University of Caen in France released results of a long-term experiment done on rats who ate genetically modified corn. The results showed that 50% of male rats and 70%  of female rats died in some groups on diets containing the GM maize compared to the 30% males and 20% females that died in the control group.

Pictures of rats taken from the experiment. Source: University of Caen.

Ever since this story made headlines in 2012, it has made a great impact. It reignited the GMO debate and added fuel to the fire. People who were already anti-GMO stood even firmly on their stance to ban them completely. Even the government of France was considering banning GMOs from the country. Other people who were pro-GMO claimed the experiment was a fraud.

This idea affects just about everyone, however you could say the people most affected by this are pro-GMO companies such as Monsanto, GMO farmers and countless scientists who have reached different conclusions about GMOs. An experiment with the kinds of results such as the one this French team produced would bring the GMO economy crashing down. The reputation of the past scientists who have done similar experiments with different results would be questioned, and even the farmers who produce GM crops would be hit severely from the economic backlash.

This term persists because people who fail to do further research hear that this is true from sources that they trust, such as friends on social media, or cannot distinguish from real or fake news. This particular experiment has been proven to be inconclusive from many scientists and institutes, so much so that the article publishing the experiment has been retracted. One of the main flaws in the processing of the experiment (and there were many), is that the researchers used a type of rat strain that is predisposed to getting breast tumors, especially when given unlimited amounts of food or contaminated corn. They also let the experiment go on for two years, which is very unnatural considering that that is the average rat lifespan and most rat experiments are only done for 90 days. The type of rats they used can get tumors just from aging. Needless to say, this experiment, though was not a fraud, was definitely inconclusive and did not prove anything regarding the safety of consuming GMOs, let alone whether or not they are linked to cancer.

 

 

 

Alternative Facts

A fact is a “thing that is known or proved to be true.”

An alternative fact is uttered or posited as equal to or a version equal to or greater than indisputable fact.

An alternative fact does not have direct supporting evidence and thus is supported by speculation, perception, and non-credible sources.

In January 2017, Kellyanne Conway first used this term in an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, which is hosted by NBC News. This term was used in response to the question Todd presented referring to Trump’s proclamation that his inauguration had one of the largest audiences in history. While Todd explained that this was a falsehood, Conway stated that the Press Secretary provided “alternative facts”.

Since then, the use of the phrase “alternative facts” has had both a social and political impact on society. Many netizens have been mocking the phrase through parodies and remixes of the original interview video like this one. SNL created a skit that pokes fun at Sean Spicer’s press conference where he tries to defend Trump’s inauguration attendance. An “alternative facts” game was even created which also makes fun of Conway, Spicer, and Trump. Various news outlets such as New York Times, CNN, and NPR have covered articles on the use of this phrase. Politifact went as far as annotating the entire conversation between Todd and Conway to prove that her alternative facts were not facts.