To GMO or not to GMO, is this a question?

My Viewpoint My Perspective

I do not pretend to be an expert on Biotech or its applied sciences nor do I necessarily endorse biotech. This paper is written from my experience’s being involved in seed and seed production.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.

In the mid-80s a company LSL Technologies started to offer tomatoes with an infused long shelf life gene, I can’t say the tomatoes offered had any flavor, but there was no doubt to their long shelf life as they were firm and could be shipped or held for a good three weeks. These types of tomatoes are still in use today, but now with flavor added through conventional breeding methods.

This brought interest to biotech and what could be done with gene splicing. It was biotech that fueled the Savia group when they started their seed company acquisitions during the 1990s. Biotech and what that could mean for fruit and vegetable seed fascinated the president of the Savia group and Savia’s research and development into the field was started.

At the same time, Novartis entered into seed production including research and development in biotech. The difference between Savia and Novartis was Savia worked on research and development saying just enough to keep hope and interest in the biotech field. Novartis had a different thought and in late 1998 went to the Paris symposium on agriculture and biotech to present a paper on GMO research and development. I was not there but someone I knew was. The moment Novartis had finished their presentation all hell broke loose. That someone I knew (Nigel) called 2 min after the presentation asking who those people were and that the paper they presented was about genetic research and modification on plants that would lead to research on animals and beyond. Nigel went on to say that Novartis presented their paper in such a way that at the end everyone thought Dr. Mengele was making the presentation and it was absolutely frightening.

The presentation made by Novartis would go on to have severe ramifications on the creditability of biotech research, particularly in Europe.

In 2001 another well-known US fruit and vegetable seed company offered a GMO variety of melon. At that time the variety was 3 times higher priced over any other melon. Needless to say, want and wallet were soon separated and after two seasons the variety was dropped despite its pedigree of greater insect and disease tolerance as well as longer shelf life.

About two or so years later Monsanto started to show their research in biotech and did so in such terms that it was again frightening to most people. From that point Monsanto became Monstersanto.

This is not to say that Monsanto has not done good research in the field of biotech, development, and application, they most certainly have.

Over the past 15 to 20 years people in general who have read about biotech researching and developing GMO varieties have done what people do best with anything they don’t understand, make assumptions. I have heard some real remarks and questions about biotech based on nothing more than conjecture. One such man I met said that he goes to a park every week that has a large pond where ducks feed. All of the ducks there he said were deformed from people feeding them GMO enriched bread. I asked him how he knew this and his reply was there is an older lady that’s always there telling everyone that’s how the poor ducks became deformed. I explained that neither GMO nor the bread had anything to do with the ducks deformity; it’s a water foul disease that causes it.

Biotech in the laboratory and field does have a weird science sound to it, however, it is not weird science, it is plant science. Everyone involved in the agricultural industries and in growing food wants better, healthier, and stronger plants; biotech is a major road to help achieve this.

The agricultural industries, and in particular seed production, will never tolerate the manipulation of seed to do harm. We are self-policing to say the least, and anyone found to intentionally taint seed or food production will find that the penalty will be severe. Those of us who are involved in seed production (around 50,000 world-wide) are as serious as a heart attack about growing and producing clean seed for food consumption.

Here are the facts, or ramifications about biotech and GMO research.

There are no ramifications because the fact is; we can’t find one thing wrong. Biotech enhanced seed (GMO) varieties have been grown and consumed for years and years now and no one has been harmed, period!

There was talk for a few years about cross-pollinating and what could be a potential problem, however, Steve Adler, a fellow seedsman in Fillmore, California, pointed out that where cross-pollination has occurred in corn it is only three years or less before the corn or any plant species that were cross-pollinated segregate themselves from the biotech cross or any cross for that fact.

Biotech research and development of seed offers our world one of the best tools to combat hunger and starvation. Point of Fact, all who speaks out against this always have one thing in common, a full stomach.

  • Point of Fact, on any given year 15% of the world population is starving to death, another 25 to 27% of the world population is truly worried where their next meal is coming from.
  • Point of Fact, on any given year 15% of the world population is starving to death, another 25 to 27% of the world population is truly worried where their next meal is coming from.
  • Point of Fact, starvation, lack of potable water, and never knowing if there will be food tomorrow are the very foundation of strife. End Strife and watch 80% of our world problems end and walk quietly away.

The percents presented here are an average from year to year and have remained so for a good 25 years now. Going back beyond 25 years ago these percents were worse.

Biotech research and development in seed can help end strife and help to end it sooner then later. That is, if all those with full stomachs will get over themselves…

In conclusion, the only thing that can be found wrong with GMO is the very term itself. The term GMO does indeed sound frightening like all the horror and science fiction of today. It was wrong of Novartis to use this term in presenting their paper at the Paris symposium back in the 90s. The actual correct term is ‘Biotech Enhanced Seed’.

Steven Elrod, a well-noted seed producer in Yuma Arizona agreed that ‘Biotech Enhanced Seed’ is the correct term but added that it is not exclusive to biotech and biotech enhanced. Mr. Elrod added that yes most discussions concerning biotech as it relates to agriculture have yes been negative, and based primarily on fear of the unknown. The agricultural biotech companies have been very good at doing the research, development and applications but very poor at marketing and promotion of their efforts. We must always be aware that most people in the world are not very well informed and will rely on the mass media to do there research due diligence for them, One of the worst characteristics of human nature is thinking with our hearts and not our heads. Meaning that it is easier to let our emotions dictate our decisions and choices rather than opening our minds to science or other to help us make decisions based on what is best for each society.  Whether we want to admit it or not there is a certain amount of  “biotech” that occurs naturally namely the hybridization of plants and animals and other zoological organisms.

Only when the citizens of a starving country are able to feed, cloth and shelter themselves sufficiently will the balance of the world start to embrace the technology. Or better yet when the detractors become famished and cannot drink clean water or find an adequate source of shelter the argument might finally be put to rest sooner. If one thinks about it, people from all across the world have been accepting the benefits of biotech for a good generation now and have not had problems with acceptance.  Disease eradication, skin grafts, antibiotics, organ transplantation, growing replacement valves, increased food yield, higher nutrition, less agronomic inputs (water, fertilizer) less erosion and pollution, etc. Mr. Elrod is right in pointing this all out because biotech can offer so much more to help make life better.

To all the opponents’ of Biotech, bring forth your evidence on the ills of Biotech Enhanced Seed. Bring forth your evidence to stand at the lectern and present it, but only bring forth hard conclusive evidence. We in world seed production will be there to listen, and if any hard evidence presented is conclusive then stops can and will be made.

In the meanwhile I suggest that everyone give the benefit of the doubt to what Biotech can do to help all of our people around our planet achieve what is so taken for granted by so-called civilization, to not be fearful of tomorrow, to know that food and water is there today and will be there the next day and the next.

If we the people of our planet unite we have more means today than ever before to accomplish this, or, we can wait for our politicians, I’m sure that won’t take any longer then 5 to 6 generations more…

Author’s note: I want to thank Steve Adler and Steven Elrod for their help and expertise over a topic that is both complex and convoluted

Jefferson A. Lowe

Jeff Lowe (8)

Our Guest Star! Jeff has worked in the agricultural industries his entire life with over 40 years of field and greenhouse knowledge and experience. He specializes in seed and knows open field farming, greenhouse tech, soil erosion, chem applications, maintenance and cultural practices, harvesting, post-harvest handling, shipping, and much more. An agroexpert with passion for farming and Rock’n’Roll!! You can reach Jeff @