Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When GMOs were Prize Winning, Not Picked On

I'm a day late. Yesterday was National Ag Day. Did you know that? I hope you did. Did you do anything to celebrate? Did you hear an ag story? Here's a funny one…Joe spent National Ag day scooping out his manure spreader by hand…not by choice.

We are so glamorous, right?

Anyway, in an interesting twist, yesterday was also Norman Borlaug's 100th birthday. Do you know who that guy is? I didn't until a few weeks ago, sadly (My dad, the former ag teacher is dying inside right now…sorry, Dad.). Well, among other things, he has been called the Father of the Green Revolution, agriculture's greatest spokesperson, and the man who saved a billion lives.

Pretty impressive, huh?

He also won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the Padma Vibhushan, which is India's highest civilian honor.

You know how and why he was so awesome?

Get ready to gasp:



While Cheerios, Whole Foods, and the like are anti-GMO, citing them as frankenfoods or "unnatural," Dr. Borlaug saved people from starvation with his wheat innovations, gave the gift of sight to thousands upon thousands of people with the Golden Rice he helped create, which included Vitamin A, which folks in the Far East were lacking, and thus going blind (you can read here for more of his story)

Sounds like a pretty amazing guy, huh?

I never took an ag class. I never got to know his story, other than what I have read recently, but I did have the pleasure of meeting his granddaughter, Julie Borlaug Larson at the Bayer Ag Issues Forum. She is continuing her grandfather's legacy at The Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M, continuing her grandfather's plight for innovation in agriculture to make the world a better place…

with GMOs.

I'm not a fan of blanket statements, but I feel like if you hate GMOs, but you like Norman Borlaug's ideals, you might have first world problems. Only. I guess if you hate blindness caused by the lack of Vitamin A, you may reconsider holding your anti-GMO sign at a protest at a supermarket.

When did GMOs go from being life saving, sight saving, innovative and prize winning to the picked on kid on the playground?

I would have loved to meet Norman Borlaug. Listening to the few excerpts from his speeches and interviews reveals that he was a man who didn't mince words, put up with guff, or, in a word, filter.

Kind of like me.

His granddaughter has a similar personality. She was an entertaining speaker, in that, I believe she was kind of ticked off that she had to continually defend GMOs. Her grandfather saved BILLIONS, granted the gift of sight, and revolutionized the fight on world hunger.

Shouldn't she be able to be proud of that, and not continually defend the cause?


Back to my question, "When did GMOs become picked on?"

When we received the gift of first world problems. My biggest issue today has been having to stir around my laundry on the "touch up cycle" because I was picking up my daughter from her preschool in my car that has a hands-free phone and a DVD player. I worried that our lunch wouldn't be hot enough for Joe who has spent the day prepping his pasture for spring in his comfy tractor.

Not once did I worry about whether I could see the road. Not once did I worry about whether or not I was going to be able to eat. Just whether or not my laundry would be fluffed, the DVD would come on at the "right spot" for my two year old, and whether the pocket sandwiches I made in my nice, convenient oven with all my ingredients from the grocery store, just miles away, would be as delicious as I hoped for, because I was hungry, but not really hungry (it was just lunch time).

Friends, we have to celebrate Norman Borlaug, but not in a party way. Honor him. Research his work. Understand WHY GMOs came into this world as major players and not pesky health compromisers. Please, consider your problems and then google world hunger, blindness, and disease.

You'll feel guilty about your first world problems at first, but will want to help others, and that makes you feel better in the end.

I guarantee it.

GMOs are not all bad. In fact, they aren't bad, and it's not because it helps us in our livelihood. GMOs, at their core, were developed to be LIFE SAVING.

Remember that.


  1. I love this post, Emily. I think Dr. Borlaug would be shaking his head at the food wars the privileged "rich moms" of America have created. We are so lucky to even have the CHOICE of what food we eat, I don't know why so many fight our right to choose.

  2. Great post! Thanks for doing your part to bring attention to the truth. 20,869 peope die everyday of hunger, we need biotechnology to feed our population today and increasingly in the future - GMOs were developed to save lives and continue to save lives. I wrote a post about this on my blog a few weeks back; Sometimes it feels like the people that need to read these posts don't bother they just follow Food Babe, shop at Whole Foods, eat at Chipotle and continue to preach about the unfounded evils of GMOs. But all we can do is continue to share the side of the story that we know!

  3. Just curious, does your husband sell seed corn?

  4. No, Nancy. We raise corn, soybeans, and cattle.

  5. Love your blog and posts! If you would swing by and drop a comment on mine I would really appreciate it! Thanks!

  6. The folks that want to be rid of GMOs have no idea what it takes to get the yields we need to feed the world. We are needing to get more crops off less land. And it seems that whatever answer we have doesn't satisfy others. I like the approach of just standing up for why we do agriculture the way we do!

  7. Ok, Emily. Much the same as us but we don't believe Monsanto/Monsatan is our buddy. When my husband started farming seed corn was $62 a bag and now it's $300+ a bag. Have our yields went up 5 times? We need increased yield to pay for the seed and other inputs. A Monsatan employee told my husband one year that the price was going up 10% because they didn't want to "leave any money on the table." They are a business and so are in it to make money, not be anyone's friend.

  8. I'm not sure I understand where you are coming from. My argument is that we need GMOs in order to survive years where there are droughts and floods and the like, and Norman Borlaug's innovations saved millions of people, not for his own profit, all thought I'm sure he made a great living. You are entitled to your opinion on Monsanto, that's why we have other seed companies you can buy from, but my point is innovation in plant science did not start out as evil, rather life saving. I guess I didn't realize I alluded to loving Monsanto.

  9. Great post Emily! I am so glad that we have choices and I hope we always have choices. I have been reading more on Borlaug this week too and I love this quote of his that I found in a remix video, "I'm going to play that card, and play it hard." I think it is part of my new motto.

  10. GMO's were perhaps created to save lives, but in my opinion, nowadays it's a way for big TNC's to make profits, and i don't think they can help to feed the billion of people underfed around the world. As i tell my students, most of the GMO's produced worldwide are Soybean, Corn, Cotton and Rape... According to many FAO reports, most of them are used to feed cattle (in huge feed lots or industrial chicken houses) for the developed countries or worse to make fuel. And cotton is definitely not a plant to eat. Most GMO's seeds are not dedicated to feed developing countries populations : According to a former FAO leader, Jean Ziegler, the whole food production nowadays could feed 12 billion people.... The main problem is not the food production in term of quantity, but how to make underfed people to access, or to produce, the food they need. And I don't even talk about the pesticides still used with GMO's, (according to a FAO report) pollution of surface water and groundwater tables, the possible effects on the consumer's wealth, the rising prices of the seed farmers have to buy every year... As you can see, i'm a sort of french caricature... socialist, atheist and anti-GMO's :-)