Burger and Fries

Thinking Critically about Maui’s GMO Initiative

Burger and FriesIn our home, we value critical thinking and a knowledge of current events, two subjects that go hand in hand.  We have 3 children (10,13, & 15) who are encouraged to read the paper each morning and ask questions.  Admittedly, they read the comics first, but eventually they get to the headlines and opinion pieces as well.  Over breakfast we sit and discuss what they read.  Lately, all we talk about is the GE farming ban on Maui.  Every day new letters to the editor give us grist for the morning discussion.

The September 27 issue of The Maui News had one particular LTE (found here) that apparently stuck in my 13 year old’s head through the weekend. The pertinent quote follows (poor grammar included), “There’s  should be no job loss.  Testing can be done while plants are in the ground or they (seed companies) can switch to non-GMO crops.”

This morning our 13 year old asked, “The people supporting this initiative keep saying that dad could just switch to organic or non-GMO seeds for a while.  Is that true?”  This is an excellent question!  Here’s how the discussion went:

Me: How much of the corn and soy grown in the US is genetically modified?

13 yr old: About 90% (and yes, our kids know this stat).

Me: Right.  Now think about our favorite place to buy burgers.  How much of their business is done in burgers, fries, and shakes?

13 yr old: I don’t know, probably most of it.  They have a chicken sandwich on the menu, but who would order a chicken sandwich at a burger shack?

Me: Now what if I came to the burger shack, with no evidence, and said, “My opinion is that those burgers, fries, and shakes are not healthy, so I want you to stop making them and switch to only chicken sandwiches for a few years while I determine if it’s OK for people to eat your burgers.”  What would happen?

13 yr old: I think they’d go out of business.  I wouldn’t go there because I don’t like chicken sandwiches. I like their buttery burgers.

Me: Exactly.  Please pass the GMO cereal.

This is just what one group of people on Maui is doing.  They have decided that their version of farming is superior to everyone else’s, and therefore we should take away the rights of others to grow crops using the latest tools available to farmers.  Despite having no evidence of harm, despite every credible source saying that GMOs are safe (see GENERA),  despite water tests done just this year showing we have clean, safe water on Maui, despite all these things, they want the seed companies to start growing seeds that only 10% of customers want to purchase.

The seed companies (which, by the way label all their products) have a business model that serves customers wanting genetically engineered seeds.  Farmers are smart people and they watch carefully when a new product comes on the market. Over the last 20 years, farmers have seen the value in spending a little more on a seed in order to spend less on pesticides, practice no-till farming, decrease erosion, and still increase yield. This all leads to better soil and increased profits for the farmer.

Which brings us back to the seed companies in Maui County.  Farmers are their customers, and 90% of them want genetically engineered seed.  How can this initiative force a business to switch to an organic or non-GMO model when it equates to the burger shack being forced to sell only chicken sandwiches?



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