I went to a field day today at Monsanto’s Monmouth, Illinois research farm, and it got me to thinking about the GMO debate. First of all, let me state that I do plant GMO crops, and have since they became available, and plan to continue to do so. I have made this decision based on what I perceive to be reliable information from a variety of sources. I do, however, respect those that do not share my views because I know many of you have made your decisions based on what you perceive to be reliable information.
There is no middle ground in the GMO debate, and what is more confusing to producers and consumers alike, there seems to be no middle ground in any studies that are done in regards to GMOs and their safety to the environment and humans. One of the reasons for the extreme difference in studies seems to be due to the fact that most of the studies conducted have small sample sizes with little replication. The problem with this is that the results of studies with low replication are more likely to have results that are based on chance.
I recently read an article in GMO Compass that discussed this very issue. One way that shows promise to be able to move the debate on GMO safety is through the use of meta-analysis. Meta-analysis takes the observed results of different studies and weights them based on the variance in the data to come up with an estimate of the general effect across studies. Meta-analysis is commonly used in clinical trials and in the medical field.
For now, the information available about the safety of GMOs will continue to land on both ends of the spectrum, and will continue to fuel the debate over the safety of GMOs. At this time, all we can do as producers and as consumers is to make decisions based on what we perceive to be reliable information, and those decisions may not always agree. What I do know to be true, however, is that even though grain prices are historically high, they certainly would be much higher without the use of GMOs. For a nation that is used to cheap food in comparison to the rest of the world, I imagine that there would be some level of unrest if food prices were significantly higher than they are given the current state of the economy.