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The Internet zoo weighs in on GE wheat

At a supermarket in London, England, a student named Flo Wrightson Cross picks up a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. On the side of the box, a crude label has been stuck. She takes a picture, puts it on Facebook.

The label looks like the work of a 5-year old, too big for the box, hanging off on two sides. It contains grammatical errors, which I corrected for this column, and other inconsistencies. Beside a heading, “GMO Declaration,” the label states, “Made from genetically modified wheat,” and beside it a contradiction in terms, “May contain GMO.”

Despite this illiterate attempt at pranksterism, the anti-GMO bunch jumped on it like a worm on an ear of non-GMO corn, postulating all kinds of wild and crazy claims, which spread like malevolent pollen across the Internet.

One speaker on an online video cried out, “Warn your friends and family! Share this video. No one should be consuming mac and cheese, especially children, with a warning label like this.”

One so-called investigator presumed that the distributor who shipped the mac and cheese to Europe obviously felt compelled to cover its backside after reports of volunteer GE wheat being found in Oregon, and so it slapped on the label.

But the reality is that there is no GE wheat approved commercially in the world. So why would a legitimate business affix a label on a box of food indicating the presence of banned ingredients, then unlawfully distribute the product?

It was a prank folks.

There were more hat racks posing as heads out there.

One of those “investigative news magazines” skipped the investigative part and went straight to conjecture. They implied that there were secret fields of GE wheat grown in tucked-away fields, unseen and unknown to the public. Yeah, right. And they used extraterrestrial labor from Area 51 to cultivate it.

 The real facts about genetic engineering aren’t that difficult to unearth.

Bacillus thuringiensis, the insecticidal protein in Bt cotton, has been used for over 70 years, as a foliar spray early on and as a genetically-engineered enhancement more recently, with no side effects on humans.

In the future, genetic engineering will provide crops that are drought resistant, use nitrogen more efficiently and significantly improve yields and health benefits.

Conventional farming, with the help of genetic engineering, is the one and only sustainable agricultural production system in the world. It can help keep producers in developed countries profitable during tough years, and lift poor farmers out of subsistence lifestyles, allowing them to focus on sustainable practices which can help preserve their farm for their children.

 Agriculture will have to feed, fuel, and clothe a world population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. We will get there only with innovation delivered through genetic engineering – Internet zoo or not.