Why Throw-Away Statements Harm the Anti-GMO Movement

As an academic research scientist active at the public interface, I enjoy communicating about complex science topics. With regard to trasngenic (GMO) crops, if you read my blogs, comments left online, or listen to audiences in public discussions, you'll see that they ultimately reach a common point.

Someone always indicates that Monsanto is my employer. Like clockwork.

I'm still waiting for the check. Actually, I never worked for them, consulted for them, or received a dime from them. As a university scientist my funding is all public record, so this may be verified.

Here is why the throw-away "you work for Monsanto" or "shill for Monsanto" comment harms the anti-GMO movement:

1. It immediately says that you are willing to fabricate information in the absence of evidence.

2. It says that you are finished with the conversation, that nothing I communicate is valid in your opinion.

3. It shows that you are willing to try to influence other like-minded people with disinformation.

4. It shows disdain for the peer-review process and scientific method.  

5. (least importantly) It disrespects a scientist's real position as a public liaison, volunteering time to explain science. We're used to that from dealing with climate change deniers and Creationists, no big deal.

If I wanted to work for Big Ag I could easily find a position there. I'd triple my salary, work about the same hours, and never write a grant proposal again. In the days of state and federal budget issues with science, it is an increasingly attractive alternative.

But my passion is exploration in science, working with students, postdocs, visiting scientists, farmers, the industry and John Q. Public. I want to make tools and techniques that come from the public sector, not that are locked in a proprietary corporate structure. Such endeavors would be severely limited with a position in a big ag company.

In the late 1980's I interned with Cargill Hybrid Seeds and really disliked the pace of corporate science. Even with a job offer and big bucks for the time, I elected to stay in academic science (and nine years of graduate education!).

So don't tell me who I work for. I'm really proud to work for YOU, and such assertions just destroy the communication and learning process, both ways.