Five Twin Cities school districts recently held GMO awareness day, but as media and others’ awareness of the event spreads across the Internet, there’s been a backlash.
“My boss and I have been inundated with e-mails and calls from people from around the country and the time it takes to respond to each person is adding a lot to our workloads,” Laura Metzger, Westonka schools director of food and nutrition services emailed me this afternoon.
In a recent piece for Watchdog.org,, I detailed some of the dubious claims made by the school districts to their 56,000 students about the world’s increasing reliance on genetically modified crops and products.
“Though the corporations that sell GMO chemicals and seeds have concluded that GMOs are safe to eat, independently funded research has repeatedly linked GMO consumption to cancers, organ damage, allergies, infertility, and more,” according to information on the flip side of the Westonka student menu.
In a blog post out today titled “Minnesota schools teach bad science and then cover it up” author James W. Cooper gives the Minneapolis, Hopkins, Orono, Shakopee and Westonka school districts an “F” for the event.
“Despite the fact that these are school systems engaged in education, they are toeing the propaganda line of the Organic Consumers Association that GMO crops are somehow dangerous. This is simply fear-mongering nonsense, as all the major national scientific societies have stated that GM crops are no more harmful than conventional crops,” said Cooper, author of the book “Food Myths Debunked.”
Going well beyond awareness, the schools plan to phase out GMO-free ingredients in student meals, opting for more products like the grass-fed hotdogs featured on awareness day.
“Having the GMO awareness day for our district was to really show that whether you agree with consuming GMOs or not, consumers should have the right to make that choice,” Laura Metzger of Westonka schools told me.
Cooper panned the schools’ claims as “absolute nonsense.” The author and food expert put it this way: “This propaganda echoed the idea that GM crops are somehow different and that students should be able to choose, when in fact the crops are nutritionally identical, but just higher yielding. In fact, rather than trying to scare students with pseudo-science they might have noted that a recent PLOS One paper found that ‘on average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.’”
Cooper said he tried to reach Bertrand Weber of Minneapolis schools, the media contact for the event, 15 times without success. But it took more than the media to make sure the schools came to an awareness of the controversy they cooked up.
“It is deeply concerning that Minneapolis Public Schools would deliberately and knowingly produce and propagate information that is false, and by all appearances, did not even make an attempt to offer a balanced perspective to students on the GMO issue,” said Perry Aasness, executive director of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council in a letter to Minneapolis schools.