Bill Nye is Back and is Uncovering the Science Behind GMOs


Julie Kenney grew up on an Iowa farm. She and her husband, Mark, have two children. They are the fifth generation to grow corn, soybeans and oats on their central Iowa farm.

By Julie Kenney

Some of my favorite childhood memories come from working and playing on our Iowa farm and watching classic Saturday morning TV with my sister and brother.

Life and technology were different on the farm back then. There were the simple things, like no cable TV. And the more complex things, like no access to GMO seeds to control weeds or insects. Back then, we watched network TV and prevented pests from ruining our crops by spraying pesticides or pulling weeds by hand.

And while taking a hoe or a hand to each weed in a field is not one my fondest childhood memories, watching Bill Nye the Science Guy surely is. I loved watching him take a complex scientific topic and boil it down into something I could understand. And find interesting.

Now that I have grown up, I can see how important science and technology are to our farm and to society. I can also see how making complex topics more relatable can help all of us learn more about life around us. This includes the food we grow and feed our families every day.

That’s why I was so excited to hear that Bill Nye is back and is launching a new Netflix series called Bill Nye Saves the World.

Once again, he’s tackling complex and often hot-button scientific topics while entertaining us along the way. The focus of one of his episodes is a technology that impacts the way we farm: GMOs. When he asked me to be on the show, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Sharing Our Experience From the Farm

I never would have guessed that the small-town Iowa farm girl who watched Bill Nye on her family’s old-school console TV would be sitting next to him on a TV set in Los Angeles. But there I was, along with Bill Nye and two other brilliant scientists. And Bill Nye was every bit as quirky, smart and quick-witted as I had expected.

We talked about the science behind GMOs. We talked about how the scientific consensus is that GMOs are safe. We talked about how many people don’t understand what GMOs are or how they’re used to grow food. And I gave him my perspective from the farm.

I explained that GMOs are a tool we have used on our farm for nearly 20 years. And I told him that in those years, the technology has helped us farm more efficiently and sustainably.

For example, last year we planted one area of a corn field with seeds containing a GMO trait to protect against underground insect pests such as corn rootworms. We planted another area of the same field with seeds that did not contain the GMO trait.

We found that the plants that contained the GMO trait produced 25 percent more corn than the plants without it. That’s 25 percent more animal feed or fuel we’re producing on the same amount of land. And, because the insect protection was already in the seed through GMO technology, we didn’t need to apply additional pesticides to protect the plants from these harmful insects.

That’s just one example from corn. GMOs also help us manage weeds more effectively in our soybean fields. They also help us reduce our tillage or disruption of the soil, which protects the water and the soil.

The seeds that we plant and the farming practices we use today make us more efficient and productive. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, since GMOs were introduced 20 years, ago, corn yields have increased about 37 percent. Soybeans yields have increased about 39 percent.

Examining the Safety of GMOs

Time and time again, the scientific community has said that GMOs are safe.

As a farmer, I am confident in their safety. I know they are some of the most thoroughly tested foods on the market. But I also recognize that not everyone has the same access to information about GMOs.

When it comes to the safety of GMOs, I told Bill Nye the story of several international visitors who have visited our farm in recent years.

I’m never sure what they expect to see on the farm, but they are often surprised to see our kids playing next to the fields with GMO corn and soybeans. They are also surprised to see that we’re so confident in the safety of GMOs that we eat foods that contain them ourselves and feed them to our families.

Tune in to Learn More

The more people I talk with about food and farming, the more I’m reminded how disconnected people are from how food is grown today. I’m thankful people like Bill Nye are examining the science and technology we use. It helps us open our farm doors to those who want to learn more.

You can watch Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix to learn more about GMOs and other scientific topics that impact the world around us. Or, contact me and other farmers at FindOurCommonGround.com. You can learn more about how we use GMOs and other science to improve the way we farm and grow food.


4 Comments

Lisa Wilbur

Hi, I am a farmer from California. Will you help me with two questions, please? In this article, one GMO corn seed used has a trait “to protect against underground insect pests.” When a person or animal eats this corn, can he/she/it be affected adversely? How does the GMO seed trait work so that the insect pests don’t damage the plant? When I think of this trait replacing a pesticide, my ignorance about how GMO’s work helps me conclude that they’re one in the same, therefore the animal or human who is eating this corn is eating a pesticide.
My second question is similar. Regarding the statement that “GMOs also help us manage weeds more effectively in our soybean fields.” So are the animals and/or humans who eat these soybeans consuming something similar to an herbicide?
Will you please share specific studies with me that show that these traits do not adversely affect humans or animals?
It is difficult to find solid, science-based information, which is surprising in this day and age! I would appreciate any assistance you can offer.

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Mark Erickson

Great article, thanks for posting! This is the kind of story that needs to be widely published to help inform consumers about how we grow food with fewer chemicals and less tillage.

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