Questions about GMOs? Let’s Chat.

By Sarah Wilson

Sarah is a fourth-generation farmer from North Dakota. She and her husband grow corn, wheat and soybeans.

As a mom and a consumer, I have options when I go to the grocery store. White bread, wheat bread, organic, non-organic, fresh green beans or frozen.

Similarly, as a farmer, I have options when choosing what to plant year after year. And year after year, we choose to plant crops that have been genetically modified. We make that decision because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

We care about who will be eating our food, and we feel morally responsible to use the technology we have available to us to grow that food. This is how we will be able to feed the growing population and maintain the health of our land for generations to come.

Still, the idea of growing and then eating GMOs can sound scary to many moms out there who are making decisions about what to feed their families.

Therefore, I’m here to help ease your fears and answer your questions using my own experience and information that is readily available so you can make your own decision.

Q: What are GMOs?

A: A GMO is an organism that has been developed by introducing a new, desired trait or characteristic into its DNA. This is done in a lab through genetic engineering.

Q: What are the benefits of GMOs?

A: There are many different kinds of desired traits that have been added into GMOs, such as the ability to thrive in extreme weather conditions or to resist harmful pests and diseases. These traits are beneficial for a number of reasons. They allow farmers to limit their impact on the land – less use of pesticides and water are good examples. Also, with GMOs, we’re able to grow more food on less land and reduce the amount of crops lost from variables like insects or drought. This is crucial to help feed our ever-increasing population.

Q: Are GMOs safe?

A: The overwhelming consensus is, yes. GMOs are safe. Genetically modified crops are researched extensively to ensure they’re safe for you, your family, animals and the environment before they’re ever available for farmers to plant. No documentation of harm to human health because of GMOs has been recorded since farmers began using them in 1994.

Q: What GMO foods are available?

A: While you may see everything from ice cream to celery advertised as being “Non-GMO,” in reality, there are only nine GMO foods available: alfalfa, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, salmon, soybeans, squash and sugar beets. And actually, it’s because of GMOs that papaya is available at all.

Q: Are farmers forced to grow GMO crops?

A: No one forces us to grow genetically modified crops. It’s a choice we make each and every year. We look at the conditions of our land and the seed varieties that are available. We do the research. We listen to the advice of our agronomists (scientists who look for ways to raise more food on the same amount of land), crop consultants and local university professors. Then we make the best decisions for our farm. We grow a balance that works for us, including GMO and non-GMO crops. There’s absolutely no requirement either way.

Q: What’s the bottom line?

A: I wouldn’t grow GMO crops if I didn’t think they were safe. I will let my kids eat sweet corn right out of the field; that’s how confident I am in what we grow. I would never want to do anything to put your children or mine at risk. In fact, it’s because of these children and future generations that I feel an obligation to grow GMOs at all. I want to ensure that kids around the world just like mine will have food to eat and nourish their bodies, and that they’ll be able to continue farming on this land for years to come.

Q: How can I learn more?

A: That’s easy! Ask more questions. The women of CommonGround are here to answer any questions you have about how your food is produced. We believe we all have a common goal of wanting to provide the best for our families, and we want you to be confident in each and every choice you make when putting food on the table. So ask us all your burning questions today!


Judy Mullendore

Thank you for providing a sane voice in this irrational wilderness. .

Sarah Wilson

You’re welcome, Judy. Just sharing first hand experiences on our farm 🙂


So I notice that you stated that there were only 9 foods available that are gmo. I was under the impression more grains were like wheat and oats. A friend with celiac disease was told by his doctor that he developed this as a result of gmo foods. Thanks for any information.

Sarah Wilson

GREAT question Marlene! We grow wheat on our farm. I’m so glad you brought this up because I hear it all the time! There isn’t ANY wheat (or oats to my knowledge) commercially available in the US that is GMO. GMO wheat is being researched, but farmers cannot buy the seed. So any celiac issues or gluten intolerance issues are not related to GMO’s. If you have further questions, please ask away!

Laurie Waltz

Good article. We raise cattle hogs & sheep and sell meats at farm markets. We feel as you do that gmo grains are safe. Many disagree. I have not found any info proving without a doubt gmo grains are harmful. Could you reccommend some good sites to read regarding gmo , pros and cons. Also I was surprised to read there are only 9 products available that are genetically modified. What about tomatoes or some fruits ?

Sarah Wilson

Hi Laurie- Sounds like we have a lot in common! When I was growing up I raised hogs, beef and dairy beef and direct marketed the meat, as well as helping my folks sell fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. I went on to earn my master’s in animal science, so although I married a crop farmer, I still have a heart for livestock 🙂

Some resources I like to pass along are: – common questions answers by experts in the scientific community.
Of course our CommonGround Facebook page is a great place to take part in conversations with volunteer farm women across the nation:

As far as GMO fruits & vegetables there is a variety of apple ( ) and potato ( ) in the works. Both are exciting to me!
I remember the GMO tomato coming out but I don’t know exactly why production was ended. Sounds like a good question for the folks at 🙂

Sally Smithwick


I am the managing editor of and cohost a podcast called Lost in the Supermarket with food trends analyst, Phil Lempert.

Would you be interested in appearing as a guest on our podcast to talk about GMOs and easing concerns for parents? We would love to have you and think our listeners would appreciate this discussion particularly coming from a farmer.

Please connect with me at if you are interested. I look forward to speaking with you!

Sarah Wilson

Hi Sally- Greetings from North Dakota! Thank you for your message! Absolutely! Sounds like a great opportunity! I’ll connect with you via email.

John Cookshaw

What are the chances of you providing a list of those Scientists and Universities that you consulted with.

Sarah Wilson

Hi John- Logically, as I grew up on my family’s farm in Maryland and graduated from the University of Maryland, I have looked to faculty of that university and their Extension Service over the years. I completed my Master’s Degree at North Dakota State University and that is the closest land grant university to our farm. We work closely with faculty and extension staff there as well. We have also hosted visiting scientists from around the world and I was a McCloy Fellow in Agriculture a few years ago. With my undergraduate minor being in international agriculture and natural resources and having visited Europe to study agriculture three times, the list of faculty and professionals I’ve visited with about issues in agriculture, including GMO’s, is quite lengthy. I honestly can’t count the studies and full scientific papers I have poured over with relation to GMO’s. I started in 1994 with a semester long project on GMO’s. Even then, as a high school student, I wrote letters to the US Secretary of Agriculture to get as much information as I could.


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