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Kavin Can’t Even: A Fun GMO Quiz and MSNBC Joins Right-to-Know Bandwagon

We can’t expect MSNBC to be objective. I’m a liberal Democrat and even I know that. Still, I was extremely disappointed to see a recent poll on its website titled, “Do you think GMO labeling should be mandatory?” On its surface, this question isn’t incredibly problematic. It’s a simple yes or no question that I would answer with a resounding “no.”

Why shouldn’t GMO labeling be mandatory? Aside from needlessly demonizing biotechnology, the term Genetically Modified Organism is arbitrary. Many of my readers will know the answers to this quiz, but feel free to share this list with your friends and family. If you’re a parent with teens, share it with your kids, and if you’re a teacher please share it with your students:

Answer yes or no (no peeking!) Which of the following are considered to be GMOs in the United States?

  1. Corn engineered with a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis to express an insecticidal protein.
  2. Corn created by scientists by crossing genetically homozygous corn genomes, resulting in more robust heterozygous varieties. These are commercialized and sold.
  3. Watermelon created by crossing a parent with four sets of chromosomes with a parent with two sets. The offspring, with three sets, cannot complete the process of meiosis, rendering it sterile and unable to produce seeds.
  4. Papaya with a short viral sequence in its genome, allowing it to resist harmful ringspot infection.
  5. Kiwi created by applying a chemical to induce multiplication of the number of chromosomes (polyploidy) causing the fruit to be larger and more commercially viable.
  6. Apple created with reduced expression of the enzyme that causes it to turn brown (it will still brown when rotten, but not when bitten.)
  7. Grapefruit created by exposure to gamma radiation to induce artificial genetic mutations. Those with beneficial mutations are then commercialized and sold.

Continue reading for answers.

Let me reassure you, I didn’t include this quiz to be condescending. Indeed, I don’t think that the average American ought to score 100% on this quiz. What I can’t abide is “Right to Know” rhetoric that cherry picks which of the above options should be labelled based on arbitrary definitions. That’s why my heart sank when I saw this: poll poll


Not only are the two choices far from objective, they’re extremely leading. Seriously, I can’t even with the “you have a right to know what’s in your food” trope. Yes, I do agree with labeling food with relevant information. Consumers need to know nutrition content and ingredients to enable consumption of varied, balanced, healthy diets. Those with allergies and intolerances should know what is and isn’t in food to avoid adverse reactions.

Genetic engineering isn’t an ingredient, it’s a breeding technique. Labeling GMOs would only make sense if we labeled all breeding techniques. For example, the answers to the quiz you just took – 1, 4, and 6 are considered “GMO,” while 2, 3, 5, and 7 aren’t considered “GMO.” If we label GMOs, simply labeling “GMO,” or “Contains GMOs” would be illogical. Personally, I am against labeling GMOs period, the cost would be too high, and wouldn’t provide any benefits, and arguably would serve only to confuse most consumers.

Mandatory GMO labeling isn’t about a right to know what’s in our food. It’s about anti-biotech ideology. Shame on MSNBC for leading its audience into answering “yes” based on “rights.” Conflating genetic modification with the right to know is a mistake I expect from the anti-GMO, pro-organic lobby. The Doctors Oz and Vani Haris of the world trumpet this ideology, convincing an ill-informed public that labeling GMOS is about so-called rights. A reputable news organization like MSNBC spreading misinformation is really trying my ability to even. If you can’t even with MSNBC, share this post with hashtag #KavinCantEven.


Note:  If you share this piece, please use hashtag #kavincanteven. For previous editions of Kavin Can’t Even, see Grounded Parents and Skepchick!

Featured image © 2015 Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy is a mom of two, co-Executive Director of March Against Myths, public speaker, Forbes contributor and author in Madison, WI. She is also co-author of "The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari's Glass House". Follow her on Facebook and twitter @ksenapathy

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  1. 6/7, got the apple one wrong, because I couldn’t remember how it was designed, but I should’ve gotten it right =(
    I’m curious about the results of a second quiz: “which of these are safe?”

  2. I got 6/7. I was a little confused with the wording of 4, I’m not familiar with viral pathogenesis but I know viruses can do some extraordinary things. I wasn’t sure if it was a naturally there or put there by people. I apparently guessed wring.

    You have told us that 1, 4, and 6 are all considered GMO and 2, 3, 5, and 7 are not but you never specified what specifically divides them into the “yes” or “no” category. I’m just wondering you can clarify or give a source where you got your information. I can easily see why they fit into the categories but I asked these questions on Facebook and I know there will be people that argue with the answers, so I’d like to back my words up with actual definitions and real scientific findings rather than my own words.



    I really enjoy your approach to these articles.

    1. Hi Marc. Thanks for the comment. The reason for Yes or No is when they’re done by molecular techniques, then regulatory agencies considers it a “GMO.” It is rather arbitrary. GMO in itself isn’t a scientific term at all, it’s just been adopted into the media lexicon. Here are a few youTube videos that might help answer your questions in detail

  3. Merely misguided. They are equating Monsanto with GMO, which is like equating Microsoft with computers. While GM aren’t dangerous, Monsanto’s monopoly IS. But just like we wouldn’t ditch our computers because we detest Microsoft, we shouldn’t detest GM because we know Monsanto has a dark background. They have a 40 year track record of poisoning the environment with DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, etc so they rightly deserve their bad reputation. With glyphosate they made a huge error, as Fraley himself admitted, not realizing that immunity would arise so quickly with the evolution of superweeds. WHO used a combination of 30 studies to link it to cancer. Their replacement, Enlist Duo, is even worse. Most people I know in the bio-engineering field wish Monsanto would just disappear, and they just might get their wish with their proposed move to London and expansion into the organic field. Which is another questionable move, but that’s what’s been reported on Wired

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