A popular internet meme, the image below is one of several suggesting that wild animals like squirrels avoid genetically engineered corn. The Organic and Non-GMO Report, whose editor Ken Roseboro is an avid anti-GMO speaker and reporter, published a story about this particular image entitled, “Farmer’s experiment finds that squirrels prefer organic over GMO corn”.
The article explains that Paul Fonder, organic farmer turned backyard experimenter, posted his “findings” on Facebook and Twitter. The image quickly went viral, receiving over twenty thousand likes and presumably far more views. “It’s one thing to read about it; it’s another to see it,” the farmer stated. “I just want to educate people”.
Join the #GMOexperiment
Simply enter the search term “GMO corn squirrel” into Google, and you’ll see plenty of similar images. Now Biology Fortified, a non-profit organization that aims to enhance public discussion of biotechnology and food and agriculture issues, is offering a hands-on way to test the hypothesis that animals avoid GMO corn, preferring to eat non-GMO corn, in a nationwide citizen science experiment. Dr. Karl Haro von Mogel, Director of Science & Media for Biology Fortified, explained to me that thousands of ears of corn, half engineered with Roundup Ready and Bt insecticidal traits, and the other half not genetically engineered, are currently en route to Madison, Wisconsin from where they’ll be mailed to participants. “The GMO corn was grown using Roundup”, he mentioned. “Just like a farmer would”.
As he explains in the video below, you can request a kit of “GMO” and non-GMO corn (“GMO is in quotation marks for a reason), to perform the experiment in your own yard:
This will be the big experiment to put these internet-based claims to the test. I was initially worried that those with a pro or anti-GMO agenda could tamper with the results. Karl put my apprehension to rest, explaining that the experiment will be blinded, with the ears of corn labeled by number rather than as “GMO” and “non-GMO”. In order to receive a kit, which will require a simple outdoor setup, participants must first agree to follow an experimental protocol, and keep results private until the experiment is complete.
I look forward to this hands-on opportunity to introduce my kids to the scientific method. A $25 dollar donation, which will help pay for materials, shipping, and provide kits free-of-charge to schools, ensures that you will receive a kit to participate in the experiment. It will be money well-spent, to support and take part in an experiment that could very well make history! You may also add your name to the waiting list for a free GMO corn experiment kit, though schools get priority for the free materials.
Featured image © 2015 Biology Fortified. Used with permission.