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Another Voice: Fight against GMOs in schools is a waste of time

By Julianna LeMieux

A recent resolution passed by the New York State Parent-Teacher Association (NYS-PTA) is an enormous waste of the valuable time and energy being devoted to the important issues facing our public school system today.

At the end of 2016, the NYS-PTA passed a resolution that aims to remove genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) foods from school cafeterias throughout the state.
Resolutions adopted in November will:

• Support mandatory labeling of GMO and GE foods.

• Support regulations barring pesticide-tolerant GMOs and GE foods from use in food and beverages provided by school meal programs and vending services.

• Encourage schools to avoid the use of foods and beverages that contain pesticide-tolerant GMOs and GE foods until such regulations are in effect.

• Encourage education of parents and community members on the health and environmental effects of pesticide-tolerant GMOs and GE food products.

The last resolution is incredibly ironic as it includes the concept of increasing education, while simultaneously promoting false beliefs that are not founded in science. If done correctly, that class would be very short. It might go something like this:

“Welcome class. There are no known negative health effects from GMOs, despite that myth being propagated by certain people.

“The scientific community widely agrees on and supports the use of GMOs for many reasons, one of which is that there is not a single case of any known negative health effects. If you don’t believe me, please read the letter sent to Greenpeace, signed by over 100 Nobel laureates, stating that GMOs are safe. Class dismissed.”

Perhaps the NYS-PTA should focus its efforts on funneling more money into science education, helping to create a future generation that is more scientifically literate and can make better decisions for their children’s well-being than their parents have done.

PTAs can have many roles, but the idea behind them is to get a group of motivated parents to work together, with the teachers (who are overworked and underpaid) to support them in whatever way possible and improve the general learning environment of the school.

The topics of the PTA meetings in my children’s schools (and I imagine in many other schools) lacked the frivolity of organic food and instead were centered on fundraising to finance extracurricular activities such as music and art, bullying prevention plans, buying and distributing supplies like books, toner and paper for the teachers.

I encourage the NYS-PTA to shift its energies toward the more important challenges that face public schools today. Because if eating genetically modified food is your biggest problem, that’s a problem that this PTA member would really like to have – because it is not a problem at all.

Julianna LeMieux, Ph.D., is the senior fellow in molecular biology at the American Council on Science and Health.

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