By Cherilyn Nagel: Mossbank, Saskatchewan, Canada
If the Girl Scouts were to give out badges for courage in the face of controversy, they could award one to themselves—for fending off a smear campaign that targets cookies and science.
That’s because the enemies of biotechnology decided to pick on the Girl Scouts, demanding that the youth organization remove genetically modified ingredients from their delicious cookies, such as Thin Mints – which happen to be my personal favorite.
These tasteless activists have organized an online petition that currently boasts nearly 40,000 signatures—and they’ve even had the gall to make the public face of their effort a sweet-looking seven-year-old named Alicia.
I’m Canadian, so I didn’t join the Girl Scouts of America. Instead, I grew up as a member of its sister group, the Girl Guides of Canada. We sold cookies too. We also learned important life lessons about friendship, responsibility and achievement. I earned badges in everything from first aid and baking to firearm safety and public speaking.
Today, I’m a farmer in rural Saskatchewan—and when I became the first female president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, I knew that this accomplishment was due in part to my experience as a Girl Guide.
My family grows wheat, chickpeas, and many other crops, including canola, which is a GMO product. We choose biotechnology because it’s a tool that helps our canola plants overcome the weeds that compete for water and soil nutrients. Because of genetic modification, we grow more food on less land, in a sustainable-farming strategy that makes both economic and environmental sense.
Unfortunately, some people refuse to accept the science and safety of GMOs. They strive to ban these crops from our farms and these ingredients from our foods. They demand regulations whose purpose is to strangle innovation rather than ensure public health, as well as warning labels that aim to frighten consumers rather than inform them.
Their anti-Girl Scouts propaganda is just another front in the same war, as they try to bully a private group into eliminating GMOs from a popular line of cookies.
In an inspiring demonstration of “girl power,” the Girl Scouts have defended their responsible way of doing business. “Our bakers determine whether to use GMOs in Girl Scout Cookies based on a range of market-related factors and depending on the specific cookie recipe,” says their website. “It is important to note that there is worldwide scientific support for the safety of currently commercialized ingredients derived from genetically modified crops.”
The Girl Scouts point out the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U.S. Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association support GMOs. More than 1 TRILLION meals have been eaten around the globe without a single case of detrimental health effects. Not a single one.
The Girl Scouts go even further and conclude their statement with this vital observation: “In addition, in the future, GMOs may offer a way to help feed an ever-increasing world population.” What a wonderful position to take when teaching our children about hunger and empathy.
I applaud the Girl Scouts for their clear presentation of the facts and a stance based on sound science. It would be so easy to surrender to the loud complaints of outspoken activists—but the Girl Scouts know that truth is on their side, and they’ve chosen to stand their ground.
We shouldn’t have expected anything less, of course: The Girl Scouts and the Girl Guides promote courage, confidence, and character. They teach skills and urge achievement, turning today’s girls into tomorrow’s leaders who will succeed in every field of endeavor.
We’re always hearing that more girls should study math, science, and engineering. Crusades against Girl Scout Cookies and based on scientific illiteracy only will discourage them. Anti-GMO protestors threaten to make girls fear science and technology, rather than pursue careers in it.
One of the most popular commercials during the Super Bowl questioned the phrase “like a girl,” suggesting that it shouldn’t be a putdown but rather a compliment.
When it comes to farming, science, and GMOs, let’s hope that “acting like a girl” comes to mean behaving as the Girl Scouts do right now.
It sounds like a great idea for a badge to me.
Cherilyn and her husband own a diversified grain farm in Mossbank, Saskatchewan, Canada. In addition to farming, Cherilyn is active in many agricultural policy initiatives to improve the sustainability of agriculture and advocate for modern agricultural practices. Cherilyn is a member of the TATT Global Farmer Network (www.truthabouttrade.org).
Note – this piece first appeared Feb 11 in USA Today.