Join The GMO Corn Experiment!

A photograph of one experiment. Copyright: Paul Fonder

Do squirrels and other wild animals avoid GMOs? If you open up your favorite search engine to find out an answer to this question, you will find that many people have been curious about this question. For so many people, it would be a simple question to test scientifically – if they had the right materials. Now Biology Fortified is happy to announce that hundreds of people, from adults to kids and schools can be a part of one massive scientific experiment to find out the answer to this question.
Genetically engineered crops, often just called GMOs, have been grown and eaten for 20 years. The topic of transferring DNA from one organism into another brings excitement in some and caution in others. There are many questions that have been raised about safety, environmental impact, and more, and study after study has been done and published to address those questions.
Now Google ‘GMO corn experiment’ or ‘GMO corn squirrels’ and you will find that some say that animals can sense something different about genetically engineered corn and avoid eating it if they can. Some people have even put this question to the test by doing their own experiment to find out! Ears of GMO and non-GMO corn have been placed side-by-side to find out if one ear gets eaten and the other does not.
The results of these anecdotal reports are mixed. Some report that the GMO corn is avoided, while others (including this video) report that there is no difference. Have there been any scientific studies that examine this question? Not one that I can find. That’s why we decided to do one, but we’re not going to do it on our own. We’re going to do this experiment with you – as the first ever Citizen Science experiment to test popular claims about GMOs!

The GMO Corn Experiment

We’re turning to crowdfunding to get this experiment off the ground. We launched a fundraising campaign on to pay for the cost of making and shipping experiment kits to Citizen Scientist volunteers who sign up to be a part of the experiment. We need to raise $6,200 to put together and ship upwards of 250 experiment kits, and pay for the fees to publish the results in a scientific journal. We are asking for a $25 donation to participate in this experiment, and anything over that will go toward sending kits to schools to participate for free!
Our fundraiser is the place to go to find out more about how this experiment will work, how to donate, and more. Check out the video, then go to

The crowdfunding campaign will last for only 20 days, ending at midnight on Halloween. After that – and I mean right after that, we’re shipping the kits out to our volunteers who will be able to do the experiment as early as November!

Getting science into the hands of kids

We want kids and schools to be a part of this experiment so they can learn about how science is done in a hands-on and fun way. There will be so many opportunities for students to make their own predictions, gather data, and form conclusions. Then they will get to learn about how scientists repeat experiments and combine data to form stronger conclusions. Finally, they will learn about how scientists go through peer review to get their final paper published for the scientific community to see. It is our hope that donors will be able to put in a little bit more so that we can give the get science into the hands of kids!

Donate Here. Then sign up for the experiment Here.

Over the next 20 days, we’ll be telling you more about how the experiment will work, the backstory about how this came together, pictures of the corn plants when they were growing, and more. For one thing, I will have approximately 2,000 lbs of corn showing up on my doorstep in two days! You will be able to see how massive this experiment can become, as we can make up to 1,250 experiment kits. This experiment is going to happen and here’s your chance to be a part of it. We could confirm an amazing effect or dispel a myth together – and either way we’ll advance science and have a lot of fun doing it.

Written by Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication.


  1. Thanks for asking! At this point, we are looking into being able to include Canada (which seems very likely at this stage), but the EU may be very tough to navigate. The GMO variety and all of its traits would need to be approved and transporting seeds across borders carries its own issues as well.
    This is our first Citizen Science experiment, and we plan to do more in the future, and perhaps some of the ideas we’ll have will be easier to implement worldwide!

  2. This is a GREAT idea!
    But what exactly do you mean “pay for the fees to publish the results in a scientific journal”? That sounds like something organic activists would do.
    Surely someone will publish your results for free, as long as you follow standard scientific protocols.

  3. It’s hard to conduct side-by-side product comparisons when your government bans one of the products.

  4. How will you verify that the “organic” corn doesn’t contain “GMO” traits/DNA? Will you be using isogenic comparison to prevent the preference that squirrels might have for one of two different hybrids?

  5. Thanks mem – unfortunately I can’t invest the 50 minutes at this time. Can you tell me the answers to my questions? or perhaps tell me where in the podcast I might find them? Thanks again.

  6. Check out and you’ll find more details about the corn. The comparison is GMO vs non GMO. Neither was grown using specifically organic methods. The non GMO corn is isogenic to the GMO corn. We are planning tests to verify similarity and traits.

  7. No, Mlema, I am not your personal stenographer. But you have plenty of time to listen before the opportunity closes.
    I am charmed at how rigorous people suddenly are. And the standards they require, which they never care about when team organic is publishing. Some people have already dismissed the project because MONSANTO. It’s hilarious.

  8. Either the author or the reader has to pay for the publication costs. If you want the results to be freely available to everyone, then it should be in open access journal. Thus the authors have to pay the fees. I think that is fair.

  9. Yes and yes, they will be using isogenic lines and yeas they are going independent verification of the T-DNA presence. From the podcast it seems that the experiment is planned well.

  10. It would be rather difficult to perform in any EU country. The easiest way would be to do light version of the test with Bt corn MON810, which is the only one allowed also for cultivation. Stacked trait corns varieties are permitted only as food and feed, thus the cobs need to be imported for which you would need separate permit. Then each private person who wants to do the experiment with squirrel-feed has to register with appropriate ministry to be included on the list of GMO users (fee required). I could see one more potential problem – the GMO cob has to be properly labeled during all handling and transportation, so making a double blind experiment might be difficult. The non-GMO cob would have to be labeled as GM coming from insect-refugee.

  11. Because the layperson that doesn’t want (or can’t) subscribe to the journal can access the results.

  12. Well of course no one at Biofortified will be surprised to hear this from me – but – after first blush (the fun that we all have with “urban legends”) I don’t really like this as a “scientific experiment” for kids. Why? Because if kids can’t accept a teacher or scientist’s pronouncement that squirrels eat any and all kinds of corn, but might prefer one over another for any number of reasons other than genetic engineering – then we have bigger problems than one urban legend.
    The problem here is: we have scientists lending credibility to something that’s not scientific by calling it an “experiment”. The basic flaw: squirrels aren’t the arbiter of scientific fact. A squirrel will eat poison bait. The implication of having bona fide scientists call this an “experiment” is that children will learn something about gmos vs. non-gmos. The fact that they won’t learn anything except that scientists like to have fun with urban legends too, and are willing to spend money on this sort of thing – is not something I want to support.
    Does no one else see problem with characterizing this as an experiment to teach children about science?
    wild animals not eating gmos is an urban legend

  13. Organic activists have been roundly criticized for paying to publish their phony results. Better to publish the results of this experiment in a reputable academic journal and then let the media report on it.

  14. Wait just a minute here…
    How are the squirrels supposed to know which cob is which unless you translate the signs into squirrel?
    After all, being organic all boils down to the labeling.

  15. You make a good point Mlema. But it was organic activists who came up with the unfounded notion that wild animals won’t eat GMOs. So it’s a perfectly sound idea to debunk that notion with an experiment.
    Alas, we are well-and-truly neck-deep in the world of hype and propaganda in the whole organic v. GMO debate.

  16. That is right. But “open access” does not equal predatory, low quality journal and “subscription access only” does not equal high quality reputable journal. There are even very high profile journals, that can normally be accessed only with subscription that allow researchers to publish open access articles, providing they pay the fee. Some funding bodies even insist on publishing the results from funded research through open access policy. If the taxpayer pays for the research, he has the right to get the full results without paying additional fees.

  17. Why do you thing its is not “real” scientific experiment? I am sorry but I dont understand why squirrels cannot be arbiters of scientific facts? It is more difficult with the kids , because there will be huge differences with the dilligence each kid will have when setting up and reporting on the experiment, but still I believe it is worth doing. There are many experiments that have much less control over the conditions and many more variables and still can provide valid data.

  18. That all depends on the media. In the most likely scenario (no difference) it will be published in medium to low impact journal and without organised PR effort it will probably not resonate with the public much. However as we can see already the start of the experiment has reasonable impact in the media so there is no reason to expect the eventual publication will not come to limelight for at least a while. However in case that the authors will find a difference between the groups, it is going to be in high impact journal with a lot of public attention right from the bat.

  19. That approach has advantages too. Personally, I prefer to read the info myself simply because the media always seems to want to present the information with a particular spin. I prefer to go to the source.
    Both approaches have some advantages.

  20. Well, the thing about urban legends is: we don’t know who came up with them. It might be an “organic activist” or it might be an “anit-GMO” activist. Or it might be somebody who decided to put out gmo and non-gmo corn for wild animals and thought they saw favoritism, and decided it meant something.
    Getting so very strange these days that we have these cultural wars. Like – us against them in GMOs, organic vs. conventional – all looking like maybe we’re trying to make “sides” in science. Look out kids.

  21. You’re overestimating the public’s willingness to read an academic journal, and underestimating the media’s willingness to cover this story if the experiment is done right.

  22. You might consider approaching the show MythBusters to participate. It might not be up their alley since most of their stuff is in physics, but they do like to test urban myths. They would tend to be cognizant of controlling for confounding factors, and perhaps each of Jamie, Carl and the rest of the crew could do an experiment at their homes. It might be a way to get publicity.

  23. If the seeds were sterilized by heat, that should overcome the EU objections. Sterilizing them by irradiation might give them the heebie-jeebies. You would need to treat both to not cause bias.

  24. LOL I was thinking the same thing. They are scared and the only thing they can do is try to discredit the whole experiment if things don’t fall their way. If the pro-Organic/anti-GMO side was sincere they would have started doing hard science experiments to prove their points a long time age.

  25. I like the discussion here. Nothing too radical popping up. First, I will say that I am pro-GMO when GMO is defined as an organism whose genome has been altered by genetic engineering. I have several opinions on the matter but that is for another day. Let us say that hypothesis 1 is “when given a choice, squirrels prefer non-GMO corn over GMO corn” and is proven correct using proper scientific procedure.
    I would like to speculate as to how and why? In my mind a GMO is something that can also be achieved through selective breeding but in a MUCH shorter amount of time when using genetic engineering. It’s not like they are putting camel DNA in corn to make it drought resistant. So why would squirrels prefer non-GMO corn to GMO corn. Just what can a squirrel discern when it is making its choice? Did we lose some flavor component? Is the kernel too hard? Is the smell different? Can the squirrel read? Just a speculative discussion question posed to both sides.

  26. There’s no organic corn in the “experiment” – so I’m not sure why you think organic activists would be “scared”. Why not do this experiment with organic? THAT would be the way to pull the rug out from under them! After all, squirrels are just furry scientists. Just because they can’t tell you in words that they’ll eat any corn you give them doesn’t mean they aren’t up on their biochemistry.

  27. Absolutely nothing. That is why no important plant journal would publish it. At best it would be negative results. That is why it is pointless to let anti-GMO activists dictate research projects.

  28. No important journal would publish these results if they are negative (i.e. no difference) because it would only confirm what we already know. No media would report on it unless the results showed a positive results, i.e. wild animals won’t eat “frankenfoods”. They would only be interested if they smelled something scandalous. I see no point to this study.

  29. Plant Physiology is a high impact plant journal. They charged me $1600 last year (without open access–with open access is even more). Plant Cell is even higher. Typically, the higher the impact factor of the journal, the higher the page charges. Plant Journal is an exception. Those are the top three plant journals (Molecular Plant is up there a well). Predatory journals only get away with this because they take advantage of the business models of legitimate journals. The difference is they will publish anything at all if you simply pony up the cash, little or no peer review. It is to their advantage to never refuse you or your money. A legit journal has enough submissions that they can be selective and only publish those that pass a strict peer review, in exchange for scandalous page fees of course.

  30. Karl, I humbly propose an alternative point of view in this discussion. I do not see the point of diverting precious scientific resources to quash urban legends promoted by attention seeking activists. It sets a bad precedent. It takes weeks or months to set up, execute, and analyze a properly controlled experiment of this sort, as you well know. But it only takes a few minutes to stage a photo and popularize the next anti-GMO myth with a viral image posted online. This will only encourage them to invent more myths if they think they can keep you and Kevin running in circles. I greatly value your research and the excellent outreach work you do through this site. However, I do not think this particular idea is a good one. Ignorant activists should not set the agenda of research scientists when far more compelling and legitimate questions await your attention.

  31. And therein lies the problem. We’re so diplomatic that this whole debate isn’t even controversial anymore, and hence not worthy of news coverage.

  32. Scenario: Reuter’s Carey Gillam writes an article about the publication and interviews individuals who disagree with the findings. I decide to look at the paper to write a review and figure out whether the comments are accurate. But, lo and behold, it’s behind a paywall and I don’t want to cough up the $40 to download the publication. Technically, no one’s even allowed to send me the paper, because I’m not in academia so it doesn’t qualify as “educational purposes”.
    That’s one of a million reasons why open access matters and why Biofortified is making the right call on listing the expense to have the paper freely available.

  33. How strange and unfortunate that Carey Gillam dictates your course of action on this experiment. Unless you challenge her directly, she’ll win no matter what you do.

  34. You’ve misunderstood my point: I provided an example of why open access is important and why I cannot rely on “media’s willingness to cover this story if the experiment is done right” as a reason to keep a paper behind a paywall.

  35. With respect, you’ve misunderstood my point Layla. We’re so far behind the 8-ball that a cub reporter like Gillam can actually have influence on the debate no matter what we do.
    If you look at my original comment, I said this was a great idea. But now I’m wondering what the plan will be if the experiment fails to make headlines, and instead garners criticism from pro-organic media?

  36. “The basic flaw: squirrels aren’t the arbiter of scientific fact.”
    Well that’s true – evidence is the arbiter of scientific fact. And the evidence in this case is observations of squirrels to make conclusions about their behavior.
    “we have scientists lending credibility to something that’s not scientific by calling it an “experiment””
    You have in no way explained what is not scientific about this experiment. I shudder to think how you might approach kids when it comes to science fairs. “No, Stacy, your experiment is not scientific because I think I already know the answer.”
    “wild animals not eating gmos is an urban legend”
    Thank you for registering your hypothesis! I will remember it when the data either confirms it, or sends me on a worldwide tour giving talks and sends me to the top of the list for the next NIH grant.
    “Well of course no one at Biofortified will be surprised to hear this from me”
    If you can’t say something nice…

  37. Hi Michael,
    I disagree about the diversion of scientific resources. No government grants are going to this project – the funding is coming entirely from the people themselves who are doing the experiment. Indeed, I would like to point out that this is both a scientific experiment and a science education/outreach project. This takes science out of the abstract and puts it literally in people’s back yards. We could get totally unusable data, and end up with an inconclusive experiment – but that’s ok because there are hundreds to thousands of people who will be involved – learning about how science works. Classrooms representing hundreds of kids alone will become part of a massive community of people who will learn that anything that is in principle knowable is in fact testable.
    This is an easy low-hanging fruit – a simple setup that anyone can do, that just needs the right materials to make the experiment happen. Once it is over, we’ll talk about what experiment we can do next. I CAN’T WAIT to hear the ideas that all the kids have for what they want to discover next! They will dictate the research agenda on into the future. I’ll look for your ideas as well if you offer them up.

  38. Here’s another fun experiment.
    Try avoiding all GMO and see how much weight you lose and how much better you feel!
    You see, the vast majority of GMO is consumed (by humans) as manufactured chemicals that go into junk food.

  39. I bet you that if I eat a diet of ONLY genetically engineered food, I’ll lose weight as well!
    Maybe just avoid junk food, and not drag a genetic technology that has nothing to do with it. Get rid of GMOs and your junk food will remain.

  40. Karl,
    Upon considering your argument, you have convinced me this project has merit from the standpoint of outreach and science education. I still see little scientific value in this particular question, but science education is rarely about tackling issues at the forefront of a discipline, although one never knows what may come of it. Good luck, and I wish you success in involving young minds in the scientific process.

  41. Pretty much all junk food is made much more inexpensive and plentiful thanks to GMO crops. Hardly the miracle that people try and make it out to be.
    Besides some papaya or squash, how else do people ingest this stuff? Bland tasting unhealthy processed crap.

  42. So you’re saying there would be no cheeze doodles, potato chips, ding-dongs, ring-dings, yodels, snoballs, twinkies, tastykakes, hostess, freihofer’s, vienna fingers, sandies, oreos, drakes,etc,etc,etc because they just didn’t exist in mass quantities before GMO’s ?
    PS. (All the above are pretty good and do no harm in moderation, before and after the use of GM derived ingredients)

  43. I’m saying that GMO is mostly eaten by people as manufactured ingredients in junk food. So what’s so great about it?
    I’m saying there would be a lot less junk food if there were no GMO.

  44. Every single one of the above items existed before the GMO’s hit the market and there was no lacking of any of them at any time and never were they budget busters.
    Did i mention moonpies?

  45. GMO are also used in good foods too. Corn starch is used as a thickener for innumerable sauces. Otherwise hard to synthesize or come by vitamins are also GM derived. You ask what’s so great? I ask, what’s so bad?

  46. Funny, so you are saying that if people switched to all Non GMO cheese doodles, Organic deep fried chocolate bars, smothered in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream they will lose weight….

  47. Corn starch, ha ha. Like I said, most of what you get is crap.
    Vitamins are a waste of money if you eat a healthy diet. I guess if all you eat is processed junk then go ahead and eat some processed vitamin junk too to be safe.
    Personally, I don’t think GM is either “good” or “bad”. It’s the people who are wielding such technology that I worry about.
    I don’t trust the liars and cheats that control this technology.
    The world is suffering from the sickness of greed and pride.

  48. It would produce a rather ridiculous scene.
    EU helicopters swirling en masse whilst dozens of Interpol agents slide down ropes from them. Neighbors running from their homes down the streets, sirens blasting in the otherwise calm fall air while French and German fighter Jets home in on their target:
    A nine year old German girl caught setting up the GM corn test kit in her Black Forest back yard.

  49. LOL, the squirrels will most likely be distracted by all the laser sites pointed at them when they attempt to eat the GMO corn.

  50. “”Nothing to do with it.”?????”
    Yes – wrong debate. You are making a common and erroneous assumption that GMOs = Junk food. Give me some GMO corn and I’ll nixtamalize it and make delicious fresh tortillas.
    You are saying that computers are all bad because some people use them to write bad comments on the internet. Poor logic, and not helpful.

  51. While that may in fact be the best use for GMO corn I’ve ever heard of (besides making fuel alcohol of course), I sincerely doubt many Americans are out there soaking corn in limewater, grounding it and making homemade tortillas.
    No, the vast majority of them are eating it in junk food. The same “food” that’s ubiquitous and subsidized. The same “food” that is heavily marketed to us (even to children). The same “food” that’s causing an epidemic of disease.
    It’s nearly all junk. Homemade corn tortillas my eye.
    Your analogy is way off base. I’m actually saying that the people control this technology are greedy cheating liars and I don’t like giving my support to such people.
    If I were to choose to avoid computers Dell and Apple wouldn’t spend money trying to smear me as anti-science.

  52. “The world is suffering from the sickness of greed and pride.”
    And the sickness of ignorance, fear, envy and sloth.

  53. Not really, it is the same group of douchebags that we had 10 years ago. There is not much difference between the 2 major parties, other than the colour of the election signs and and rhetoric.

  54. I’ll bet the majority of junk food is derived from land that had been converted to farmland assisted by the invention of the moldboard plow. If not for the moldboard plow, a lot of prairie would have been left unturned and America’s breadbasket that produces abundance of grains that become relatively cheap ingredients in indulgent, nutritionally vacant calories would not be produced. How is this stuff produced on land turned by the moldboard plow ingested — bland tasting unhealthy processed crap. Tractors, now there’s an invention that greatly facilitated the expanded production of commodities that find their way into processed crap. Before then, you used steam, manual or animal power, and with animal power, you had to set aside 10-20% of land and/or production just to feed the ox team, but now that land can be used to produce more commodities that go into junk food. (Just think, we could have Mothers Against John Deere, March Against New Holland)
    But how about inventions like food preservation, refrigeration. Both used to make the shelf life, transport, processing of food, including junk food, more cost effective, convenient and cheaper for the consumer. And don’t get me started on microwave ovens. What a way to make it convenient for consumers to buy processed food and just warm it up rather than taking the time to buy whole foods and cooking meals from scratch yourself. How bout electricity. Made the invention of the vending machine practical, now there is an invention that facilitates the delivery of cheap, convenient junk food to the public.
    But somehow, if only we declined to use our knowledge of molecular biology to instill genetic information into our crops, we would all be eating less junk food. If we didn’t use biotech methods to instill blight resistance in potatoes, but instead somehow achieved resilience through organic methods including the application of heavy metals allowed to control fungus, mutagenesis, crossing, etc. or continue to control blight with synthetic chemicals, we would eat less junk food. If we try to get a handle on citrus greening by pumping the orchards with plant minerals and vitamins, or continue to try and control the insect vector through intense spraying of pesticides, rather than using a biotech application, we will eat less junk food. If a farmer controls weeds in corn fields by returning to cultivation tillage, application of preemergent herbicides in the soil before or simultaneous with planting and then applies atrazine after the crop emerges, or applies HLR inhibiter herbicides to growing crops like sunflowers that acquire herbicide tolerant traits via sexual transfer, rather than grow crops with herbicide tolerant traits acquired via biotechnology, we will eat less junk food. If only we go back to controlling corn rootworm with pesticide applications rather than through a plant incorporated protectant (PIP – a common resilience strategy in nature) trait such as ability to produce Cry proteins, acquired via biotech, we would eat less junk food.
    And somehow, I am not able to go to a grocery store, farmers market, my garden to acquire fresh fruits and vegetables, flours, starches, oils, meats, seasonings, etc (many of the sources from which these ingredients are derived, using your own premise, are also perhaps more marginally abundant and affordable in part due to biotech) and cook tasty nutritionally sensible dishes at home (which I will probably heat leftovers up in the microwave for a couple days), I am doomed to succumb to the lure of that vending machine burrito, unless and until genetic engineering is not used as a crop improvement methodology.

  55. Karl, my statement about pronouncements does sound kinda authoritarian. But I do wonder about what kind of conclusions about behavior you can draw from this particular experiment. Can you explain this more? What exactly are you testing? Why do you have two different corn? And beyond “learning about how science works” what are your specific educational objectives?
    Have you considered involving the National Science Teachers Association to help provide context for this lesson? Educating grade school children is a serious responsibility and there are lots of things to consider beyond simply involving them in the experience. Can you please provide some transparency about how you’ll be presenting this in schools? What kind of materials are you providing to explain the children’s roles in the experiment, and what they should think about before, during and after the work is done.
    I really have a lot more questions, but these are the most basic. Thank you.
    Your comments about NIH grants and Nobel Prize both here and in Kevin’s podcast sound facetious. Am I misinterpreting that?
    In looking to see how this experiment is being received, i saw this:
    “Here is a very nicely designed and simple experiment that you might do with your children or grandchildren. It will tell you a lot about GMOs. The question is: Are squirrels smarter than humans when it comes to GMOs?”
    So, it looks like already even adults are misinterpreting what this experiment is about. What do you feel is your group’s responsibility in addressing this kind of misunderstanding? Can you do anything to make the goals and capabilities of this experiment more plain?

  56. I see this: “we will test the hypothesis that wild animals such as squirrels and deer prefer non-GMO corn.” But if this is the case, you must have continual observation for a certain pre-determined period of time in order to see if there’s a preference. in the podcast Kevin said 0 and 24 hours – or 8 or 12. but that won’t show preference if all the corn is eaten before the first observation.

  57. I didn’t make any criticism until I found out more about the experiment. If you check the dates on my comments, you’ll see that. You’re responding to what was a simple request for info by characterizing me as impetuously critical – for no reason.

  58. Yes. Seven “deadly sins”. Greed, pride, sloth, wrath, lust, gluttony and envy.
    I wish religion would focus on these very real and very destructive tendencies. It might make them more relevant.
    Any scientifically inclined person would have to agree that these are destructive forces and they should be avoided.

  59. Its time to rethink our systems. They are not working for most people.
    Nothing should be sacred or free from scrutiny.
    We need to pattern more on nature and start thinking about giving more and taking less, doing more and expecting less, diversifying more and consolidating less, etc.
    The tipping point is being reached.
    See Permaculture,, the emerging gift economy etc.

  60. Frank N Foode on twitter says: “Just 10 days left to be a part of this massive Citizen Science experiment on GMOs!”
    Will someone please tell Frank that this experiment isn’t on GMOs?

  61. “In my mind a GMO is something that can also be achieved through selective breeding but in a MUCH shorter amount of time when using genetic engineering. It’s not like they are putting camel DNA in corn to make it drought resistant.”
    A GMO can achieve a trait in a shorter time than selective breeding, although it depends on the trait and the method in either case. For example, a non-GMO ringspot-virus resistant papaya was developed by 2010, but it had taken many many years to develop. The gmo version had already been growing for ten years by the time the non-gmo version was available. But the distinguishing fact of GMOs is that they can incorporate genes from other organisms that wouldn’t integrate otherwise, regardless of how long you tried. For example, through bt crops, we now have millions of acres of plants that build Cry toxins (bacterial proteins) in every cell. Millions of poplars expressing the toxins are growing in China. Genetic engineering in agriculture and forestry has the potential for widespread ecological effects.
    “So why would squirrels prefer non-GMO corn to GMO corn. Just what can a squirrel discern when it is making its choice? Did we lose some flavor component? Is the kernel too hard? Is the smell different?”
    Hopefully these are all questions that will be posed to the children who participate, regardless of the squirrel’s preference or non-preference. For children, the lesson to be learned from this “experiment” is that there can be differences in plants that aren’t discernible without scientific investigation beyond whatever a squirrel can discover. And even then we might not be able to determine if the difference is related to genetic engineering.
    Do the squirrels eat both cobs? Does that reflect on their similarity? Is one cob preferred? Does that reflect on their difference? The answers would be applicable only in squirrel world. Regardless of the result, it will be important to educate children to the fact that squirrels don’t determine that gmos and non-gmos are the same, because the scientific fact is: they’re not the same. And squirrels don’t determine that they’re different, except for reasons like taste, smell, hardness, freshness of individual corn, etc (all the things you listed) – and maybe for some that are only known to the squirrel: “squirrel whim”. 🙂

  62. If the experiment were about whether or not animals will eat “frankenfoods” – all you’d need to do is put out some frankenfood. The experiment description says: “We are testing the hypothesis that wild animals such as squirrels and deer prefer non-GMO corn, and avoid GMO corn.” It’s important to have the non-GMO corn in order to give the animals an opportunity to choose which they prefer, and to show that the animals are eating. If you just put out some GMO corn and it didn’t get eaten, you wouldn’t necessarily know that any animals were eating anything there at that time.

  63. What data could be collected if your doing this as an experiment. Like kernals eaten or how many squirrels come to eat it?

  64. Hi Sam, we are planning a few different ways to collect data, and we encourage people to collect their own data as well. What types of data do you think would be most useful?

  65. But the claim being tested is the belief supported by mostly anecdotal observations that corn from a plant that has genetic information acquired via recombinant methods has some altered quality not apparent to human sensory perception that animals like squirrels can detect and in fact are repulsed by, or at least that they find inferior, and will prefer a non gmo version. Maybe this over states the viewpoint, but a lot of the rhetoric suggests that at least some perceive ge is like a vampire bite, that although the ge traited corn may look and function similarly, some sinister transformation has taken place. In the movies, while the humans are enchanted by the vampire, the household dog growls and cowers in its presence due to some innate ability that humans don’t have to detect this human looking thing is really a corrupted version of a human. I suspect others who accept the animals can detect gmo’s aren’t in the sinister transformation camp, but suspect there could be subtle losses in quality that a squirrel could detect. For others, whether the wild animals shun ge corn is true or not is irrelivent, it is still useful metafor
    Whether corn is always and inevitably materially altered in some way I suspect is as much a human cultural construct, a human cultural perception of essence as opposed to a biologically significant compositional result in harvested elements of ge traited crop varieties. No, i doubt squirrels will chose based on human cultural perceptions. I suspect that the project will tell us more about human cognitive fallacies than it will reveal about squirrels’ sensory or extrasensory skills (someone above mentioned that squirrels will eat poisoned grain) or about practical differences in gmo vs non gmo.
    I am pretty confident that squirrel’s selection will be more or less random. I’ve not done this experiment myself but my wife puts out 2 -3 ears of identical corn at a time for squirrels from time to time and I know at least some have been ge varieties and some not. But i’ve never put one ge and one non ge side by side to my knowledge. Even when identicle It does seem squirrels do tend to concentrate on one ear before moving to to another. My speculation is that they more or less start on one ear at random and once a few kernels are removed, it is easier to keep working on that ear. But, whether ge or not, the corn seems to be devoured just as quickly, 2-3 days.

  66. You would discover that squirrels had no preference between the two types of corn. Which is a discovery in and of itself.
    The way I see it is there are three main possible results:
    – Squirrels prefer non-GMO corn
    – Squirrels prefer GMO corn
    – Squirrels have no particular preference either way.
    Of course, the results can easily (and most probably will) fall somewhere between these three definitive results.
    If you found that there was no preference, it may be hard to get a Journal to publish those results, as it may be deemed un-interesting. That would be unfortunate, as the discovery would be just as important either way.

  67. Are there cases where a GMO ear is compared to a GMO ear and a wild type against a wild type as negative controls?

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