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First-of-its-kind research will allow the public to test claims about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in their own backyards.
GMOs have been grown by farmers for two decades, and while they are estimated to be in up to 80% of food products sold in the United States, they have brought some controversy. Competing claims are hotly debated on the internet, but a nonprofit organization founded by scientists is putting one to the test. Biology Fortified, Inc. (BFI) is testing the claim that wild animals avoid eating genetically modified corn, by launching a massive “Citizen Science” experiment with adults, kids, and schools.
“Citizen Science is a great way to get people of all walks of life involved in the scientific process,” said Dr. Karl Haro von Mogel, the Science & Media Director of Biology Fortified. “We’re doing a real experiment on a massive scale, while teaching kids how to do science at the same time.”
The scientists are raising funds through donations on Experiment.com, a crowdfunding fundraiser that supports scientific research. They raised their minimum goal to start the experiment within just 17 hours, and have now raised over twice that amount. Every donation of $25 pays for the assembly and shipping of one experiment kit, and donations over that amount will enable kits to be made free for kids and schools.
Dr. Anastasia Bodnar, BFI’s policy director said that now over 350 individuals and school classes have signed up to be a part of this experiment. “The response from young people and teachers has been phenomenal. I love seeing so many people interested in testing a hypothesis and in being part of a bigger scientific experiment.”
Dr. Kevin Folta, Chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, explains why they chose to test whether animals avoid eating GMOs. “I’ve been seeing the claims online for years and it seemed impossible, but at the same time people would tell me that they aren’t eating this food if animals won’t. So here’s the chance to do the test and maybe help concerned people make a choice based on actual data.”
Each volunteer Citizen Scientist in the project will get a kit containing four ears of corn – enough to do two experiments. They will send pictures and data with an easy-to-use web portal. The ears will be barcoded and double-blinded to safeguard the results of the experiment. “We’re doing this experiment in a very open and public way so everyone can trust the results and see how science is done at the same time,” said Karl Haro von Mogel.
The project has attracted widespread attention and a high-profile endorsement from Nobel Laureate Dr. Barry Marshall, who co-discovered the role of H. pylori in the development of ulcers. “The corn project might be a template for all kinds of experiments which kids can do to learn about science.” He added that when the results come in, kids may be able to answer all kinds of questions, such as “are squirrels right handed?”
On Wednesday, October 28th at 7:30 pm Eastern time, Drs. Haro von Mogel and Bodnar will host a live Q/A on Google+ Hangouts and YouTube for the public to learn more about the experiment.
The team at Biology Fortified is busy getting the kits ready to ship out, said Karl Haro von Mogel, “We are going to start sending these kits out in a week, so if you want to be a Citizen Scientist, there’s no better time than now to join!”
Signup form for Citizen Scientists:
Google+ Hangout Q/A:
Biology Fortified site:
Karl Haro von Mogel
Science & Media Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE