University GMO research receives high ranking

Story by Cody HallContributing writer

Murray State professors and students set out to find out how the current generation really feels about genetically-modified organisms, and people have noticed their efforts.

The paper, “Examination of Millennials’ Attitudes toward Genetically-Modified Organism (GMO) Foods: Is it Franken-Food or Super-Food?” became one of the top ten most downloaded articles on the site Social Sciences Research Network, with more than 483 downloads currently. 

Stefan Linnhoff, marketing professor, and Murphy Smith, accounting professor, coauthored the paper with Elena Volovich, business graduate and Hannah Martin, doctor of education student.  All four of the writers contributed equal amounts of time and effort into the paper, Martin said.

“Our study explores attitudes of Millennials in the United States regarding food that is derived from genetically-modified organisms,” Linnhoff said in an article by Racer Nation Information. “GMO-laden food products appeared in grocery stores in the U.S. in 1994 and have become a part of almost every chain supermarket.”

There are many misconceptions about what genetically-modified organisms are, and there is still debate on whether they are harmful or helpful.  One example used in the paper “Examination of Millennials’,” is golden rice, a strand of rice that has been modified to have a higher amount of vitamin A.

“I have been surprised by the article’s popularity,” Smith said.  “Besides being cited on National Public Radio, the working paper has been downloaded 477 times from the Social Sciences Research Network.”

Smith was neutral about the use of genetically -modified organisms coming into this project.  All scientific studies indicated that GMO foods are safe from a health standpoint and in some cases more nutritional than non-GMO foods, Smith said. 

“Right now, there is more of a cool factor with non-GMO and with organic,” Martin said.  

The media is why we have negative ideas about what genetically-modified organisms are, Martin said. But through teaching agriculture students, people that come from farming homes understand the importance and benefit of these genetically-modified organisms.

During droughts, these families see the effects of these genetically-modified organisms. Droughts like this could easily wipe out entire fields, but because their crops have been modified to be more resilient, these families are able to keep their crops, Martin said. 

To perform their study, the authors surveyed college students to see how they felt about these modified organisms.  They did this through the online questionnaire platform 

“The research was prompted by the importance of the issue, that is, whether GMO foods can help meet the world’s nutritional needs,” Smith said.  

“I was surprised how little people actually know about scientific research on GMO foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that GM corn acreage and soybeans acreage make up 85 percent of corn produced and 93 percent of soybeans produced,” Smith said.