GMOs or Pesticides: Which Evil Would You Choose?

In a farm-focused round of "Would You Rather,” we asked you which was the bigger problem: GMOs or pesticides.

by Dani Yokhna

GMOs or Pesticides: Which Evil Would You Choose? - Photo courtesy iStock/Thinkstock

Did you ever play “Would You Rather” as a kid? The idea of the game is you’d pose two ridiculously difficult situations and charge your opponent to choose the one, however horrible it might be, they’d rather participate in. Would you rather eat spiders coated in chocolate or caramel coated in ants? Would you rather walk around the North Pole naked or through the desert in a wool sweater and parka?

Well, earlier this month, we put our own spin on the game, asking our Facebook fans which they’d choose to eat if backed into a corner: genetically modified food grown without pesticides or non-genetically modified food grown with pesticides.

Many of you responded that you would do none of the above—you’d grow your own heirloom crops without pesticides or you’d starve (yikes!). While we applaud your willingness to stick to your guns, that’s not the game we’re playing.

While most of us would rather be eating nutrient-rich, time-tested fruits and vegetables that don’t wreak havoc on the environment and our own health, it’s alarmingly difficult to make food purchases that aren’t GMO-grown or contaminated with pesticides. Even if you’re farming naturally or organically from heirloom seeds, how your neighbors are farming and the way the wind blows could ultimately end up tainting your endeavors.

We realize that neither of these options is ideal to the sustainably minded farmer, but then again, we don’t live in an ideal world. Thanks to the readers who indulged us and provided a thoughtful response. We hope that this difficult question got you thinking critically about your food sources and farming practices, and maybe even inspired some research of your own.

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Check out some of our favorite responses below. (Note, the statements made are opinions of individuals, and may or may not be factually correct.)

Good question! In the short run, I’d rather have non-GMO with pesticides because washing them off is relatively easy. However, the pesticides cause huge problems for the soil and resistance in insects or killing them (pollinators) off in the long run, which make GMO crops with no pesticides potentially more attractive. The GMOs are a relatively unknown compared to the huge problems already documented with pesticides. —Marty Reyburn

Everyone should have a choice … just label it so that those that don’t want to put it in their bodies don’t have to. Those that don’t care … they get GMOs. It’s simple as long as the labeling discloses the true contents. —Debby Parr

Here, in the land of the free, we can afford to be choosy, but around the world, there are an awful lot of people who have no clue what pesticide or GMO even means. They just want to eat. I just want to feed their kids. —Heather Neill

Genetic modification isn’t a massive evil in and of itself. It’s the liberties taken introducing pesticides or pesticide resistances, combined with over-farming or poor rotation, that are causing so many issues. So for me, a GM crop that is completely pesticide-free, down to the genome, is generally perfectly acceptable. —Zee Brax

Potentially GMO, but it depends on what exactly the modification is. —Kendall Schmidt

For what I cannot produce myself, I would have to go with GMO/non pesticides. My husband’s cancer was caused by exposure to Roundup. —Christine Carr Reese Boelter

Although non-GMO without pesticides will be ideal, we must be realistic. As the planet population grows, we must adapt to a more resilient to pest and disease seeds. Small-scale farmers or home gardeners can produce organic goods. But when we talk about feeding the world we need a more efficient seed. I know that both seeds have pros and cons, but if those are my only choices, I choose GMO and no pesticides. —Gabriela Cisneros

Non GMO. There are university studies that say GMO corn and beans are having an effect on conception in livestock. The GMO corn is so hard that the livestock are having difficulties digesting it. If it has an effect on livestock, I’m sure it’s having an effect on us too!! —Gayla Coffy Devitt

Not modified with pesticides…. At least it’s the real deal. —Ginger Christensen

GMO without herbicides … no brainer. GMO crops are heavily sprayed with herbicides, etc. … chemicals that have proven to be harmful to our environment. —Terri Gillingham

I have no problem with genetically modified crops, but the issue is that they are modifying crops to withstand higher doses of herbicides and pesticides, not to increase yields or weather lower moisture conditions, which is where GMO started and needs to get back to. Herbicides and pesticides have been proven time and time again to be a major problem to people and the planet. Allowing companies to meddle in laws to twist the use of such items is unconscionable and needs to stop. There are proven ways to control weeds and pests. They only need implementing, and if big business cries about it, then they need to leave the farm. —Fwf Son Maf

I hate bugs so spray those pests. —Christine Sprague Klauck

I think the question comes down to what is long-term sustainable. We are lucky heirloom varieties survived this long for the organic movement to pick up. Now those seeds are widely available. The problem with GMOs is that there is a huge risk factor for them to “infect” wild species of plants and thereby destroying the genetic diversity nature created. However, I am not totally opposed to GMO crops. I believe they can have a function in isolated growing conditions. Manned expedition to Mars anyone? —Philipp Merker

GMOs have been created with only profits in mind—no environmental changes have been thought about, hence no bees. Roundup is found in mothers’ milk and fetal cords, so we need to stop the production until independent research has been done. —Jean Massey

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