In just a couple weeks, the 2016 Olympics will begin in Rio. Normally, this is an event that brings the country together to support and cheer on athletes from the United States and around the world.
And this year, there’s something GMO-related to celebrate: one of the Olympians is sponsored by a GMO!
Kristin Armstrong, a professional road cyclist, will be headed to Rio in August to compete for her third gold medal. Kristin completed the Hawaii IRONMAN World Championship as a triathlete, won U.S. Olympic Gold Medals in time trials in 2008 and 2012, 3 world titles, and 5 national championships. Oh yeah, and she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis which almost ended her career.
This girl is on fire.
For her trip to the Olympics, Kristen is being sponsored by numerous United States companies. Most notable of her sponsors is Simplot’s White Russet potato (also known as the Innate potato). The first generation of the potato was genetically engineered to lower the amount of acrylamide (a suspected carcinogen) produced when frying and stops the potato from bruising. The modifications, which were achieved by “turning off” genes in the potato, help make the potatoes healthier and reduces food waste. Earlier this year, the FDA approved a second generation of the GMO potato that allows it to resist blight and survive colder temperatures, thereby reducing fungicide use and preventing food waste.
Instead of celebrating these scientific achievements though, the anti-GMO movement has decided to disparage them, and thought using an Olympian as a target was a great idea.
GMO Free USA posted the above graphic on their Facebook page deriding Kristen for accepting the sponsorship and accusing her of shilling for GMOs (I mean, at least she is getting paid for her shilling…). We get it, guys. You don’t like GMOs. You don’t care if you’re being honest. You just want to grab headlines. Whatever. As you can imagine, the post resulted in a few activists leaving less than pleasant comments on Kristen’s page. Surprisingly, and happily, it seems like the vast majority left her alone.
But good for Kristen for recognizing the health, environmental, and sustainability benefits of these genetically modified potatoes, and having the courage to stand up in support of them. Certainly, she had to know there may be some blow back from such a sponsorship, but she agreed to it anyway. I appreciate that she the guts to do that and I’ll definitely be following her Olympic run.
Best wishes for Rio, Kristen!