In the seminar “How to talk about GMOs in the dairy industry,” Alison L. Van Eenennaam, Ph. D, cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Davis, demystified the negative connotation of genetic modified organisms (GMOs) shared by popular culture.

Eenennaam spoke during the first day of events at the 2015 World Ag Expo in Tulare, California Tuesday. Held at the International Agri-Center, the expo was in full swing with more than 1,500 exhibitors spread out within 2.6 million square feet highlighting their products and services to an expected crowd of 100,000 attendees.

“I hate the term ‘GMO’ because it’s really ambiguous on what modified means,” she said, describing the term as a method of breeding. Eenennaam cited many studies that showed not only are GMOs nothing to fear, but they’ve been extremely helpful.

The findings showed a rise in GMO alfalfa, increased yield and productivity and a world that’s increasing its investment in the nearly unanimously tested and proven method.

“These are scientists… not in the pocket of big business,” Eenennaam stated. “They come to conclusions based on scientific data, and the consensus is there are no safety concerns.”

Despite exposure to the positive data, the public at-large still holds an anxiety for GMOs. Eenennaam blamed the public disdain for GMOs on groups and organizations that have called for big companies to shy away from GE-fed animals while planting seeds of doubt and misinformation.

She encouraged those in attendance when debating the subject to establish a common ground. “Farmers are very convincing because you have used the technology,” Eenennaam said. “Try asking what are they concerned about so you can understand where their concerns are coming from.”

Eenennaam said that the general public might be led by buzzwords like “Big Ag,” or “Monsanto” to shed GMOs in a negative light, but she stressed that those are two different things.

“(Critics) might say, ‘I don’t like Monsanto.’ Okay, that’s fine, but that’s a discussion about a company… that’s nothing to do with this breeding method that is bringing new traits that might be really valuable to more sustainable agriculture while minimize disease in animals and plants,” she said. “I think most people would agree that’s a good thing: helping the animals; not using antibiotics. That’s a shared value for a lot of people.”

Other seminars during the day covered topics such hay & forage, dairy and international issues. The expo continues until Thursday.