Special CBI guest blogger, Dr. Wayne Parrott
Professor of Crop Science, University of Georgia
As a scientist I am pleased to hear President Obama stress the importance of innovation and science as drivers of the 21st century economy. However, the agencies his administration oversees are not singing the same tune. Excessive, outdated, unscientific, and prohibitively expensive regulatory policies at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) impede the development and commercialization of technologically advanced genetically modified (GM) foods that could provide benefits ranging from longer shelf life and improved nutrition to using fewer pesticides.
Although 14 years of data supports the health and environmental safety of these crops, overly complex and costly regulatory hurdles are restricting consumer access. The full deregulation of biotech alfalfa was a positive first step, but there needs to be more action to ensure a regulatory system that is efficient and science-based. Such a system could give the same safety level as the current system but at a fraction of the cost.
Therefore, I am pleased to be co-organizing a panel of scientists and policymakers at the 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting. The panel, titled “GM Crop Regulations: Safety Net or Insurmountable Obstacle?” will discuss this important issue and ways to streamline the current regulatory system so that it is guided by scientific principles.
AAAS Annual Meeting
Friday, February 18, 2011: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM
147A (Washington Convention Center)
Genetic modification (GM) of fruits, vegetables and other small-market crops offers opportunities for many significant improvements, including enhanced nutrition, safety (e.g., elimination of toxins and allergens), taste, and shelf life and the ability to be grown with less pesticides – yet none of these are available to consumers. Why? It is not because there are reasonable doubts about the safety of transgenic crop plants. After 15 years of widespread use around the world, there are no credible reports of injury to health or to the environment from genetically engineered crops or foods.
This symposium will address the two prime reasons why fresh market and specialty GM foodstuffs are not on grocers’ shelves. First, the regulatory system in place is not sufficiently science-based and is too costly to be justified for small-market crops. Two speakers will discuss success in bringing safe and highly productive transgenic crops to farmers, whereas others will highlight research presently under way to provide fruits, vegetables, and other foods that benefit consumers by being more environmentally friendly, healthier, and more enjoyable to eat.
Finally, the obstacles to commercialization of such foods under the present array of complex and costly regulatory hurdles at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be presented, along with suggestions for using scientific principles to streamline current regulatory systems while providing ample assurances to consumers regarding the safety of new GM foods.
Donald P. Weeks, University of Nebraska
Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia
and Alan McHughen, University of California
Nina Fedoroff, Pennsylvania State University
Roger Beachy, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Drew L. Kershen, University of Oklahoma
Hector Quemada, The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Alan McHughen, University of California
Elizabeth A. Grabau, Virginia Tech, Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science;Ralph Scorza, USDA-ARS-AFRS