Dr. Nina Federoff, attorney William McConagha, and Dr. James Murray at RFF panel.
When it comes to agricultural biotechnology, “most of what people believe is the exact opposite of the truth,” according to Dr. Nina Federoff, board chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Thirty years of research and the planting of biotech crops around the world show that there is “no evidence that modifying plants by molecular technology has any dangerous effects associated with it.”
Dr. Federoff spoke Tuesday at a panel discussion at Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C. She decried the ongoing campaign against genetically modified crops by various activists and said the major traits, such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance, are “pretty innocuous” and have no effect on humans.
Rather than harming the environment, biotech can be beneficial, she said, noting that no-till farming preserves soil quality and that the reduction in insecticide spraying means there are more insects and great biodiversity in the fields.
Dr. James Murray, professor of animal science at the University of California at Davis, said genetic modification in food animals has been “overregulated to death.”
“GE livestock, poultry and fish will be necessary to feed the world in the future,” he said. “The greatest risk is that they will not be used. What benefits will we forgo for the hypothetical risks?”
The Board of Directors of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued official statement this week, declaring that efforts to label GMOs are not motivated by scientific evidence, stating that in fact “the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”
The statement refers to the numerous respected organizations that have conducted rigorous scientific inquiries into the safety of ag biotech and found the technology to be safe, such as the European Union Food Safety Authority, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Science and the British Royal society. The Board, which is composed of Nina V. Fedoroff, William Press, Phillip A. Sharp, David Evans Shaw and Alan Leshner, points out that because biotech crops are closely scrutinized while undergoing the United States’ regulatory approval process, “GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply.”
“It is the long-standing policy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that special labeling of a food is required if the absence of the information provided poses a special health or environmental risk. The FDA does not require labeling of a food based on the specific genetic modification procedure used in the development of its input crops. Legally mandating such a label can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers,” the statement concludes. Read more.