2010 ISAAA report shows benefits of GE crops for farmers worldwide
A USA Today article citing the 2010 ISAAA report on the global status of biotech crops points out that biotech crops “have been enthusiastically embraced by farmers in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and China.” Higher yields from biotech varieties will help to feed a growing world population faced with the shrinking availability of land. Dr. Peggy Lemaux, at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (and a CBI expert!), discusses the need for humanitarian assistance in order to ensure that the benefits of genetic engineering reach the world’s poorest farmers.
Dr. Lemaux says, “because of the expenses involved, creating engineered crops for developing countries requires humanitarian contributions by philanthropists like (Bill) Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation or perhaps by companies who see value in such endeavors.” Read more.
Forbes blog: Dr. Henry Miller responds to myths about GE crops
In a Forbes article, Dr. Henry Miller, author of The Frankenfood Myth and former founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA, criticizes the New York Times for propagating myths about genetically engineered crops instead of recognizing the worldwide success of the technology. Dr. Miller points out that arguments against the safety and benefits of GE crops fail to explain their widespread adoption. “Higher productivity, lower costs for inputs (including chemical pesticides), economic gains to farmers and environment-friendly agronomic practices have made it the most rapidly adopted agricultural technology in history.”
As was discussed at a recent AAAS panel on GMO crop regulations, Dr. Miller also questions the logic of regulations on genetically engineered crops, “Although they boast significant benefits and an unblemished record of safety, genetically engineered crops are subject to excessive, hugely expensive regulation in every country of the world that grows them.” Read more.
Leading scientists, researchers and policymakers will gather for an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) panel discussion on the safety of genetically engineered crops and obstacles to their commercialization. The panel will take place on Friday, February 18th from 1:30-4:30 p.m. EST at the AAAS meeting in Washington DC.
Panelists include Dr. Nina Fedoroff, a leading geneticist and former Science and Technology Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State (and former guest blogger!). Dr. Fedoroff is currently a professor at Penn State and the new president of AAAS. The panel will also feature Dr. Roger Beachy, a world-renowned plant scientist and Director of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the USDA.
CBI Expert Dr. Wayne Parrott of the University of Georgia and co-organizer of the panel, wrote this blog to discuss his views on a science-based regulatory system.
Follow CBI on Twitter as we will be live-tweeting the panel @agbiotech. For more information and a full panel description, visit the AAAS website.
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.
For more information, please click here or email Ariel Gruswitz at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dr. Pamela Ronald with her best-selling book "Tomorrow's Table"
CBI Expert Dr. Pamela Ronald, Professor of Plant Pathology at Univ. of California- Davis, along with James McWilliams, fellow in the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University, penned an op-ed in the New York Times that discusses a National Research Council (NRC) report about biotech crops that was recently released. The scientists write that many people who reported on the study overlooked or dismissed the findings in the report that acknowledge genetic engineering’s (GE) positive contributions to society and the opportunity for GE crops to help farmers in the developing world achieve greater yields despite difficult growing conditions.
Dr. Ronald and Dr. McWilliams write,
Lost in the din is the potential role this technology could play in the poorest regions of the world - areas that will bear the brunt of climate change and the difficult growing conditions it will bring. Indeed, buried deep in the council’s report is an appeal to apply genetic engineering to a greater number of crops, and for a greater diversity of purposes.
What do you think of the argument Ronald and McWilliams put forth in this New York Times op-ed? Do you agree that opponents to the technology have hindered the advancement of crops that can save lives and access to this technology for those who need help most?