Betsie Estes, Roxi Beck and Charlie Arnot at BIO 2013
CHICAGO- If business wants to communicate effectively with consumers, it must be sensitive to their values and their language, according to Charlie Arnot of the Center for Food Integrity (CFI).
Speaking at the recent BIO 2013 International Convention, Arnot said business shouldn’t waste time arguing with consumers over terminology, such as whether “genetic engineering” is a better term than “genetic modification.”
“‘GM’ has become the cultural nomenclature for this issue,” he said, “and we have to say that to be in the debate. The conversation is about food safety. It is not about language.”
“Don’t debate the language. If we debate the language, we are missing the point,” he said. Arnot said his observations are based on extensive research with consumers and on a peer-reviewed research model.
Appearing with Betsie Estes and Roxie Beck of BestFoodFacts.org, Arnot said that food safety is the key issue for consumers.
“Food safety trumps everything else. If we can’t pass the food safety threshold, we can’t do anything else.”
Arnot urged companies and industries to be open to public concerns and to proactive “authentic transparency - the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
“Authentic transparency reduces fear of the unknown,” he said.
There is widespread agreement among scientists that genetically modified plants are not only safe, but also better for the environment than using conventional farming methods, Los Angeles Times reports.
According to The National Academies’ in-depth analysis of hundreds of peer-reviewed articles, “About 90% of the corn, soy and cotton now grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, and that has led to less use of pesticides, more targeted insect control, a shift to fewer toxic chemicals and less soil erosion compared with conventional farms,” Los Angeles Times said.
Considering the abundant scientific evidence supporting the benefits of biotech crops and their safety, scientists interviewed by Los Angeles Times said the Proposition 37 initiative to label foods with genetically modified ingredients wouldn’t be helpful to consumers.
In the article, Dr. Pamela Ronald, a UC Davis plant geneticist and the wife of an organic farmer, said of the labels, “It has no meaning, whether it’s [genetically modified] or not.” Read more.
A bizarre study by French researchers claiming ill effects on laboratory rats fed genetically modified corn and given water spiked with herbicide has been rejected by American scientists who questioned the motives and methods of the authors.
“This study appears to be without scientific merit,” said Dr. Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the International Biotechnology Program at the University of California/Davis. “The problem here appears to be with the experimental design,” she said. “Whether it was deliberately devised to attain the desired outcome remains to be seen.”
“This is not an innocent scientific publication,” Dr. Bruce M. Chassy, professor emeritus of food science at the University of Illinois, said. “It is a well-planned and cleverly orchestrated media event. The study was designed to produce exactly what was observed and it was deliberately allowed to continue until grotesque and fear-evoking tumors developed. The way the study was conducted, including the treatment of the animals, especially those who developed tumors as these rats are known to do, raises serious ethical concerns and profound questions of possible scientific misconduct.” READ MORE »
Brigham Young University professor says biotech crops have a long history of success
In the The Daily Herald, Professor of Biology at Brigham Young University Duane Jeffrey says that genetic modification has been around for a long time and many of the concerns about biotech crops have not been verified by facts. The article points out, “This process has been going on for millennia. Indeed, the only common crop I can think of that may not have been so modified is the pine nut.” Over the past 15 years since biotech crops were first planted, the number of hectares of biotech crops has expanded 87 times. “By now, the major concerns, both those with some basis in science and some without, have hugely been laid to rest, and it is time to get on with reality.“ Read more.
Forbes blog: nutrition benefits of GM food could help fight obesity
According to a Forbes blog, policy makers committed to fighting obesity should deregulate genetically modified foods because they provide health and economic benefits. Dr. Henry Miller, founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA and current fellow at the Hoover Institution, says, “The adoption of scientifically sound, risk-based regulation of biotechnology by USDA and EPA could transform the current trickle of commercial products into a torrent. The result would be the founding of new companies; new products; and the creation of jobs and new wealth - as well as lower prices and greater availability of healthful fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more.
USDA Sec. Vilsack calls for recognition of farmers on National Ag Day
According to the Morris Sun Tribune, USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack recognized the valuable contributions of farmers and ranchers on National Ag Day. “Agriculture touches everyone’s life in one way or another, yet our farmers and ranchers can often be overlooked for the important work they do, and we should all take time during this day to thank producers for a job well done,” Vilsack said. Read more.
Here are a few stories that caught our eye this week. From Arkansas to Brussels, policymakers across the globe are considering the benefits of genetically modified (GM) food, and an international consortium continues its work to improve rice crop yields. Read more below.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Court decisions curbing sale of genetically modified foods counter ’science-based regulatory decisions’
Court decisions setting back the sale of genetically modified foods do not comply with sound science, according to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). The Hill reports that the senators sent a letter to USDA Sec.Tom Vilsack last month, arguing that such court decisions may “thrust the U.S. regulatory system for agriculture biotechnology into a non-functioning regulatory system.” READ MORE »