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 Excessive, outdated, unscientific, and prohibitively expensive regulatory policies at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)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 email@example.com
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GMO Research aims to prevent spread of banana disease
According to an article in The New Yorker magazine, GMO research aims to prevent the spread of a soil-borne disease, called Tropical Race Four, that threatens to wipe out a widely exported and commonly sold variety of banana called Cavendish. Robert Borsato, a fruit farmer in Australia who, like others, has witnessed the tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage in lost jobs and revenue caused by Tropical Race Four, said, “The only way to keep going is to breed a disease-resistant variety, one with commercial potential.” A team led by James Dale of Queensland University of Technology in Australia is working on genetically modified Cavendish. Read more.
Secretary Vilsack proposes co-existence for biotech alfalfa, Reuters reports
USDA Secretary Vilsack addresses farm groups
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack encouraged the largest U.S. farm group to find a way for traditional and genetically modified crops to co-exist, Reuters reports. “Every farmer ought to be able to do what he or she wants to do on their land, so we are going to continue to have that conversation,” Vilsack said at the annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). His proposed solution addressed the USDA’s deliberation between total deregulation and partial deregulation with isolation standards for biotech alfalfa. The article points out that Secretary Vilsack has acknowledged that the biotech alfalfa is safe. Read more.
Unproven claims against GM products similar to opposition to MMR vaccine, FT says
A Financial Times article compares previous opposition to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and current opposition to GM products to show that opponents’ arguments in both cases are unsubstantiated by peer-reviewed scientific research. Falsified information about the health hazards of MMR was later discredited only after causing considerable damage from a measles epidemic. The article points out that while the food debate raises different issues, independent research and food safety authorities in the EU have similarly reviewed opposing arguments to find, “Organic food does no harm. But then neither, it seems, does non-organic food.” Read More.
This month the European Commission released the results from a ten-year study that examined the environmental, health and social impacts of GMOs. The study finds that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, pose no more health or environmental risks than conventionally bred crops. In addition, the report states that we must not overlook GMOs in our efforts to address the challenges of the 21st century, including a growing population, a changing climate and limited fossil fuel resources.
The publication presents the results of 50 projects, involving more than 400 research groups and representing European Union research grants of 200M Euros (approximately $300 million). The publication builds on a report released by the commission in 2001 that studied the impacts of GMOs for fifteen years.
The European Commission writes in the foreword to the report that “biotechnology is not a purely academic exercise: its findings and developments will lead to applications and products essential to society.” You can read the full report here.
On Tuesday Dr. Pamela Ronald appeared as guest expert on the nationally-syndicated “Dr. Oz Show.” While we were thrilled with the opportunity to present the facts about the safety of GMOs to a large audience, we were disheartened to find the show’s editorial bias overshadowed sound scientific fact. Much of what Pamela said was edited out. Please watch the segment here.
We are pleased that many members of the scientific community, farmers and other ag biotech supporters have chosen to write letters to the producers of “The Dr. Oz Show” expressing their concern with the misinformation presented on the program about GMOs.
Dr. Terry Etherton, Department Head & Distinguished Professor of Animal Nutrition in the Department of Dairy & Animal Science at Pennsylvania State University, wrote the following letter to the producer to express his disappointment and to encourage a future segment on GMOs that presents fact, not fiction.
Please also consider writing a similar letter to the producer (contact information below) to communicate your dissatisfaction with the program’s unscientific representation of GMOs.
Ms. Rosalyn Menon
The Dr. Oz Show
30 Rockefeller Plaza - 43rd floor
New York, NY 10112
As you recall, you had invited me to participate on the Dr. Oz Show to speak about GMOs, and the scientific evidence that supports their efficacy and safety. Because of prior schedule commitments, I was not able to participate.
The purpose of my letter is to comment on the Dr. Oz Show episode that aired December 7, 2010 (Dr. Oz Investigates: Genetically Modified Food). I value the effort made by the show’s producers to educate the audience on this important topic; however, I was stunned at the amount of misinformation that was included in the segment.
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