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A14 | News | Orlando Sentinel Friday, May 9, 2014

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The hazardof participatinginanopinionforumona scientific topic
is that science isnt forgedfromopinion. Twojuxtaposedviewpoints in
the Sentinel provide the illusionthat they are equally meritorious sides
of the same issue. As typical witha scientific topic linkedtoa public
controversy, one perspective is basedonsignificant evidence andthe
other is emotional, withlittle scientific base.
As a socially andenvironmentally conscious public scientist, Ive
always beenexcitedby transgenic croptechnology familiarly, GMO
yet I have beenskeptical of claims andcautious of implementation.
Ive never hadinterest inthe companies that commercialize biotech
seeds, andnever receivedany compensationor fundingfromthem. Yet
after 30years of studyingthe topic, I see evidence that GMObenefits
far outweighlimitations.
GMOs andGMO-containingfoodare not debatedinscholarly
conferences andare not a point of contentionamongscientists work-
inginmedicine or modernplant biology. Instead, any debates are a
social phenomenon, fueledby activist fears, conspiratorial thinking,
emotion, low-quality science, natural marketinggimmicks, and
strongfeelings about BigAg. It is
anemotional andvisceral dis-
cussion, because it is about food,
meaning, andthose withanagenda
exploit that. However, whenwe
disengage fromemotionandstudy
the science, we see that there really
is nothingtofear.
Biotechcritics say that the tech-
nology does not work. They will tell
youthat all government andaca-
demic scientists are paidstooges for
corporations, that there is noinde-
pendent research, regulationor
testingwithgenetically modified
products. They say farmers are
dimwits, andcorporations are
reapingprofits by killingeveryone
withpoisonproducts. They will tell
youthat GMOs cause autism, al-
lergies, obesity and30other dis-
The critics claims dont matchthe facts. Farmers freely choose
biotechseedbecause they ensure yields, reduce costs anddecrease
inputs like insecticides. Hundreds of independent researchreports
shownoevidence of harm. Today, 70percent of foodonstore shelves
contains at least one ingredient froma GMOplant. The technology
alsobrings us renewable fuels andfibers withlower environmental
impact. Intrillions of meals consumed, there has not beena single
confirmedincident withgeneticallymodifiedfoodlinkedtoa health
problem. The safety recordis amazing, andreinforcedby our best
scientific organizations, includingthe AmericanMedical Association,
the National Academies of Science andthe AmericanAssociationfor
the Advancement of Science.
Here inFlorida, these technologies couldpotentially stopcitrus
greeningandother cropdiseases. Aroundthe world, the poorest could
benefit fromimprovedvarieties andnutrition. Sadly, suchinnovationis
beingstymiedby manufacturedperils. Technologies withtremendous
potential benefits are frozenbecause of a vigorous anti-scientific mis-
The questionis not whether these technologies are safe or whether
they shouldbe bannedor restricted. Instead, here is what we should
be discussing:
Will we allowprofitingauthors, celebrity chefs andeco-terrorists to
arrest the pace of scientific progress? Shouldprivilegedfoodactivists
dictate what seeds farmers may growandwhat technologies may
reachthe poor? Will we tolerate smear campaigns against reason,
science andscientists, like those wagedagainst those that advocate for
climate science, evolutionor vaccines? Is it ethical for fearmongers to
lie toconcernedparents about food, especially mothers withlimited
means? Will we allowa cadre of the Internets self-appointedexperts
tocoerce politicians intoclunky andunnecessary regulation?
These are the real questions inthe GMOdebate.
KevinM. Foltais anassociate professor andchairmanof the
Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida.
By Kevin M. Folta | Guest columnist
Despite GMO benefits,
hysteria checks progress
Will we
against reason, sci-
ence and scientists,
like those waged
against ... climate
science, evolution
or vaccines?
Theuseof geneticallyengineeredcrops has greatlyincreasedin
frequencyover thepast several years. Biotechnologygiants likeMon-
santoandDuPont havequicklygainedadominant shareof themarket
bysupplyingfarmers withgeneticallyengineeredsoybean, corn, cotton
andother seeds.
So, whats theproblemwiththis rapidaccelerationof genetically
AccordingtotheU.S. Department of Agriculture, better than90
percent of thetopU.S. crops suchas corn, cottonandsoybeans are
geneticallyengineered. Thats amajor jumpsincetheturnof thedec-
ade. Withthat, comes theconcomitant riseof pesticideandherbicide
useintheUnitedStates. Conventional pesticides andherbicides used
onfarms morethandoubledfrom400millionpounds inthemid-1960s
to850millionpounds in1980. Agricultural pesticideusejumpedagain
in1994up11percent fromtheprevious year.
This escalationposes apotentiallyharmful impact onour healthand
local ecosystems duetothefact that most GMcrops alreadyareengi-
neeredtoproducetheir ownpesticides.
Geneticallymodifiedcrops also
areresistant tochemicals, which
includeRoundup. This allows farm-
ers tokill weeds withthis chemical,
glyphosate, without harmingtheir
crops. Theabilityof theplant tobe
unaffectedbychemicals has re-
sultedintheincreaseduseof gly-
Somestudies suggest thein-
creaseduseof glyphosate, patented
byMonsantoin1970, maybelinked
toanumber of healthproblems and
diseases, includingParkinsons
disease, infertilityandcancers.
However, longitudinal researchon
thetopicis lacking.
Themainpoint hereis that we
areunawareof theimpact of these
chemicals onour bodies, whichare
of toxicchemicals existinginthe
humanbodyat agiventime) as theyentrenchandblanket our environ-
Theamount of herbicides andpesticides usedonfarms for agricul-
tural purposes will onlyincreasewiththecurrent stateof political af-
fairs. Most commoditycrops arenot eatenas-is, but aremadeinto
additives likehigh-fructosecornsyrupor hydrogenatedoils that gointo
thewidearrayof junkfoods present ongrocery-storeshelves across
America. Corn, soy, wheat, riceandcottonaresomeof themost heavily
subsidizedcommoditycrops turnedintoartificial syrups andsweeten-
So, not onlyarewesubsidizingjunkfood, but alsothemajorityof
crops arebecomingGMOs of whichweareunsureof thebiological
andecological consequences.
Sinceit is clear that legislativereformis slowincomingregardingBig
Agribusiness, FloridaPIRG, astatewideadvocacyorganization, has
grocery-storechains tolabel GMOs. Doingsowill set thestagefor
broader enforcement of thesepolicies inthefuture, throughregulation.
It is theconsumers right toknowwhat our foodcontains. Sincelate
2013, Chinahas rejectedshipments of Americancorn. Thereason:
Chinadoesnt endorsegeneticmodifications tofoodproducts.
TheWall Street Journal recentlyreportedrejectionof GMfoods by
foreignnations has sofar cost graincompanies $427millioninsales.
Polls consistentlyshowmorethan90percent of thepublicsupports
labelingintheUnitedStates, andnowAmericancompanies arelosing
business toother nations that haveoutlawedGMOconsumption. Its
just smart business sensefor companies togivetheir customers what
I wouldsaylet us havesomeaccountabilityinour foodandhave
proper testingconductedof thefoodweareconsuming, andthedam-
ageweareaccountablefor intheenvironment.
DalynHouser is aprogramassociate withFloridaPublic Interest
By Dalyn Houser | Guest columnist
Americans deserve to know
when theres more on menu
We are
of the im-
pact of
chemicals ... which
are being increas-
ingly added to our
body burden as
they ... blanket our
Pull a product off the grocers
shelf and, more thanlikely, what
youve reachedfor will contain
among its ingredients genetically
modifiedorganisms, or GMOs.
Andtheir (unannounced) pres-
ence insome 80percent of proc-
essedfoods andother products
has heatedupcontroversy.
Agenetically modifiedfoodhas
hadlab-replicatedgenes from
other plants, animals andeven
viruses addedtoit togive it new
characteristics, according to
Healthconcerns have prompt-
edsome 30countries tobanor
limit genetically modifiedcrops.
Eventhoughthe WorldHealth
Organization, in2005, opinedthat
genetically modifiedfoods are
not likely, nor have beenshown, to
present risks for humanhealth.
Similarly, in1992, the FDA
declaredthere was nomaterial
difference betweenGMOs and
Scientists, like one of todays
columnists, insist the technology
not only is safe, but alsocanboost
cropyields andpotentially end
destructive plagues suchas citrus
Detractors, like todays other
columnist, however, viewGMOs
as the scariest three-letter abbre-
viationnot spelledIRS. They insist
GMOs couldpotentially harm
ecosystems andspawncancers
andother maladies. Most of all,
she, like better than90percent of
Americans ina recent Thomson
Reuters poll, feels consumers
deserve toknowthroughlabeling
whats inthe foodthey eat.
Genetically modified foods: Safe?
Darryl E. Owens
Editorial Writer
By the numbers
More than 90 perecnt of corn,
soybeans, and cotton are now
genetically modified.
Between 60 percent and 70
percent of processed foods on
U.S. grocery-store shelves
contains genetically modified
More than 90 percent of
Americans believe GMO foods
should be labeled, according to a
2010 Thomson Reuters poll.
Todays moderator