Do Genetically Engineered Foods Really Need to Be Regulated Less?

Nina Federoff, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and professor at Penn State University penned an opinion piece in the New York Times recently, asking for less regulation of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Professor Federoff would like to see more grant money available for research and more scientists working on the development of GE foods, but she states in her article that the regulatory bars of the EPA, USDA, and FDA are set too high and are stifling scientists from making innovations.

Ignoring the rest of her argument that GE seeds dramatically improve crop yields (they don’t and in fact agricecological farming methods are not only better for the environment but better for yields), reduce the use of chemicals (they don’t; pesticide use has increased since the introduction of GE crops in the U.S.), improve the lives of farmers (not in India or the U.S.), and have not been shown to cause harm to the environment (she forgot about the development of superweeds, pollution of waters, and harm to soil), let’s focus on her idea that regulations are too complicated and stringent. As you will see, this is simply not the case. In fact, regulations may be too lax, as they allow corporations driven by profit, not protecting public health, to drive the research (or lack thereof) to demonstrate safety, and, as well explained in many of the above articles, the U.S. experience with GM crops has indeed led to environmental problems. Read More >

Roundup-Resistant Weeds Threaten U.S. Food Security

Roundup-resistant weeds are a rapidly emerging threat that puts U.S. agriculture in a terribly precarious position. The threat has evolved from farmers’ heavy use of the herbicide glyphosate, (aka Roundup, a Monsanto product) to control weeds, and farmers’ simultaneous reliance on crop varieties (also Monsanto products) that are genetically modified to resist Roundup. Despite a New York Times  article last year, this topic has received far less attention than it deserves, as the potential for Roundup-resistant weeds to raise food prices and threaten U.S. food security is severe.

The latest issue of peer-reviewed Weed Science contains a number of articles on the rising threat of herbicide-resistant weeds, with 21 weeds now confirmed as resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup, as reported by Fast Company. An article by University of Georgia scientists reported that Palmer Amaranth, a problematic weed found in cotton, corn, and soybean crops, which can impede harvesting, is now resistant to Roundup as well as another herbicide.   Read More >

Is the UK Abandoning the Precautionary Principle on Genetically Modified (GM) Crops?

The latest posting by FoodforeThought summarizes recent debate in the United Kingdom about the role of genetically modified (GM) crops in planning for future food security. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) report, Food 2030 was released at the Oxford Farming Conference. The comments below by William Surman captured the mood of sustainable agriculture supporters, a group critical of industrial agriculture in the U.K. who held a concurrent meeting called the Oxford Real Farming Conference:

“The government is ‘dangerously deluded’ if it believes genetically modified crops will solve the world’s food security issues,” members of the breakaway Oxford Real Farming Conference warned. Professor John Beddington, the Government’s chief scientist, told the Prime Minister on Wednesday, January 8, that genetic technology would help deliver ‘a new and greener food revolution’ for Britain.

But Colin Tudge, a science writer and organiser of the rival farm conference, which took place alongside the Oxford Farming Conference, said farmers did not need ‘novel and untried’ technology. Instead he said the Government must ‘free farmers from the shackles of economic dogma’. Read More >