Genetically modified (GM) foods have been around for decades. Created by modifying the DNA of one organism through the introduction of genes from another, they are developed for a number of different reasons—to fight disease, enhance flavor, resist pests, improve nutrition, survive drought—and are mainly found in our food supply in processed foods using corn, soybeans, and sugar beets, and as feed for farm animals. Across the country and around the world, communities are fighting the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. Are they safe? How do they impact the environment? Can they improve food security? Is the world better off with or without GM food? Arguing for the motion is Robert Fraley, executive VP and chief technology officer at Monsanto with Alison Van Eenennaam, genomics and biotechnology researcher at UC Davis. Arguing against the motion is Charles Benbrook, research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources with Margaret Mellon, science policy consultant and former senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. John Donvan moderates. This conversation was taped on December 3, 2014.
· GM crops have been safely in our food system for nearly 20 years. There are currently no known harms or risks to human health.
· GM crops benefit farmers and the environment by increasing crop yields, reducing the use of pesticides, and reducing the need for tillage.
· Food security will be improved through the development of crops that can fight disease, resist pests, improve nutrition, and survive drought.
· The current regulatory system does not adequately assess the safety of GM crops and we cannot be sure of what the long-term effects of consumption will be.
· The environmental threats include the possibility of cross-breeding with other plants, harm to non-target organisms, and decreased biodiversity.
· The world already grows enough food to feed everyone, but it doesn't get to the people that are hungry. Genetic engineering moves focus away from public policy solution.