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Linbo Fan / Sun Staff Photographer

October 6, 2016

Scientists Raise Concern Over United States’ Position on GMOs

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Two scientists raised concerns about the United States’ regulation of genetically modified organisms at Anabel Taylor Hall Wednesday.

GMOs have garnered increased attention recently, with the public split over whether they represent a dangerous abuse of science by corporations or a promising way to improve food production.

Jonathan Latham, executive director of The Bioscience Resource Project, said the United States’ official position around GMOs has been “horribly exposed” by recent scientific research and that the tensions “were never resolved.”

“There was obviously a lot of political pressure and economic pressure to just sweep things under the carpet,” he said.

Michael Hansen, a senior scientist for the Consumer’s Union, said he has been working on GMO issues at the state, national and international level for over 30 years. He pointed to past environmental disasters as evidence of the need for stronger regulation of GMOs.

“Most of the environmental movements of the 20th century have basically been people cleaning up disasters after the fact,” Hansen explained. “With pesticides and all these things that were initially considered perfectly safe, we only find out years later that they’re contaminating the environment and causing all these problems. We wanted to make sure that biotechnology was regulated properly.”

Hansen also discussed the United States’ refusal to “play the rules of the game” when it comes to safety standards for its genetically engineered crops.

“There is global agreement on required safety assessments [for food that is derived from genetically modified organisms] and yet the United States does not do them,” he said. “So we are actually on the outside of the global scientific standard.”

Robert Schooler ’18, the event moderator, said he originally intended the event to be a pro-GMO versus anti-GMO debate, but was disappointed when no one he originally reached out to accepted his invitation.

“We tried to get anyone to come out and debate, any scientists from the Alliance for Science to defend their claims that they made in the GMO debate course last semester,” Schooler said. “As far as the scientists and professors in the course that inspired me to write my article and do this project, I got zero responses from any of them.”

The Food Insecurity Roundtable is a weekly lecture series hosted by Anabel’s Grocery. The next lecture is scheduled for Nov. 2, which will feature nutritional biochemist T. Colin Campbell.