KATHRYN BOOR: I'd like to start with just a few words about our College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. And in this image here, you see right in the center-- for those of you on the satellite screen-- right in the center the word "sustainability." And now this is a word that is used so frequently that I imagine its meaning may be somewhat vague.
And then I point out the four sectors that are around the edges of Food and Energy Systems, Environmental Sciences, Life Sciences, Economic and Community Vitality. These are the four priority areas in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.
But back to that word about sustainability. What do we mean when we use the word "sustainability"? We mean we have hope, hope for the future, hope that is supported by our goals of developing and implementing sound strategies for effective food and energy systems that are consistent with protecting the environment and that provide economic and community vitality to improve life for the citizens of New York State, the US, and the world.
Now, the statement up at the top, "Knowledge with a public purpose," reflects our mission of ensuring that our research, our teaching, and our outreach are relevant to daily life.
Now, we're here today, as [? Sil ?] said, specifically to discuss concerns regarding genetically modified organisms, or otherwise referred to as GMOs. And I'm joined here today, [? as Sil ?] also said, by Dr. Margaret Smith, who will provide the scientific details this afternoon on this topic.
But first, I'd like to describe very briefly global food system concerns that make this conversation that we are having this afternoon on GMOs resonate not only throughout the entire United States, but also in India and in Africa and other points around the globe.
Now, from many different perspectives and different sources we've heard the prediction that world food demand is likely to double by the year 2050. The projected increased demand for food reflects two different and distinct elements. One is the projected increase in the global population from its current 7 billion to about 9 billion. Now, most of this increase is projected to occur in developing countries.
But perhaps more importantly, in terms of the conversation that we're having today is the projected increase in household incomes that we are anticipating, particularly in developing countries. Now, typically, we see as family incomes increase above subsistence levels, families typically begin to purchase what they perceive to be better, healthier food for their children. That's typically a top priority for families around the globe. And very often, this means an uptick in purchasing meat and milk for their children.
So on this slide you can see that the World Bank expects that the number of families in developing countries with incomes that are greater than our equivalent of about $16,000 a year from the year 2000, where they were at about 352 million, are projected to be about 2.1 billion by the year 2030.
And above $16,000, that's about when people can start making purchases of more expensive food substances. And so you can see that this huge shift in family incomes is likely to have a very dramatic impact on food purchasing patterns around the world.
So what will it mean to our planet to strive to provide food to meet the needs of the population's growing purchasing power? We will need to provide fuel and healthy and safe food and water for our global population while still protecting the environment. Now, agriculture is right at the heart of these concerns that I outlined here with tremendous potential to make things worse or to help try to resolve some of these emerging issues.
So now if we take a look at agriculture in the global context, we have had tremendous strides in agriculture, particularly since the 1940s to 1970s, the first Green Revolution, a period of time when we made tremendous investments in agricultural research in certain parts of the world.
So some of the gains that we have seen within this period of time today-- about 6 billion people on our planet have adequate calories. And that's up from about 2 billion people who had adequate calories 50 years ago. So you can see that huge increase in the number of calories that we're producing in our food system that's happened over this 50-year period. And you could argue maybe we've done a little too well in producing calories, in fact, in certain parts of the globe.
And so also in some parts of the world from 1940s to 1970s, investments in agricultural research resulted in huge gains in productivity that have produced for us, particularly in the United States, very inexpensive food. So now cheap calories, lots of calories, cheap calories.
And in these same regions, in many cases our producers, our food producers, have become very efficient. And so these efficiencies and these low food costs support our ability, for example, to live in New York City, where we don't have to think every single day how we're going to grow the food that we are going to feed our families.
Now, right now about 40% of our world's employment around the globe, they're working in agriculture. Now, that contrasts with well less than 2% here in the United States. So you get a sense of that contrast. But if we look at the bottom billion in terms of those who are closest to subsistence-level incomes, 70% of that bottom billion are working in agriculture. And that is, as I mentioned, essentially at the subsistence level.
Now, when we think about agriculture, we have extremely high expectations, much higher for agriculture than, I think, just about any livelihood that I can think of in terms of what we expect agriculture to provide for us. We expect agriculture to provide safe, abundant, and affordable animal feed, human food, fuel, and fiber for our global population. We expect agriculture to provide financial sustainability for those who are growing that food.
We expect agriculture to protect natural resources and the environment. We also expect it to contribute to our quality of life by protecting open green space and the lovely areas in the part of the world where we can drive through and enjoy having some green space. But we also expect agriculture to contribute to the well-being of the farm families, of the farm workers, and of the entire world community.
And so in summary, we must move forward with strategies that balance multiple priorities of feeding a growing population in the context of increasingly-limited natural resources while enabling sustainable economic development, so watching the rising income levels of populations around the globe, and while addressing our growing need for energy in the context of a changing climate. These are tall orders.
And so now I'd like to turn our attention to the reason that we're gathered here today. We'll now hear from Dr. Margaret Smith, who, as so mentioned, is a professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University. Dr. Smith develops sweet corn varieties that are appropriate for our climate here in New York State.
And in recent years, she's done considerable work in developing specific varieties that are suited for organic farming operations. And she'll now focus our attention on really the broader issues that are focused on GMOs in our food supply. So please join me in welcoming Professor Smith.
KATHRYN BOOR: [INAUDIBLE].
MARGARET SMITH: I hope so. OK.
SPEAKER: Just so everybody knows, I have copies of the slide presentations. So if anyone needs those, I can email them to you. Just let me know.
MARGARET SMITH: Right there. OK. Now that I've dominated technology, I'm good. Thank you very much, Dean Boor, for the introductory comments. Whenever I listen to that outline of what's expected from agriculture, it tends to create a giant pit in my stomach. As a corn breeder, mostly field corn, a little sweet corn, and some other things, I feel a tremendous responsibility to try and contribute to that, and it's a daunting task.
So what I'll talk about today is biotechnology, genetic engineering, and agriculture. I keep a little collection of cartoons. This is one of my favorites-- the "genetically engineered apple-flavored bananas and the genetically engineered banana-flavored apples." None of these exist, but it's an amusing concept. And I think it speaks to the fact that we sometimes do things because we're able to, not necessarily because they're needed.
So I'm going to do a quick talk on these topics, a brief overview of genetic engineering-- why the controversy-- some of the questions and concerns. And embedded in that, I want to especially call your attention to some comments I'll make on food safety and labeling because it's a very timely topic these days.
Feel free to interrupt me, otherwise I will just yack along. I will run through a lot of the general overview and background pretty quickly because I think most of you are quite familiar with this technology. I speak to a lot of audiences who are less familiar, but I don't think that's this audience.
So with that, genetic engineering. This is a subset of biotechnology. We've been doing biological things with technical processes for a long time. We've used yeast in brewing beer. We've used fungi in making cheese-- biological organisms into technological processes.
Biotechnology, with the advent of genetic engineering we've taken a new step. And this is a way to alter the properties of an organism either by moving genes between organisms or modifying a gene that already exists in an organism. And that can include several things. It can include turning genes on or off.
As you all know, every cell in your body has every gene needed to do whatever your body needs it to do. You certainly don't want them all expressed in every cell. Those ones that make fingernails don't work well when they express on your face. So we don't want all genes expressed at all times. There's regulation. That can be altered.
Correcting a defective gene. This shows up very prominently in the news from time to time when people make attempts at human gene therapy. Those are attempts to correct what's perceived as a defective gene. And this category on the bottom-- let me move this chair so it's not in the way-- moving a gene to a different host, which is where our genetically engineered agricultural crops fit in.
I'll take a moment to talk about genetic material. The DNA, as you know, is the genetic material. It carries all of the instructions to make an organism, both the products, the structural products, as well as the regulation of when and where in the development of that organism they are produced. And all that's done in what amounts to an alphabet of four letters-- the nucleotide base pairs that form the basis of this DNA helix.
So step back for a moment and shed all your cynicism and reflect on something that's truly marvelous about the natural world. Here you have a molecule that fits inside a cell that has an alphabet with only four letters that provides all the instructions for how to make an organism grow, thrive, reproduce.
And that alphabet is universal. The same alphabet works for an amoeba, or an oak tree, or an elephant, or a human, or a bird. It's a universal four-letter language that fits inside a cell for something which if I asked you, even fantastic writers that you are, to write out longhand, you don't even have all the information to do it. And it would take encyclopedias to explain how you might create and make, reproduce, something as simple as a yeast cell.
So this is a phenomenal thing, this universal alphabet in this one molecule. This universality is exactly what allows genetic engineering to work. So when you take a little sequence of A, T, G's, and C's, those base pairs that are basis of this molecule, you take it from a bacterium, and you put it in a soybean plant.
As the machinery of the cell reads along the DNA of the soybean plant, it doesn't come to a point and suddenly say, oops, here's some sequence from a bacteria. It reads right on through it as if it had been there all the time. In the same way that as you cut and paste the letters in and out of words, in and out of your documents, the next editor who reads it doesn't say, oh, OK, they copied in the boring statement in here out of something else. It reads as if had been there all the time. This is why genetic engineering works.
I want to talk for a moment about genetic modification, GMOs. It's a term we use a lot, and I think it adds to the confusion. So let's think for a moment about what genetic modification means. I would argue that that's a process that dates back to domestication.
This is the organism I work with, field corn mostly, sweet corn. This is its wild ancestor, teosinte. And inside each of these little branches of that head are 10 completely-indigestible seeds. Some early agriculturalist had the idea that this would be a good food plant. And over the process of selecting for natural variants in this species, mistakes in copying the DNA, which happen, in fact, all the time, we ended up with something that looked like corn. Process of genetic modification?
From that, different cultures in different places selected variants that fit their needs. Different people in different places selected all these Brassica crops from exactly the same ancestral plant. Somewhere, some early agriculturalist had the bright idea that the minuscule lateral buds on this plant would be the right food to eat, and they selected for a type that had larger and larger lateral buds. And he ultimately ended up with Brussels sprouts.
I don't know who thought that was the right thing to eat. It's an amazing thing. But one species gave rise to all of these what we consider completely different vegetables. Process of genetic modification? Sure, by accumulation of accidental mutations, accidents in copying the DNA, that happen to be beneficial to the farmers using those crops.
Certainly we do a lot of cross breeding, crossing one thing with another. I do this in my program to create new combinations of corn crossed with corn that could give us more useful traits. And certainly also varieties developed through genetic engineering is another type of genetic modification.
But I go through this to point out to you that genetically modifying our crops is an extremely profound, long-term process we have been engaged in as a human species. And it dates back to the dawn of agriculture, where we started with this teosinte, which I couldn't make small enough to really be in scale with the corn or you wouldn't have been able to see it, and ended up with corn.
Is genetic engineering different? Sure. It's a different way to do that. It's a technique that's much more recent. But it's overlaying on this very profound history of genetically altering our crops. When we call something a GMO, it suggests that it was natural, and now we've modified it.
In fact, if what we were eating were things that were natural instead of profoundly altered, for lunch we'd be having things that look like this-- some teosinte seeds, which you can't digest unless you grind them, some wild mustard, nothing much nutritious there, a few wild grapes, and some little seeds off a grass that are pretty much invisible. So had we not genetically altered our crops for a long time, these are the kinds of foods we'd be eating now instead of that delicious stuff that's on your plate.
So I find "genetically modified organisms" kind of a distracting term. It leaves many people in many audiences I speak to have the notion that our crops are these very natural things that, all of a sudden, someone has tinkered with them. That could not be further from the case. And I think it doesn't help people's understanding of what actually is different about genetic engineering.
So why is this controversial? When it first came out, a lot of the plant breeders and others said, genetic engineering? Oh, just "a logical extension of what plant breeders have always done." But most people have no idea that anybody has been doing anything. So that didn't really help.
And when a survey was done of the general public and asked this question-- have you ever eaten a fruit or vegetable that is a product of traditional cross breeding-- and explained what the words "traditional cross breeding" meant, 61% of the people in this country said no and another 11% said they were not sure. This was in 2001, so it's been a few years ago now. I would be surprised if these numbers have changed dramatically.
So the fact is that 2/3 of the people in the country don't think that anybody has done any breeding on their crops, fruits and vegetables, they eat. And another 10% above that aren't so sure. And in fact, unless those people have been gathering wild blueberries or wild strawberries or wild grapes, they have probably eaten nothing but crops that were modified through traditional cross breeding.
So I think we find this technology has become controversial because of the notion that our crops are so natural and suddenly someone's tinkering with them. And also because the products that are out there now don't really offer much of a clear benefit to consumers. They offer some advantages to producers, but not consumers necessarily, not direct enough. And some people did have issues and concerns about them.
So what's out there now? Examples of genetic engineering-- oops, those both came up at the same time-- the three main types-- insect-resistant crops, which have a gene from a naturally-occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. It's been used as an organic insecticide for many years. The gene for the toxin was extracted from that and put into crops like corn and cotton to help control insects.
Crops resistant to herbicides. There are many of these and more and more of them coming down the pipeline. The most common are glyphosate-resistant, or Roundup Ready. There are also a few other herbicides for which genetically engineered versions of resistance exist. And lastly, some virus-resistant crops. This is a virus-resistant papaya, and there are also some squashes that are virus-resistant.
This is pretty much it in terms of what's commercialized in the country right now or in the world right now-- Bt crops, herbicide-resistant crops, and a little bit of virus-resistant crops.
So with that as background, I want to turn now to some of the things that are questions and concerns for people, and I'll say a few words about each of these. They'll each be brief. We can do more in a conversation. Extent of use, environmental impact, food safety and allergens, right-to-know in labeling, consolidation in the agricultural industry. And then I'll just close with a comment of belief systems, but I won't say much more about it than that.
So a couple quick graphs. This is from an organization called ISAAA. You can find a lot more data about globally who's growing genetically engineered crops in their annual publications. It just shows the increase in area since they were first released in 1996 up to-- this is 2012.
Clearly the biggest player internationally is the US, which is us right down here. After that, you find Brazil-- oops-- Argentina, India and China, and a few other countries. And the little tiny slice at the top there is the entire rest of the world. So production clearly concentrated in a few very large producing countries.
If we look, then, at just the US-- this is a lot of graphs, but you just need to take in the overall image. This is percentage of US acreage of our primary genetically engineered crops-- corn on your left, cotton in the middle, soybean on the right-- percentage of acreage planted to a genetically engineered variety out of what we grow in this country.
So the first of them were available in 1996. This runs up to 2012. And you can see that the adoption curve for all three of them has been fairly fast. Corn-- we have some herbicide-tolerant in the red, some insect-resistant in the blue, and this big purple piece has both of those traits, the insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. Same idea for cotton. Soybeans-- it's all herbicide-tolerant.
Nearly 90% of the corn acreage in this field corn-- field corn acreage in this country-- over 90% of the cotton and soybean acreage in this country is planted to genetically engineered varieties. Clearly, that reflects a benefit perceived by farmers to these varieties. They've been adopted extremely rapidly.
There was a recent study done by the National Research Council published in 2010. I would commend it to you because they tried to look at all of the published literature and say, OK, what have been the impacts in this country of the use of genetically engineered varieties?
They found that there was more herbicide used, but the herbicide being used was a less environmentally-damaging one. So you have a bit of a trade-off-- less use of herbicides that were a little more environmentally problematic and more use of one that is understood to be less environmentally problematic.
Less insecticide use. No major concerns with gene flow to date. They noted that many farmers have benefited economically, as well as in worker safety and convenience. These are some of the attractions to farmers that caused that rapid adoption.
Then they started to waffle down here-- effects on prices and on those producers who choose not to use genetically engineered crops. And the social impacts are not fully understood, and there was a need for more study of market concentration. So these are the areas where they didn't find very clear evidence.
I want to show you a picture that relates to the insecticide use because this is one of the environmental issues. If you look at insecticide use per acre in the two major crops where Bt genes are being used, the curve on the bottom here starts at zero in '96 and goes up is the rate of adoption percentage of acreage planted to Bt corn in this case.
This is the pounds of insecticide used over that same period of time on corn. And you can see a similar sort of relationship with cotton-- increasing use of the Bt cotton and, after some jumps, a significant decrease in insecticide use. So in terms of environmental impacts, reduced use of insecticides on a couple of these major crops appears to be one of the benefits we see.
Food. Most people I talk to are interested in food because, as Dean Boor pointed out, less than 2% of us are actually producers, but all 100% of us like to be consumers.
So the big question, am I eating foods from genetically engineered crops? And the unambiguous answer is yes, depending on how you choose to purchase your food. About 60% to 70% of supermarket foods contain ingredients derived from a genetically engineered variety. And when I say supermarket foods, I mean the packaged and processed kinds of things in boxes and cans.
Certainly things with soybeans and corn are the obvious ones. 90% of our US crop is genetically engineered varieties. So when you look at cornmeal and corn oil or soy sauce, likely derived from something that included a contribution of genetically engineered varieties.
Then there are a whole slew of products. This is a fun exercise. Go to the grocery store and see if you can find a packaged product that doesn't have somewhere in it something derived from corn, soybean, or cotton. It's very difficult to do. So there are all sorts of products that have soy or corn derivatives in them.
But if you actually look at the fresh produce, there's almost nothing there that's genetically engineered. The two I mentioned were papaya and squashes, and there are some genetically engineered commercialized varieties of those. The papaya you could probably get from the West Coast because it's grown in Hawaii.
We don't get our papayas over on this side of the country from Hawaii. And the squash has only encountered a very little bit of adoption. And similarly, the Bt sweet corn adopted at a very small level at this point. So yes, it's in the grocery store.
In this country, we go about food safety assessment through a principle called substantial equivalence. And what that means is that the new product of a genetically engineered trait is evaluated very thoroughly in the same way as you would evaluate a new food additive, or a new dye, or a new something you're putting into a food product. You look at that individual product very thoroughly.
In terms of its presence within a food, an actual proper product, we operate by substantial equivalence. We compare a genetically engineered soybean variety to the typical non-genetically engineered soybean varieties and ask whether the composition and content of all of these things we know to be nutritionally important is any different between the two. If it is not, they are considered to be substantially equivalent.
Safety testing on these genetically engineered crops is required only if they're not substantially equivalent. In other words, the genetically engineered variety somehow differs in one or another of these factors we know to be nutritionally important.
New antibiotic resistance markers-- thankfully we're were moving away from those. Uncharacterized genetic elements are present-- bits of DNA we don't know what they do. Any kind of higher toxin levels or any potential for allergenicity in the new protein produced. These things trigger mandatory food safety testing. If none of these conditions are present, then a food safety consultation with the Food and Drug Administration is all that's expected.
Why have we taken this approach? Well, testing for food safety is something that in all our other situations-- the additives, and the food dyes, and the preservatives, and so on-- is focused on the compounds that are novel or unique in the food.
The way we do that is by offering those things at a very high dose over a short term to some kind of a laboratory animal. And part of the reason we take that approach is because if you did toxicology tests on things we regard as whole foods in this way-- offered them at high doses over a short period of time to a laboratory animal-- you would find that most of our whole foods have anti-nutritional properties. And it's nothing surprising.
It's exactly the same principle as if all of you in this room decided to go on the only-carrots diet for a week and all you ate was carrots. We could come back in here next week and you would all be orange, and you would all have keratitis, because you've gotten way too much of some nutrients and nowhere near enough of other nutrients.
So offering whole foods in extremely high doses over a short period of time to a laboratory animal, which is our way we go about trying to test for food safety, is going to reveal problems. How do you compare problems with the whole food and problems with genetically engineered food in that situation?
So we have instead chosen to focus on the compounds that are novel or unique and on substantial equivalence for the other things we know to be nutritionally important. Because, basically, we don't have tests that are really effective for chronic health risks at low doses in mixed diets, which is how we consume pretty much everything we consume.
So this is not a problem that's unique to genetic engineering. It's a problem with anything else in our food supply as well. But this is how we've chosen to approach the challenge, and the Food and Drug Administration takes this approach to monitoring food safety.
So if I should also say before I leave the topic of food safety, I have not seen any evidence to suggest that any of the commercialized genetically engineered crops that are on the market right now offer any risk to food safety. They've been looked at pretty thoroughly. So I don't see any concerns about food safety with the products commercialized now.
As new products come through the pipeline, we will need to look at them each on a case-by-case basis, use our best science and our best understanding to make sure we are being thoughtful about what any potential risks might be.
I want to talk a little bit about labeling. It's been in the news a lot lately, and this is some food for thought. In this country, with crops like corn, soybeans, and cotton, we grow genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered varieties. Now they've focused it together and thrown into huge equipments and huge trucks.
If you take whole foods or grain and sell those in the market, like whole corn, whole tomatoes, you could actually detect the genetically engineered DNA or protein in them. But once these are processed into more refined ingredients, like syrups, flours, or oils, or even more so, the derivatives, the nutrients, the vitamins, the monosodium glutamate, all the other stuff we get from these products, there's no DNA or protein from that genetic engineering event left to detect.
So if you wanted to think about labeling a more processed or refined product, what you're labeling is not something that's going to be measurably different in the product itself. Kind of a challenge with the labeling issue.
Most of our labeling in this country is what's called product-based. This is what the Food and Drug Administration does. And it's about the qualities of the product, the things you can measure in it that are distinct. Labeling is required only for genetically engineered products if they're not equivalent in terms of those measurable compounds-- fat, fiber, carbohydrates, et cetera, et cetera-- to a non-genetically engineered form.
For those that are coming through legislatures that request labeling of genetically engineered foods are talking about process-based labeling. And this does take place in Australia, New Zealand, some parts of the EU. In that system, labeling is required based on the process for producing that crop.
If it came from a variety that was genetically engineered, regardless of whether there was any measurable difference between the non-genetically engineered and the genetically engineered product, it would be labeled. So the label tells you about the process by which it was produced, not the actual content of the foodstuff itself.
As food for thought, these are all common food ingredients that are derived from corn and soybeans. So you can imagine how many of these show up in one or another processed product on the grocery store shelf. A label that would indicate that something contains an ingredient from a genetically engineered crop could pretty much go on most of the things that are processed products in the grocery store because they're so pervasive. These kinds of ingredients are so pervasive in our food supply.
Couple more reactions on this one. Do consumers want labeling? Well, if you actually do a public opinion survey that says this, "Ingredients derived from genetically engineered crops are present in 60% to 70% of processed foods. Do you think they should be labelled?" Almost everyone will say yes.
If you do this survey-- "what do you think is missing from food labels?"-- very, very few people will say information about genetically engineered crop content. Grocery stores get very few requests. So do you want labeling? It depends on how the question is asked just with so much survey information.
Another big question is, who should pay for labeling? Everyone says, oh, it can't cost much. You just slap something on the label there, one little set of words. And that part is true.
However, the bigger implication is if you actually have to reach back into the food system and have separate handling and tracking systems for varieties that are genetically engineered and those that are not in these large grain elevators, railroad cars, large trucks, all the ways we collect and move around commodity grains like corn and soybeans and cottonseed, that would be extremely costly. And that cost would be passed on to consumers.
So you can ask the question, should everyone pay that cost, whether they want it or not? Or should there be some way that only the people who are concerned should pay for the cost of labeling? These are the things that create tensions among those who favor labeling and those who are concerned about it.
OK. It's getting late in time, and I'm going to hit two more points. And then I'm done, and you guys can say something instead of listening to me drone on. I wanted to talk about consolidation in the agricultural industry and profits because this is another area people express concern about.
What this picture, this pie chart, shows is the number of applications for deregulation, in other words, permission to commercialize a genetically engineered crop in the US. They all have to be applied for permission through the US regulatory system. There have been a total of 87 so far.
These are the companies that made those applications. Making an application does not necessarily mean you commercialized that crop, but it means you got permission to. Sometimes the market didn't look good enough, or it wasn't worth it finally. But they did get approval to commercialize.
So you can see some pretty big players. There's Monsanto. This is Calgene. This one over here is, I believe, AgrEvo, then a lot of small players. And there's one up here that's Cornell-- Cornell's genetically engineered papaya. So that's ours, because papaya's such a big crop in New York. No, there are good reasons for that.
Keep that image of that pie chart in mind because something that has happened concurrently with the advent of genetically engineered crop varieties is consolidation in the seed industry. So those are the people who applied for those permissions. This is what that picture looks like now. Monsanto has purchased all of these companies. Aventis is this group. Syngenta is that group. DuPont is this group.
So there's been a lot of consolidation. And as people express concern about individual or a small number of companies controlling a lot of this technology, this is why. It's not an invalid thing to think about. When Monsanto seems to be the bogeyman that gets all the attention when people want to complain about genetically engineered crops, this is why. They are, by far, the biggest player in that market in terms of permissions to commercialize.
OK. So we've hit up a little bit about all of these, except for belief systems and ethics. And I left it on there, even though Ellen told me to take it off if I wasn't going to talk about it, because of the following. Some of these are things that we can address as scientists. We can study how widely used they are, their environmental impacts, their food safety. Once you get down into these-- right to know, consolidation of ag industry and its profits, belief systems, these are societal values.
So how we choose to regulate these things, how we choose to label or not label them, that can be informed by science. But there's also a lot of value judgments, societal value judgments, that go into some of these as well. And certainly there are people who just believe this is not right to do for whatever reason. There's nothing science is going to tell them that's going to alter that. It's not a scientific question. There are countries where they don't want to accept this.
In the world of marketing, the consumer is always right. So I think we'll have to find ways to live with all of those points of views and recognize that our government approaches will differ from country to country, and that those are all a mix based on science and scientific assessments and national and societal values.
So thank you very much. You've been very attentive. I really appreciate it. And I'd be happy to answer questions--
--or to hear what you have to say. Yeah, please?
AUDIENCE: Hi. [INAUDIBLE]. I was very informed by your slides and your presentation. But it seems like there is a concern about the super insects and super weeds that has been reported, and you didn't really mention about it. How do you see the impact of that?
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah. So for people who didn't hear, the question was about a concern that seems to be out there about super insects and super weeds. Yeah, and it's always a challenge to figure out which things to throw into the presentation because there's lots of aspects we could address. That's a very good question, and thank you.
We know, since a long time ago, that if you try to control a crop and pest with the same control measure over and over and over and over again, very rarely does that pest just disappear from the face of the earth. It evolves. This is exactly the same issue we see with things like trying to control human diseases, where new variants keep coming up that are resistant to our antibiotics because we've already used those antibiotics or not used them correctly.
Same is true in genetic engineering. We have herbicide-resistant crops, which have made it extremely convenient to control weeds with the single herbicide that they've been engineered to resist. And so there's a tendency to just use that herbicide over and over and over again.
Bt, for corn rootworm control, very effective. There's a tendency to use that same approach over and over and over again. The insects and the weeds are also organisms that evolve, and they're going to evolve if they can to get past that control.
So I think what I would say is this is an agricultural systems question that we should have already learned. We've learned a lot about integrated pest management that says exactly that. We shouldn't use the same control measure year after year. We have to remember that these are pest management tools too. And unless we can rotate, switch, use different approaches to control these things, we will see the evolution of weeds and insects that can overcome them.
That is sad in many ways. One way is that you have your very strong tool that will be lost to us, and then we have to come up with something else. That's a perfect analogy to the antibiotic example. You had excellent antibiotics, and they don't work anymore for certain diseases. That's a big problem.
So that's one side. The other side of it that's particularly of concern to the organic industry is that the organism from which Bt was derived, Bacillus thuringiensis, is used as an organic bacterial insecticide. It's one of relatively few tools they have. So if we overuse Bt crops and insects become resistant to that, the organic farmers will lose the effectiveness of a tool that they have had for control of insects.
So I think it all goes back to needing to take an agronomically smart approach to agriculture. These are not things we don't know. We just have to remind people that this tool is not a silver bullet any more than any of the others are.
It has to be used carefully and managed in a way that doesn't lead to exactly that problem of evolution. Since it's hitting the headlines now, people are beginning to really think about it and do a better job. OK. We'll work this way. Yes? I saw you, and then I'll go back to you.
AUDIENCE: Just one issue with like the allergens. My understanding is that the companies have to report that there's a problem. So that doesn't sound like it's going to be very comprehensive. They have no incentive to report there's a problem.
And isn't there a greater chance of a problem when you're just shooting a gene in from a very foreign source that's sort of like rippling through that genetic system rather than through the normal process of cross breeding and so on, where the development's much slower? And that's my understanding is that genetically modified technologies are kind of like shooting a bullet into it, and some of the fragments, they're not all going to go where you want them to.
MARGARET SMITH: Right where you want it to. Yeah, very good question. So let me address first the approach. So one of the approaches indeed is literally shooting what amounts to a bullet into a pile of cells. And the genetic material, which doesn't necessarily fragment all over, but will go into some cells and not others. OK? And it does insert at random, so we don't know whether it's going to stuff itself in the middle of a critically-important gene or in the middle of a regulatory thing that changes expression of other genes.
So once you've gotten these things, you've created them, then there is a process of several years of screening in the field to find out which ones produced the product you wanted and have not messed up the production of all the other things you need to make a successful variety. So there's an initial screening period to weed out stuff that's causing random weird effects you didn't want. OK?
AUDIENCE: From the company's point of view.
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah.
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah, admittedly. And a company also needs-- I mean, they need to have a product that, when they sell it to a farmer, doesn't do random weird things they didn't want because it's not going to get bought again. So they do have some vested interest. I'm very sympathetic to the company regulating itself worries that you're expressing. But they do also have to watch out for their future market.
In terms of allergenicity, there is evaluation that happens before it's approved to look very carefully at the potential for allergenicity of the new proteins that are being produced in that crop. OK? We know what we-- not me, scientists who are allergen-- oh, I can't say that word-- who study allergens know a fair amount about the characteristics of allergenic molecules. What kinds of things are they? What do they look like? What are structures we should watch out for?
They also have ways of doing-- they do digestibility studies in Petri plates. And if something digests more slowly, that's a red flag. Anything that remains in the gut longer has greater potential to be an allergen, just because it's there longer. So if it digests any more slowly than they would expect, that's a red flag that gets investigated further. So there are various places in the food safety assessment process where the allergens get looked at.
AUDIENCE: The FDA requires these tests?
MARGARET SMITH: The FDA-- yeah, let me think about this. They require you to look at the new protein product carefully. OK? The protein within the crop, so the overall genetically engineered crop, that goes back to the substantial equivalence thing I talked about. And in that case, the consultation on safety is voluntary. This is part of the most--
AUDIENCE: And that's a big objection, obviously, with the environmental--
MARGARET SMITH: --the most uncomfortable thing I have to talk about with audiences. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: A lot of the environmental groups point out just this very thing-- that we're really not testing them adequately. The actual product is not being tested. And the US government doesn't require that.
MARGARET SMITH: That's right. They don't require that testing for something I breed as a corn breeder who does not, by the way, do genetic engineering either. I'm responsible for making sure I didn't do anything nasty to it. OK? So that's true. Every product that's out there has had what's called the voluntary consultation, where the company has, in fact, talked to the FDA. But it is exactly that, a voluntary consultation.
AUDIENCE: But I mean, if you're allergic to soy, let's say, and some product uses a soy gene, it's not going to be labeled soy. So the consumer doesn't know that it's partly soy.
MARGARET SMITH: That would have to be labeled because you've inserted something with potential allergenicity. That absolutely requires labeling, no question. OK? So if the new gene that's put in there has any potential for allergenicity, it has to be labeled. OK? So that we do require labeling on it, mandatory. OK?
There was an effort a while ago, in soybean actually, to develop an enhanced protein profile. And they started by trying and pulling at allergies in people who have nut allergies, and they just stopped that development immediately. So at least I have one example where the industry did something very responsible in terms of saying, no, we can't even go there.
I think it would be extremely risky because, as you point out, somebody who has an allergy to nuts is not going to think they have to worry about soybeans. And who's going to necessarily read that label carefully enough to pick up on that?
So I think that's one that people are-- industry is very hesitant to go there. So at the same time, I'm really sympathetic to this regulate yourselves sense to the rules. There is a fair amount of rigor built into the protein product that's new, and that's evaluation and requirements about when it must be labeled.
The rest of it, as in the context of the whole food, that's why I said I think about how we test whole foods, it's very complicated. Offering them at a high level or short-term diet is not going to tell us much.
AUDIENCE: Just one brief thought. Isn't this like a much more invasive process in terms of what we're getting than the traditional breeding? I mean, that's one of the arguments is that this is really-- not saying at a deeper level because you're putting a fish in the soybean or whatever you're going. Here you're moving between groups of organisms that developed millions of years apart and don't have much to do with each other.
MARGARET SMITH: Not going to be crossing very often in nature.
AUDIENCE: So the argument is that you're taking a lot more chances with this than you are with the traditional breeding techniques.
MARGARET SMITH: That is certainly an argument and certainly a source of concern for a lot of people. And you can look at it as with our traditional foods, we've evolved together with them. And once you start pulling things out of a bacterium that's not part of our traditional food supply, what does that imply? I had some really good thing I was going to say, and now it went out of my head. I'm sorry. Give me one second.
Ah. So the other thing to realize is that although these things are evolutionarily very deep separations, they also have a lot of genes in common. It's surprising. So life goes back to some proto-organism, right, and there's a lot of genes for just many things that are maintained in common across those organisms. So there's less difference than you might think or feel comfortable thinking.
This is something new. And that's why I think we need to be vigilant, thoughtful, particularly thoughtful, and look at each example on a case-by-case basis using our best science and our best ability to project forward what could be the problems here to make sure we don't run into problems. But it is reaching farther afield than what you can cross-- what's going to be cross-compatible. Yeah, let's go over there and then keep going that way.
AUDIENCE: Great. So one of the fears about these crops is that they'll escape into the wild. And can you mention like some precautions that they take to make sure that doesn't happen, and maybe comment on the recent report that some wheat escaped in Oregon?
MARGARET SMITH: The wheat, I knew it was going to come up. That one I'm at least ready for.
AUDIENCE: Oh, great.
MARGARET SMITH: Everyone brings up the pig study. I haven't read it yet.
So people do get really concerned about escape into the wild. And one of the examples that I think was most interesting is with a product that hasn't yet been approved. It's a Roundup-resistant creeping bentgrass for golf courses. Probably not what I would put on the most urgent list for feeding the world. But at any rate, there it is. And people said, man, this is going to get out into natural areas, and it'll just destroy the populations and so on.
But when you think about it, Roundup-resistant creeping bentgrass, its advantage is that it's resistant to Roundup. It might creep out into a natural area, but no one's spraying those natural areas with Roundup. So it's going to be, actually, a selective disadvantage because it has these extra genes and processes that it doesn't particularly need to compete in the wild. OK?
So I think when you worry about things escaping, you need to really think through, how are they going to escape? Is it by pollen blowing, or is it by them just kind of creeping out there? And if that does, what's the hazard there? And what's the risk?
There was a lot of talk maybe 10 years ago about genetically engineered traits in Mexico getting into farmers' maize varieties, and it was never substantiated when all was said and done. But even if they had, if I were a Mexican farmer struggling to produce food and some corn crossed into my corn that had a Roundup-resistance gene, well, I'm sure not buying Roundup.
So that's not going to make much difference to me. It's not going to dramatically alter my corn. Our gene for Bt, if it gives me a little insect resistance, that actually might help my corn survive.
So you need to think about what the implications are. That's within cultivated crops. Escape into the wild, I would just say that most of our cultivated crops are notoriously awful at competing in the wild, and they don't make it. They need us to really tend them, take care of them and keep the weeds away and carry their seeds forward from year to year, because otherwise they're just not very competitive.
We actually selected in the domestication process against that. OK? We selected them for things which make them less competitive. So I'm not very concerned. I mean, I think we need to ask that question, as many other questions, with each new product that comes up. I'm not particularly concerned about it.
I'd be more concerned with the Roundup-resistant creeping bentgrass, which creeps and crosses with a lot of other grasses, that was going to create a whole series of things that are weed problems, to go back to your question, that weren't weed problems before. We could control them. But now they have Roundup resistance. So there are reasons to be concerned. Escape into the wild is probably not one of them.
AUDIENCE: The wheat study, specifically.
MARGARET SMITH: Oh, the wheat study, yes. I'm sorry. So yeah, this wheat showed up. I'm not sure how. And I think the fascinating question in that is how. It's a few plants at this point.
AUDIENCE: Is it something that hasn't been used for a while?
MARGARET SMITH: There has never been a commercialized genetically engineered wheat approved for commercialization. So I'm going to say that right at the outset. It was field-tested back between the late '90s and I think around 2005 or so, somewhere in there. I should look up those numbers to be sure, but it was about then. It was field-tested, and then the company decided not to pursue it. They stopped the testing program. That was the end of that.
Now, how many years, eight years later, suddenly these plants pop up. And the big question is, where did they come from? Were they things that were in the field tests that somehow a few seeds got dropped, or a bird carried a few seeds somewhere, or a mouse, and they survived for those eight years somehow? That kind of goes against what I just told you about survival in nature. I find that hard to believe.
Was there perhaps an accidental mix-up in a seed lot, in the seed production or marketing process? That seems more possible. Did somebody have some stuffed in their back pocket and go throw them out? There are many possible explanations.
And I think the really interesting question that we may never know the answer to is, how did they end up there? Because what that will tell us is, is there some aspect of our regulatory system that was not good enough, that failed?
Or was this just some deliberate thing that somebody pulled-- we know the aspect of our regulatory system we're never going to be able to make fool-proof, right? So is that it? Or is it going to be some other aspect of our regulatory system that failed in that case?
So far as the most recent press release from the US Department of Agriculture, they're looking into it very thoroughly. And they did a lot of testing of other wheat lots and seed lots and so on and have not found any other evidence of it anywhere else. So it appears to be confined to this relatively small number of plants in one field in Oregon. So that's what I can tell you so far because as far as I know, that's what's known so far. Yes? We're getting there.
AUDIENCE: So from what you said, it sounds like they're pretty much genetically engineering plants to be more disease-resistant. But don't we also genetically engineer them to produce bigger crops and larger food and maybe have some other qualities that we want?
For example, now scientists are arguing that perhaps our sudden intolerance to gluten is because we also genetically engineer wheat to have a high level of gluten because it bakes better, and whatnot. And now we're suffering from our own experiments, right? I'd be curious to know what would you think about it? And also, are there other plants that we engineered for that reason?
MARGARET SMITH: So starting off with the question about what we've engineered for what. Basically, the insect-resistant crops, the herbicide-tolerant crops, and the ones that have some virus resistance are the three types of things that are commercially produced now.
There's been a lot of research on many other things. There are things in the pipeline. There's a drought-tolerant corn that was experimentally planted last year. We have a year to experimentally plant it because the Midwest had a huge drought, right? So that's in the pipeline. There are things which have enhanced nutritional properties in the pipeline, but none of those have been commercialized yet.
As far as things which are actually higher yield, this is much more-- I can say this as a plant breeder-- that's genetically much more complex than we could begin to try and engineer right now. So we do that through traditional breeding. It's a bit of a black box, that one, That's how we have to manage it.
The wheat and the gluten, there are no commercialized genetically engineered wheats. Have we bred wheat through traditional plant breeding for good baking quality? Yes. I'm not a wheat breeder. I presume that has meant at least maintaining some level of gluten because that's part of baking quality.
I'm interested in all the allergy questions because I hear it from so many directions-- the people who are allergic to glutens, or have celiac disease, the peanut allergies. We seem to have just a ramping up level of allergies as a population as a whole.
And so the interesting question to me is, why? Is it more? Is it just that we keep better data? Is it that we know about it and try to accommodate it more? I mean, my kids go to school, and there's peanut-free classrooms and peanut-free tables. I went to school, and everyone had peanut butter. There were no peanut-free tables. So this has changed. It's shifted dramatically.
The gluten allergy thing, I've heard from several sources as that's genetically engineered wheat. No. There is no genetically engineered wheat in any of the food we are eating. OK? So that's clearly not the issue. It could be something we've done with the wheat through traditional breeding. It could be we've elevated gluten levels. I don't know. I would have to go back and look at data about that to be able to answer that question.
It could be simply that there's more and more wheat in our diet. One of those old Greek philosophers said, "The dose makes the poison." Ellen told me this morning she ate a jar of peanut butter every day and became allergic to peanut butter. So I'm revealing all your bad secrets. Sorry, Ellen. Now you've been outed on that one.
Well, I have a good colleague who lived in the Philippines and ate shrimp every day and became allergic to shrimp. So do we have so much wheat in our diet that it's become a more prevalent issue? I'm not sure. I really don't know. But what I do know is it's not genetically engineered wheat because people aren't it. Yeah?
AUDIENCE: I was going to ask about the pig study, but--
MARGARET SMITH: Oh, darn. I just heard about it this morning, but I haven't read it. So I feel like I can't really legitimately say anything about it.
AUDIENCE: Could you comment, then, maybe on the Seralini corn study?
MARGARET SMITH: The rat study.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. So and then sort of corollary to that, any time I write an article about GMOs that deals with the science, I get like a million comments telling me that I'm a Monsanto shill, or something.
MARGARET SMITH: I can relate, yes.
AUDIENCE: I've never gotten a check from them, ever.
MARGARET SMITH: [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: As a scientist, like how do you deal with the bad, and they are bad, studies out there and also the vitriol that I imagine?
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah. Well, I guess-- so I'll answer that first at some level, which is I try to provide as balanced information as I can about what we know, what we don't know, what the science says, what issues are not ours, as scientists, to take hold of. So usually if I give a talk in a public audience when either there's people from both sides saying thank you or people from both sides throwing rotten tomatoes, I know I've succeeded because they're both unhappy.
So it's trying to actually say, look, that there are things-- like with any technology, there are things we don't know. There are things we do know. There are things that we're going to have to wait and see. Here's the best information we have at this point in time.
The Seralini rat study, I looked at that one quite carefully because the images are dramatic-- these pictures of tumor-laden rats on the front cover of all sorts of things. And it's very alarming to people. I completely understand that.
But what I would say with that study is you have to be able to look a little more into the science behind it to know whether it's valid or not. And I would say this just as much about an industry study as I would say it about a Seralini study. You need to look into the science behind it to see whether it's valid or not.
When you start with a strain of rats that's tumor-forming, that's what they were selected for. And you say, look, they formed tumors, OK, that's a problem right there. The numbers of individuals-- individuals, rat individuals, vary just like human individuals vary.
We wouldn't dream of reaching a major conclusion based on a human study that had 10 or 20 participants. Way too few. So you need a large enough sample, and you need to be looking at the 50 or 60, not the 5, 6, 10, 15. So not enough.
Another thing if you look more closely at it is that even in the control rats that were fed normal maize, there was unusually high mortality before the end of the study. That should tell you that there's something wrong with the experimental system right to begin with. And if your controls are not healthy, what are you comparing to?
So there are a whole variety of problems with that Seralini study. And the difficult part for somebody who's-- I mean, I'm not toxicologist, so even I have a difficult time teasing this apart. But for somebody who's not in the science of genetic engineering and animal studies, it's even that many more steps removed. What is it you should look for?
So I guess what I would say to people more broadly is we need to look at each of these studies carefully, figure out what its credibility is, look at the weight of evidence from other scientists who have either tried to replicate it or pointed out what the problems are. It's a scientific study, so a scientific assessment of its validity is the appropriate one. And I think we need to be able to pay attention to those.
That said, I would also say I think that we do a lot less-- and this goes beyond genetic engineering-- we do very little about evaluating the unintended consequences of things we develop. There's no funding to do that. Who wants to do it anyway? We develop things because they're going to do something we need done. And looking at the unintended consequences is kind of an afterthought in any arena.
We do need to do some of that. We need to be more vigilant about that. And how to get that done, I don't know because it's not something that's readily in front of them. So I commend them for trying to do the study. There needs to be a much better study, a much more compelling and well-done study, to ask any of those questions about it. Yeah?
AUDIENCE: Well, building on that question, in Asia and Africa and continents where they don't have fancy grants and funding that we have here and in Europe, there's not the same demonization, such as Prince Charles screaming about GMOs all the time, and people putting foods that are so labeled on a separate floor, or a separate shelf, or a separate continent.
Is it not that we're dealing with multi-factorial problems, and yet we refine our studies to a very slim number of factors that cannot help but be incorrect because we haven't noticed, for instance, that in Asia, the hormone level is much lower than the ambient hormone level here, where we have very large breasts, most women in this continent.
And it's not because we're all supposed to have large breasts, but we're bathed in hormones. Men get too many hormones. We get too many hormones. Everybody does. In Asia, they have fewer hormones. They have other problems but they have fewer hormone baths. And I think that the multi-factoriality of much of what we're looking at defies a clear categorization in a very limited, very carefully manicured subject study.
MARGARET SMITH: I think it's a very valid point that the world is more complex. And I think what you say speaks to the need to study sort of interventions, technological or otherwise, within the context that they're being used. I think that's extremely important.
There's a lot of people who would say, oh, Bt corn in Africa. They're a corn-consuming country. We should get those Bt varieties over there. Well, what they forget is that they have different insects. The insect pressure level is different. The same Bt genes will not work. So there is research being done. So it's not as simple as slap in the genes and give them the rights. That does not work.
So I think what you're speaking to you is to this broader complexity of the world and the interactivity of most of the things in it. I think we also do have a responsibility as a more well-resourced society to be as thoughtful as we can about measuring the potential unintended consequences or the longer-term thinking through and projecting what might be the longer-term effects of some of these technologies.
AUDIENCE: Can we talk cultivars? When you get cultivars from one continent we haven't had yet here, or when kiwi was introduced, or when pluots are introduced, or dragon fruit was introduced, there may be things that are naturally-- quote, unquote, naturally in these new cultivars that we are not prepared for. But because it comes from the ground, and we think, OK, fine, it didn't come from the lab. But things can eventuate, even though these cultivars come fresh out of a tree.
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah, yeah. I mean, anything new is going to have its new dimensions in our food system, and we need to watch out for those. Yes? Did I lose somebody?
AUDIENCE: From the policy angle, do you think there are, in terms of the allergenicity thing, the testing issue, do you think there are certain things in the regulatory scheme in the US that could use some improvement or changing?
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: And there was that recent provision in the budget, people call it the "Monsanto Protection Act."
MARGARET SMITH: Yes.
AUDIENCE: And it did seem like that was like-- it didn't seem like it was very well-described in a lot of news articles. But my reading of it, it did seem a little problematic in that it does sort of automatically reverse or counter a judge's decision.
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah, yeah. I think that's problematic. I guess what I would say is if there were one thing that I encounter that makes audiences really uncomfortable, it's this question about the voluntary consultation about food safety. Why don't we at least have a mandatory consultation about food safety? They all do it. It would feel much better to tell people, yes, they're required to do this. It wouldn't really require more resources.
So I think there are some things like that that would make the anxiety level less. It would serve well the credibility of our regulatory agencies. It's not just the industry sort of saying, oh, yeah, we looked at it. It's fine. That they actually do have to come and show some data to some scientists trained in the subject matter. So I think there are a few things like that that could be useful.
AUDIENCE: And do you have any thoughts on that provision?
MARGARET SMITH: On which?
AUDIENCE: The "Monsanto Protection Act"?
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah. That I was not thrilled that that was in there. That would not be my choice to do that.
AUDIENCE: Are scientists even allowed to test Monsanto's proprietary seeds? Is that a problem?
MARGARET SMITH: That was a problem. There was a group of particularly public-sector entomologists that raised that in a very public way as, wait a minute, how can we do our job effectively if we can't even test these things? So that has been addressed, and we can get permission to evaluate things. They're much more open with that than they used to be.
AUDIENCE: Oh, the companies are or--
MARGARET SMITH: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you have to sign agreements that say here are the things I'm going to evaluate on this. And they say, yeah, go ahead. Here's the seed.
AUDIENCE: But so far, in terms of federal regulation, there's nothing requiring them to?
MARGARET SMITH: No, I don't believe there is. And I finally remembered what else I was going to say to you, so I'll throw that in before [? Sil ?] throws us all out. You were talking about this process being very random of shooting genes into plants.
But I think it's also important to realize that when I, as a traditional plant breeder, take a corn from Mexico and a corn from New York, which I do, and cross them together in order to try and get the great insect resistance out of that Mexican corn into something that actually grows in New York, what I'm doing is combining lots of genes from two different parents.
So there's a lot of chaos in the genetic material there. Have they evolved from a common ancestor more recently? Sure. But it's still mixing a lot of different genes from two parents. Genetic engineering-- you're sticking one thing in there. So which one is more chaotic? I'm not sure I could say.
Certainly sticking something in the genome is not a floor where you drill a hole and put it in, and that's the end of it. It's more like water. You pluck it in, and it has little waves that move out through the genome. But we do try and assess which ones of those have problems or don't have problems. So which one is more chaotic? I'm not too sure.
And the one other thing I'll say is technology, genetic engineering technology itself, is now at a point where people are able to not just blast things in but begin to insert them in a known controlled spot where they know what's going on in the genome in that area. So it's a science that's moving forward extremely rapidly. And I think you'll find that within a few years, the process on that end will be a lot less chaotic. Meanwhile, I'll still be crossing my Mexican and US corn.
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There are many misconceptions surrounding the controversial issue of genetically modified foods. Kathryn Boor, Dean of CALS, and Margaret Smith, Professor of Plant Breeding & Genetics, distinguish fact from fiction.
About Inside Cornell: This event is part of a series held in New York City and Washington, D.C. featuring high-interest experts working at Cornell University. The free, catered lunch sessions are on-the-record, and media members are welcome to record video and audio as desired.