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The views of farmers, scientists, biotechnology critics, federal regulators and the food industry, all caught up in the intensifying debate over genetically modified food.

jump to section: critics · farmers · scientists · regulators · food industry


Critics


Jeremy Rifkin

President of The Foundation on Economic Trends, he is a longtime opponent of biotechnology. He outlines why GM food is radically different from classical breeding and discusses how there are better ways to apply bioengineering to agricultural products. He also counters the argument that GM food is a solution in helping to feed a hungry world and talks about the threat of life science companies like Monsanto employing antitrust tactics in their patenting of gene technology. (Interview conducted August 2000.)

Jane Rissler, Ph.D.

A senior staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, she talks about why bioengineered plants present a new kind of uncertainty in crossbreeding and the lack of substantive testing to date. She also discusses why U.S. regulatory agencies seem satisfied with this new technology and the difference between genetic engineering for medicines vs. for food. (Interview conducted October 2000.)

Charles Margulis

A genetic engineering specialist with Greenpeace, he criticizes U.S. regulatory agencies' performance in monitoring GM foods, explains why GM technology deserves special scrutiny, points out the developing world is not unanimous in accepting biotech food, and outlines why Greenpeace's main concern with GM crops is the environmental risk. (Interview conducted October 2000.)
farmers

Paul Muller

A California organic farmer, Muller talks about long-term costs and doubts associated with GM food, outlines the problems caused by large industrial farming, and explains why he believes farmers are on a dangerous treadmill in embracing biotechnology. (Interview conducted October 2000.)

Gerald Tumbleson

He farms 2,700 acres in southern Minnesota, growing only corn and soybeans. He discusses U.S. agriculture's "monstrous farms," how GM technology helps his crops, and his vision of tying together the production and the processing of crops in order to benefit the farmer. (Interview conducted October 2000.)
scientists

Charles Arntzen, Ph.D.

President emeritus of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University, he is working on making safer vaccines for viruses which kill millions in the developing world. He discusses his work developing edible vaccines (inside GM bananas, tomatoes, or potatoes.) He also talks about Europe's opposition to GM foods and science's hopes for applying GM techniques to future foods, medicines, and environmental cleanup. (Interview conducted September 2000.)

Joseph Hotchkiss, Ph.D.

A professor of food science and toxicology at Cornell University, he compares genetic engineering to traditional crossbreeding of plants, explains how science evaluates risk and how toxicity is tested. He also discusses why allergenicity is the most difficult risk issue with foods, why the current U.S. regulatory framework is adequate, and the problems that would arise if mandatory labelling is introduced. (Interview conducted September 2000.)

Martina McGloughlin, Ph.D.

She is director of the Biotechnology and Life Sciences Informatics Program at the University of California, Davis. She offers an overview of crossbreeding techniques over the centuries, how it compares with new GM technology, and explains how much of human genes already are shared with plants. She also addresses Europe's GM food fight, U.S. food safety and regulatory performance, and multinational companies' intellectual property rights on GM seeds. (Interview conducted August 2000.)
regulators

dan glickman

He was U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Secretary in the Clinton administration. He discusses the number of GM crops so far approved, the lessons of StarLink (when animal feed corn containing a potential allergen was found in taco shells), his concerns about intellectual property law issues surrounding GM crops and how it effects farmers, and why he believes GM food labelling is coming. (Interview conducted October 2000.)

jim maryanski

Biotechnology coordinator at FDA, he discusses the risk of allergenicity with GM technology and the challenges facing regulatory agencies if mandatory labeling is implemented. He also points out the complexity of the U.S. food supply, which makes it difficult to segregate GM food from non-GM food. (Interview conducted October 2000.)
food industry

hugh grant

He is chief operating officer for Monsanto. In this interview he addresses the issues of gene migration and pest resistance with GM crops, the refuge strategy, the U.S. public's perception of biotech products, the lessons of StarLink (the animal feed GM corn, which hadn't been approved for human consumption, that was found in taco shells), and the issue of labelling GM food products. (Interview conducted December 2000.)


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