The ability to splice and transfer genes to grow more nutritional crops with less impact on the environment has excited farmers and scientists alike. But some consumers, particularly in Europe, fear such genetic manipulation could produce foods unsafe for consumption and harmful to the environment.
Farmers with corn crops destined for European markets have been hard hit; what was a large and profitable export crop has withered like so many rows of drought-stricken, dried corn stalks. One producer of pet foods says it won't use genetically modified crops in its products, as have two makers of baby foods.
Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, is concerned the controversies may "so polarize consumers, producers, industry and government in both developed and developing countries that it will be impossible for developing countries to realize benefits from plant technology," according to the article.
"The ensuing controversies could delay exploitation of what the advocates of agricultural biotechnology claim to be its enormous potential for helping to feed the world - and feed it better today - as world population surges from six billion to maybe eight or 10 billion in the next 50 years," writes editor-at-large Michael Heylin.
A New Hippocratic Oath?
Biotechnology has enabled scientists, technicians and doctors to assemble an impressive arsenal to fight disease and hunger and, potentially, to correct devastating genetic disorders. The ability to manipulate genes "could [also] lead to the development of genetically engineered pathogens, toxins and biomodulators as weapons targeted to specific ethnic groups," writes senior correspondent Lois Ember.
Jonathan Tucker of Stanford University's Hoover Institution, who served as a U.N. inspector in Iraq, calls upon scientists to help develop international treaties and "broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs" as defenses against
Contact: Beverly Hassell
American Chemical Society