Fact and Fiction about GMOs

Richard J. Roberts
New England Biolabs

When Monsanto first tried to introduce GMO seeds into Europe there was a backlash by the Green parties and their political allies, who feared that American agro-business was poised to take over their food supply. Thus began a massive campaign to discredit GMOs and scare people away from them. This has had disastrous consequences for one of the most promising technologies ever developed for improving food supplies. The success of the campaign has been particularly harmful in the developing world where GMO solutions for crop improvement are either being stymied or overly-regulated if not totally prevented. I will briefly describe the history of agriculture and plant breeding to show that the methods of GMO technology are safer, if anything, than traditional breeding approaches, which the Green parties would have us believe are perfectly safe. I will describe some of the GMO crops that can be beneficial to poor people in developing countries including the development of Golden Rice, which can help combat Vitamin A deficiency a nutrient problem that currently kills or physically impairs one to two million children every year.  I will describe some of the problems and solutions facing India, Bangladesh, Uganda and other countries including China, where European-based activists are spreading lies and mistruths in an attempt to stop the adoption of GMO crops like bananas, mustard, cassava, brinjal and others. 

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