Source – The Arizona Republic
By Shane C. Burgess
Date – 14 Mar 2014
Website – www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed
But UA scientist says be skeptical and open about genetically modified crops
Regarding “GMO labeling: Know what you eat” by Arizona Republic editorial writer Linda Valdez (Viewpoints, Feb. 23):
I am the dean of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I tell all our research scientists that we aren’t hired to prove our preconceptions or to advocate. We don’t set policy. Our job is to do the best science and to provide unbiased data. We also use our scientific expertise to review what others have done.
My aim here is to give you the most accurate information we have so that you can make your own decisions.
How can we know what is the safest and most nutritious food for our families?
Genetically modified crops contribute to American families paying less for the safest food in the world than families in any other country. The crops are part of the most efficient, effective and environmentally sustainable agricultural production systems worldwide. They are considered by the world’s scientific bodies, non-governmental organizations and conservation groups to be part of our environmentally sustainable future.
Genetically modified crops provide the same nutrition as, or even more than, conventional crops, but they do not contribute to increased allergies. If potential food allergens are introduced into a food that normally does not carry that allergen, then the food label must declare this. The Food and Drug Administration requires scientific evidence that no potential allergen was introduced into genetically modified products.
Genetically modified crops can use water more efficiently and effectively. Because they don’t require soil tillage, genetically modified crops decrease fuel use and soil erosion. Insecticide use in Arizona has decreased by more than 80 percent since genetically modified cotton was introduced.
What about genetically modified food labeling?
I believe in transparency because I believe in honesty, integrity and education. I understand the science and the regulatory hurdles genetically modified crops must pass to become part of our food supply.
I am happy my children eat genetically modified crops. By doing so, my family is healthy. We are contributing to a sustainable food system that can feed a very hungry planet, decrease our carbon footprint, decrease land and water use for agriculture, and contribute to food and economic security for families in the developing world.
I am not personally worried about labeling but I do worry about excessive implementation costs and misinformation.
A well-designed, uniform and national effort to fully inform you about how your food is produced is better and cheaper than a state-by-state patchwork. All costs will be transferred to you, the consumer. The biggest losers of all will be our most vulnerable — those 15.9 million children in the 14.5 percent of U.S. households that battle food insecurity daily.
Our political and educational systems encourage critical thinking and debate. They allow us to make best use of the “wisdom of crowds.”
No matter what you hear or read, please be skeptical and be open. Check the facts. Opinion is not a surrogate for science.
Shane C. Burgess is vice provost and dean of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station.