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Tagged with GMOs

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Let's Look Before We Leap into Biotech

Biotech stocks plummeted last week as President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair requested that companies make their data on the human genome public. Private firms are racing madly to read and patent the genetic code that makes you you and me me. They are trying to beat publicly funded labs, which are required as a condition of their grants to publish the gene sequences they unravel. One company, Celera Genomics, is funded by drug companies with the understanding that the funders will see the code before anyone else does. If it strikes you as alarming that private investors …

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The Mod Squad

Delegates from more than 130 nations on Saturday adopted the first global treaty regulating trade in genetically modified products, the first time that environmental concerns and trade rules have been reconciled in an international agreement. The treaty allows countries to bar imports of genetically modified seeds, crops, and animals, even if scientific studies have not yet determined that they are dangerous, a provision that the U.S. had opposed. The treaty does not address whether food containing genetically altered ingredients, like corn flakes made with GM corn, should be labeled as such on store shelves. And disputes over GM foods could …

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Children of the Corn

News about genetically engineered crops breaks so fast that it's hard to keep up. For those who look upon biotech foods with suspicion, much of the latest news is surprisingly good. The companies who splice strange genes into our corn and potatoes and soybeans are pushing their products so recklessly that they are alarming not only environmentalists and consumers, but also farmers, supermarket chains, baby-food makers, and investors. They are going to have to slow down. Field of bad dreams? Photo by Warren Gretz, NREL/PIX. But one bit of news is disturbing. Since the Europeans and Japanese are refusing to …

Read more: Food, Living

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If the Government Says It's Safe, It's Safe, Right?

The folks who bring us gene-spliced soybeans, corn, potatoes, and other foods like to make a point of the U.S. government's approval of their products. The feds OK'd it. That must mean biotech foods are safe, right? Right. Sure. This is the government that declared DDT safe and thalidomide and DES and dozens of other drugs, additives, and pesticides that were banned only after they had done grievous harm. Given that history, why should we trust the government? Take, for example, the current controversy about endocrine disrupters, the class of chemicals that mimic or block the action of the body's …

Read more: Food, Politics

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Two Mindsets, Two Visions of Sustainable Agriculture

"I guess you must be in favor of pesticides," concluded a Monsanto public relations guy, after I objected to his company's genetically engineered potato. "I guess it's okay with you if people starve," said a botanist I deeply respect, with whom I have carried out a fervent argument about genetic engineering. Accusations like these astonish me. I'm an organic farmer; I'm not in favor of pesticides. I've spent decades working to end hunger; it is not okay with me that anyone starves. I believe that my two accusers and I are working toward exactly the same goal -- feeding everyone …

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Look for the Onion Label

As controversy over genetically modified crops mounts, a federal task force will report by the end of July on whether genetically engineered foods should be labeled so consumers know what they're getting. The biotech industry complains that such labeling would be expensive and unnecessary. Meanwhile, a National Academy of Sciences panel is conducting a review of the risks and benefits of genetically modified crops and will make recommendations for government regulation this fall. At a public NAS hearing on Monday, a number of scientists warned that unless the government gets its act together and better regulates biotechnology, more and more …

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