Are there any significant studies underway to substantiate the dangers of GMOs?
"99.99% of transgenic plants made are generated for research purposes...to understand how genes work and how traits are controlled. In the deepest and most sensitive analyses, no unusual changes that would be considered dangerous have ever been identified. If something were to be uncovered, it would be a huge story. I hope it would come from my lab!
A common criticism of GMOs is that they seem safe now, but the human lifespan is 70+ years. So, how do we know that they will be safe in the long term? Have there been any multi-generational studies?
"We hear this question all the time. Part of it is that 15 years ago, we heard that people would be dropping like flies and everyone would be poisoned [because of GMOs]. It never happened. As the safe use of these products unfolded, critics then had to move the goalpost, and place the danger in a place not as conveniently tested — like somewhere deep in the future. But, science gives us comfort... Is there anything about the Bt protein (providing insect resistance), the bacterial EPSPS enzyme (that provides herbicide resistance), or the sequences that provide virus resistance that we need to be concerned about? Do we see any dangerous patterns computationally? Is there any plausible mechanism of harm? The answer is no.
What's the deal with the "terminator" gene? Was it ever used?
"I think the terminator gene is an awesome idea. Seeds containing this gene can't make viable embryos in the next generation. If someone is worried about transgene contamination, this would solve the problem. Plus, it would also stop the worry stemming from the prevalent myth of being sued for a seed falling off a truck onto a farm. Such things never happen, but they are certainly worries of many who fear a conspiracy between ag companies and clandestine government collusion.
Another common criticism of GMOs is that, because of the expense involved in purchasing the seeds, they somehow put small or impoverished farms at a disadvantage. How would you respond to this?
"This is not my area of expertise, but I can tell you [that] prices for GM seeds are regionally adjusted and fit local markets. They are sold at a premium, but are subject to market forces. If someone can save or buy non-GM seeds, grow the crop at lower cost, and make more money — GM seeds don't stand a chance. But...the seeds perform well, and in the end make for profitable farming. Less insecticide, better weed control — these are welcome traits anywhere in the world.
What are U.S. labeling laws for GMOs? Should labels be required? And, why are labeling laws passed by state and not federally?
"Labeling laws in the U.S. are extremely explicit, and [require that manufacturers] clearly label any foods containing compounds that affect the [food's] nutritional content. These items must be clearly stated on the label. That’s the rule. Since GMO products have never been shown to have any quantitative difference from non-GMO, and since there is no credible scientific evidence of any issues with GM ingredients, there is no requirement to label them. Labeling is voluntary.