GMO debate "a distraction" from real food issues

Published online: Oct 14, 2013
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A leading plant scientist says the ongoing debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is distracting from the real challenges surrounding food production and food security. 

"The science of GMO is already out there-and it really isn't up for debate," says Sally Mackenzie, who heads up the Center for Plant Science Innovation at the University of Nebraska.  

"I mean, the data are there and the implementation of GMO technology is already pretty much a tested phenomenon.  But we continue to discuss GMO, almost to the exclusion of the real issues that are pressing on us for food-and that's largely food production." 

Mackenzie says that genetic modification of species has been a driving force of nature for thousands of years.  She says scientists are simply taking advantage of a process that goes on in nature all of the time.

And with the global population expected to top nine billion by 2050, Mackenzie says, scientists need to keep moving forward. 

"You know, with the sense of urgency that we feel as the environment is changing, as the climate is changing, and as our resources are depleting, I just think it's time for us to get off the issue of `organic versus GMO technologies.' That is not the solution and that isn't the problem here."

Mackenzie also decries what she calls "the startling amount of misinformation passed along as fact" when it comes to GMOs.  

"This sort of debate that's been going on on the Internet, the sort of debate that you hear about, anecdotally, on Dr. Oz shows-this kind of thing-that's not science, "she says, "and for the most part there is no scientific data that those people are actually debating." 

Mackenzie says there is no evidence genetically modified crops are unsafe to eat.  She dismisses claims otherwise as bad science or politically motivated activism.