Independent Expert

Alan McHughen

CE Biotechnology Specialist and Geneticist

Dr. Alan McHughen, a public sector educator, scientist and consumer advocate, earned his doctorate at Oxford University and currently works at UC Riverside. A molecular geneticist, Dr. McHughen helped develop U.S. and Canadian regulations governing the safety of GM foods. He has also studied the environmental effects of transgenic plants, the safety of GM foods and the sustainability and economic of biotechnology on U.S. agriculture for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. McHughen has firsthand experience with the regulatory process, having developed internationally approved commercial crop varieties using both conventional breeding and GE techniques, and wrote an award-winning book to help consumers understand the risks and potential of GMO technology. Most recently, Dr. McHughen served as a Jefferson Science Fellow at the US Department of State and as a Senior Policy Analyst at the White House.

From this Expert

Posted On: Tuesday, 4/22/2014 12:33 pm
A: Genes — portions of the chemical abbreviated as DNA — have been moved around from one species to another by humans since the 1970s, and by Mother Nature for eons. In every case, the anticipated outcome has been realized. For example, humans have been moving the gene for insulin from humans to bacteria for almost half a century (and now provide insulin for almost all insulin-dependent diabetics). In every case, the recipient bacteria “read” the human insulin gene recipe and make human insulin.... Continue Reading
Posted On: Wednesday, 7/31/2013 9:12 am
A: The pictures from that study conducted by Gilles-Eric Séralini are frightening—and made for sensationalistic media coverage.  However, when teams of scientists from around the world looked at the study carefully, they found that the conclusions drawn by Séralini were not credible and that the study itself was seriously flawed and provided no new grounds for concern about GM food.  The paper was criticized by public scientific and medical societies worldwide for its faulty... Continue Reading
Posted On: Thursday, 7/25/2013 8:23 pm
A: Actually, only a few products in the produce aisle are GMOs―some sweet corn, some summer squash and some papayas. There is currently a total of eight GM crops commercially available in the United States: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and summer squash.    Processed foods like sugar or vegetable oil may carry ingredients from GM crops, but the modified features of the crop are not present in the food and do not change the safety or... Continue Reading

How do we know an inserted gene does only what it is supposed to do?

By Alan McHughen (Independent Expert) on Monday, January 27, 2014 - 08:47

How do we know that genetic modification works? Because all living things use the same language. In biology all genes are made of specific sequences of a, t, c and g – the four DNA bases – regardless of the species source or recipient. A human gene, such as the insulin gene, transferred to bacteria will work the same way in bacteria as it does in humans. Think of genes as recipes that all use the same four ingredients.
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