QHow do you agree/disagree with 14-yr old GMO Labeling activist Rachel Parent, who is, in her own words "not anti-science" but "for responsible science and ethical progress"? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIXER_yZUBg

How do you agree/disagree with 14-yr old GMO Labeling activist Rachel Parent, who is, in her own words "not anti-science" but "for responsible science and ethical progress"? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIXER_yZUBg

AExpert Answer

Kevin Folta, Interim Chair and Associate Professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at University of Florida, has created a video response to your question. Please view the video here:


A transcript of the video is included below:


So when I think about answering Rachel Parent, who’s the activist child – well, young woman – who’s running the website “Kids Right to Know”…


Rachel was very vocal about her interest in labeling and her response to genetic modification of food. The things I just adore about Rachel is that she’s clearly very articulate, clearly intelligent. She is excited about becoming engaged and taking on a really important issue – and for that I give her high marks.


The problem that I have is when Rachel starts to let non-scientific thinking really kind of cloud her final decision-making process. I think that a little bit of critical overlays to what she’s already started to understand would really help her guide her final decisions in a scientific approach to this question.


A good example might be that she sticks by all of the talking points – well, there are no higher yields (I’m referring to the video from O’Leary), that there is no testing except by the companies themselves – just a lack of real scientific thinking in terms of these particular issues. She says that they haven’t been safety tested, that nothing has been proven safe, which as scientists we just can show you that there is no evidence of harm. She also seems to take a very hard line when she says “against all modification” – that she just really doesn’t want this technology being employed at all – then later softens that in her interview.


The one thing that Rachel continually comes back to is this idea of informed decisions – informed decisions and right to know. And I always like to say, “I’m with you. I’m with you on informed decisions, but you have to have good information – not what you’re being told by activist websites or other people with interests in ending biotechnology.” What I’d really like to see, and what I always advocate, is that with the right to know comes the obligation to learn – that you have to talk to scientists, you have to study the literature. And, at 13 years old, that’s pretty daunting. There are people who are graduate students who can’t approach this literature very effectively.


So what I would encourage you to do is to reach out to independent scientists like me or other scientists here on GMO Answers that can help give you some guidance, that you don’t have to accept, but you should test and you should compare against what other people are saying. Compare it to what the activists tell you. I think that all of the information together needs to be considered when we really want to make informed decisions.


Most of all, I’d really encourage Rachel and other young women like her to actively get involved in STEM disciplines – so science, technology, engineering and math. When someone is passionate, when some is willing to engage and someone who can obviously have great communications ability like her would be equipped with the firepower of critical thinking and a good basis in science, she’d be unstoppable.

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