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Question

Is there any risks or drawbacks

Submitted by: Dunn198122


Answer

Expert response from Kevin Folta

Professor and Chairman, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida

Friday, 04/10/2015 10:54

While this sounds like a cop-out answer, it is absolutely true — everything has risk. In traditional plant breeding, we mix genes just by fertilizing plants with other plants' pollen. We have no idea which genes are moving or what might be happening at the cellular level. There are several cases in history where something dangerous has come from basic plant sex, like the Lenappe potato and high-psoralen celery. Genomes are complicated, and there always is a tiny, tiny risk of unintended consequence.

 

Transgenic, or GMO, technology also has similar risk, only the likelihood is lower, because we know the gene that is installed. We can follow it and know where it rests in the genome and whether it affects other genes. We can do tests to determine whether it has any effect on cellular processes or the production of new toxins or allergens, and to make sure they don't happen. These capabilities make the risk much lower than that of traditional breeding and have given us the safest food supply in human history. 

 

Those who study risk will tell you that a sense of danger is heightened by unfamiliarity and dread. Transgenic (GMO) science is technology that most people don't understand, so it is unfamiliar. Furthermore, opponents of the technology have done a great job with Frankensteining the process, providing false information to stoke fear and dread. This is why good technology has such a high-risk perception, when the scientific reality shows it to be lower.