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Alan McHughen

CE Biotechnology Specialist and Geneticist

Expert Bio

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.

Studies, Articles and Answers

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Q: Isn’t the produce department in my grocery store full of products from GMOs?

Answered By Alan McHughen - Jul 30, 2013

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 nutritional values of the food. [...]

GMO Basics


Q: Have you reviewed the study showing that GMOs caused cancer in lab rats?

Answered By Alan McHughen - Sep 11, 2013

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 experimental design, statistical analysis, interpretation and presentation of results. Problems includ [...]

Environment Health & Safety How GMOs Are Made


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

By Alan McHughen - Jan 27, 2014

A: Genes are like recipes, they tell the cell how to make a particular protein.  It is the presence (or absence) of the particular protein (often an enzyme) that gives the plant, animal or microbe a trait. Insulin, for example, is a protein that helps control blood sugar in mammals. The insulin gene recipe is carried in the genome of mammals, but is not present in the genomes of animals lacking blood, nor in plants or microbes, for that matter, as they have no blood to regulate.  Since the 1980s, insulin used by diabetics is made by Genetically Modified bacteria into which the human in [...]

GMO Basics How GMOs Are Made


Q: David Suzuki says that we dont know the unintended consequences at the molecular level of genetic engineering. He uses the analogy of taking Mick Jagger and putting him in with a symphony orchestra and saying Now, make music. He say that the context of a

Answered By Alan McHughen - Jun 26, 2014

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. They never make anything else from the human insulin recipe, just insulin. When the exercise fails, i [...]

How GMOs Are Made Modern Agriculture