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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: What would a student major in at college to learn to create gmos

Answered By Alan McHughen - Dec 16, 2014

A: Modern GMOs are developed by teams of experts in different fields, as few individuals have the broad range of skills needed to develop commercialized GMOs alone. Also, different kinds of GMOs are developed for different purposes by teams with differing expertise. For example, a GMO to produce a pharmaceutical product like insulin would not require the same expertise as a GM corn crop with enhanced drought tolerance.   However, the experts typically have college level training in subjects including basic biology, chemistry (especially biochemistry), genetics (especially molecular geneti [...]

Environment GMOs in Groceries Modern Agriculture


Q: Why would an insulin producing gene in corn plants be a better alternative than in bacteria?

Answered By Alan McHughen - Jul 01, 2015

A: I see lots of potential downsides with using the GE corn to produce insulin, from the more complicated transformation procedure, to more difficult extraction/purification, to the possibility (however remote) of food/feed corn admixtures. I was able to come up with no compelling reason to engineer a corn plant to produce insulin, as long as the bacterial system is operating effectively (which, as I understand, it is).  [...]

GMO Basics Modern Agriculture


Q: Is there a list somewhere detailing what species was used to make each GMO? I think it would be cool to glyphosate resistance in corn originating from a petunia plant, etc. Or which genes were silenced to achieve the desired expression?

Answered By Alan McHughen - Mar 18, 2016

A: The best source detailing the components used in making GE crops is probably this list at USDA- APHIS.   This site lists all of the GE crops (regulated articles) for which a petition has been submitted, and the status of each petition.   To find component details, select the specific GE crop you’re interested in and click on the arrow link to open up links to detailed documents, including Federal Register notices, the petition itself and usually some other official documents. Click on the petition to read details about the GE plant. Although there is no standard [...]

Health & Safety How GMOs Are Made Crop protectants