CBI

Cathleen Enright

Former Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information

Cathy is the executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information. She is also the executive vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Cathy earned her PhD in Biochemistry and completed her postdoctoral training at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine before becoming an agricultural trade and environment negotiator for the federal government in 1995. After her government service, Cathy worked for the produce industry before joining CBI and BIO in 2011. Cathy is a passionate advocate for all of US agriculture, and served on President Obama’s Agricultural Policy Committee in 2008 and again in 2012.

Cathleen Enright is no longer the Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information. Answers and content from Cathleen Enright were provided in her former capacity as Executive Director of the Council at Biotechnology Information.

From this Expert

Posted On: Tuesday, 5/06/2014 11:07 am
A: Could I begin by describing the labeling we support? When it comes to safeguarding your health and nutrition, we support the mandatory labeling of food, including GM food, if it raises a safety or health concern, for example, to alert sensitive populations to the potential presence of an allergen. We also support mandatory labeling of GM food if there is a change to the food’s composition, nutritional profile, taste or smell, or any other characteristic that would make it different from its... Continue Reading
Posted On: Sunday, 2/16/2014 10:40 am
A: Cathleen Enright, executive director for the Council for Biotechnology Information, recently answered a similar question. Here is an excerpt from her response: “For far too long, we’ve let people’s questions and concerns about GMOs go unanswered. That negligence has resulted in a lot of the apprehension the public is expressing today. So here we are, late to the conversation, but resolute in our commitment to choice.  “There are a number of reasons consumers may prefer to... Continue Reading
Posted On: Tuesday, 1/07/2014 10:01 am
A: We believe food companies have the right to select the ingredients that are best for their markets, just as farmers have the right to choose the seeds that are right for their businesses.  We appreciated General Mills transparency in this regard.   General Mills did a good job explaining the change and reinforcing the safety of GMOs.  (General Mills’ statements are available online: http://blog.generalmills.com/2014/01/the-one-and-only-cheerios  and http://cheerios.com... Continue Reading
Posted On: Tuesday, 8/20/2013 7:22 pm
A: Regarding mandatory labeling requirements in other countries including in the EU, Japan, and Australia, none are based on safety or health concerns.  In fact, each of the regulatory authorities in these countries has determined that foods and animal feed made from GMO ingredients is as safe, healthy and nutritious as food and feed made from non GMO ingredients.  The wide diversity in the requirements globally demonstrates that the safety, health, or nutrition associated with GMO food... Continue Reading
Posted On: Saturday, 8/17/2013 6:09 pm
A: I recently posted a response, included below, which addresses the topics raised in your question. If you have additional questions after reading this response, please ask. I’m aware of only one country, Kenya, with a ban in place on GMO food imports. The decision came about in November 2012, apparently during a cabinet meeting, that circumvented the existing Kenyan Biosafety Act and the National Biosafety Authority, the regulatory agency established to regulate the use of GMOs.Every other... Continue Reading

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What is the GMO industry trying to hide?

By Cathleen Enright (CBI) on Friday, February 27, 2015 - 15:58

  • Business Practices
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nt to these prerequisites will not survive in the present regulatory and social environment.

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We've received other questions similar to yours, and this is one misperception that we would like to correct. None of our companies has ever sued a farmer when trace amounts of our patented seeds or traits were present in the farmer’s field as an accident or as a result of inadvertent means―such as through cross-pollination.

 

Additional responses that address similar topics can be found here:

 

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You are likely referring to Michael R. Taylor, a lawyer who is currently deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. Taylor has spent most of his career of more than 35 years as a public official or college professor, and spent about 16 months working for Monsanto, a biotechnology company.

 

Opponents of biotechnology often raise the fact that some former EPA, FDA and USDA employees have gone to work for biotech companies, and some company employees have left to take jobs in the public sector. It is important to note that agricultural biotechnology is a specialized field that requires knowledge in science, risk assessment and public policy, and both the public and private sectors benefit when employers have access to the most competent and experienced people.

 

Furthermore, the Obama Administration has issued a policy statement making it clear that political appointees are not to interfere in scientific research.  The policy states:

 

“The overriding intent of this policy is that political appointees must not exert undue influence over scientists in the conduct of scientific research. Recognizing that the nature of the scientific inquiry includes formulating and exploring questions, it is to be expected that scientists may have different perspectives and develop multiple approaches in their research. The existence of disputes in research is not inconsistent with scientific integrity or with a policy that political appointees must not exercise undue influence over scientific inquiry.”

 

As a former federal regulator, I was honored to serve with individuals from the private sector, who brought to their positions not only the expertise needed to make regulatory decisions based on the actual risk presented, using the best scientific information available, but also a moral center that never confused their duties in their regulatory positions with their roles in jobs they previously held.

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Next week, GMO Answers will be in Austin to participate in SXSW and we’re really looking forward to discussing GMOs and answering questions about GMOs and how our food is grown. We applied and were accepted as trade show exhibitors, and also submitted a panel through the SXSW Panel Picker, which was accepted into the Southbites track of programming. That panel submission can be found here: http://schedule.sxsw.com/2015/events/event_IAP43132. Panel submissions are open to anyone interested in participating in the events – learn more about how panels are submitted here. http://support.sxsw.com/forums/22261746-PanelPicker 

Today, the Organic Consumers Association issued a statement (https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/gene-giants-kick-oca-sxsw-food-panel-discussion) saying that GMO Answers had ‘disinvited’ them from participating on our panel. To our knowledge, the OCA was never invited to speak on this panel - we have at no time had any contact with the OCA about this panel or participating on it. The first contact we had with the OCA about the panel was on March 3rd, when I spoke on the phone with Katherine Paul.  

Our panel submission was written and accepted as a two-person conversation with a moderator about “…what defines transparency, what’s widening the divide between those working for it, and the ways we can work together to achieving our common goal.” This panel was not proposed, or accepted, as a “…debate on the health and safety of genetically engineered crops or food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)”.  While we imagine this topic will come up during the conversation  – which we welcome - the topic of the panel is the search for common ground. 

While much of the OCA's post mischaracterizes the conversation I had with Katherine on March 3rd,  I do absolutely welcome a debate about the health and safety of GMOs with the OCA or anyone interested in having one. But at SXSW next week, I'm looking forward to having the discussion that was submitted and accepted by SXSW, with Ben & Jerry’s Social Activism Manager, Chris Miller, and moderated with Tamar Haspel of the Washington Post. I hope you’ll join us. 

– Cathleen Enright, Ph.D., executive director of Council for Biotechnology Information and head of GMO Answers

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For many years, the companies that produce biotech seeds focused almost solely on their farmer customers and missed the boat on the importance of also communicating with the public – answering consumers’ questions and providing factual information about GMOs.

This was a mistake on our part. We ceded our story to others, and as a result, some people became suspicious and fearful of foods that come from GMOs and didn’t know or understand why crops made from these seeds were entering the food system.

That changed two years ago. We launched “GMO Answers,” a web-based initiative to provide accurate, verifiable information transparently and a place for consumers to go to get their questions answered. We wanted to create an open conversation about GMOs and company developers, particularly the six large agricultural seed companies – BASF Plant Sciences, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta – who sponsor this effort.

We invite visitors to our site to “Ask Us Anything” and they have: 850 questions to-date. Close to 800 have already been answered. Independent, volunteer experts have answered questions such as, “Are GMOs causing an increase in allergies” or “Do GMOs cause cancer? We do not compensate them.

Company experts have replied too, for example to questions such as, “If GMOs are so great, why does Monsanto serve organic produce in it's cafeteria,” “Are GMOs contributing to the death of bees and butterflies,” and “Are these scientists all wrong, there are over 800 scientists who all believe GMOs are a bad idea…”

We welcome all parties to participate in a respectful, healthy conversation about biotech crops on GMO Answers. We don’t edit questions. We invite disclosure and discourse. Answers are accompanied with the name and photo of experts. The response has been incredible.

But it appears that some may not want this conversation to take place. We learned recently that one critic filed a request under certain states’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws to try to force public universities to search through and disclose the communications between these independent experts and our company sponsors, as well as communications with related entities or persons. While FOIA requests are an important tool for information gathering, we’re concerned about how they can be used against scholars who research and speak out on controversial issues. In short, this recent FOIA effort may have the design or effect of quieting the voices of some of the world's most talented experts on agricultural biotechnology by harassing and discouraging them from contributing to the dialogue.

What are they looking for? Evidence of the industry buying answers? Proof that we’re influencing experts’ opinions? They will find none. GMO Answers exists for people who are skeptical of GMOs. Nothing is off limits – because the GMO industry has nothing to hide and believes in the science, testing and safety of its products. GMO Answers has been clear about its goal: a commitment to an open and transparent dialogue. This entire effort is about sharing information – not hiding it.

We’ve seen the benefits provided by the adoption of GMO seeds around the world, enabling farmers to produce crops using less – reductions in fertilizer, water, insecticides and on-farm fuel use have been documented year after year. Drought tolerant crops have been introduced to better withstand the impacts of climate change, and salt tolerant and heat tolerant crops are in development. More farmers have adopted biotech crops in developing countries than in industrialized/developed ones. We stand by the science. So do thousands of prestigious academics and scientists.

So what is the GMO industry hiding? Nothing. Ask us anything. We’ll answer as best we can, with the most scientifically accurate information available.

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