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Kevin Folta

Professor and Chairman, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida

Expert Bio

Kevin Folta is a professor in and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, Gainesville. He got his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from University of Illinois at Chicago in 1998, and he has worked at University of Wisconsin before settling in at University of Florida. Dr. Folta researches the functional genomics of small fruit crops, the plant transformation, the genetic basis of flavors, and studies at photomorphogenesis and flowering. He has also written many publications and edited books, most recently was the 2011 Genetics, Genomics, and Breeding of Berries. Dr. Folta received the NSF CAREER Award, an HHMI Mentoring Award and was recognized as "University of Florida Foundation Research Professor" in 2010.

 

Studies, Articles and Answers

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Showing 10 out of 59 results

Question

Q: Can you describe in detail the process by which genes are altered in foods?

Answered By Kevin Folta - Aug 08, 2013

A: In the wild, the transfer of genes within and across species is fairly common, either through traditional reproduction (breeding) or through non-traditional means.  Viruses and bacteria do this all the time, as do plants and animals. Human DNA, for instance, is full of viral genes.  When humans began to farm between 10 and 20 thousand years ago, they took the seeds from their best edible wild plants and sowed them to create crops. Early farmers selected the most desirable plants to provide seeds for the next year’s crop. They looked for faster growth; higher yields; larger seed [...]

GMO Basics How GMOs Are Made

Question

Q: Maybe GMO's aren't the problem. They are only the enabler in the case of Roundup Ready. Enabling food to be doused with it. Roundup is supposed to be safe on humans since it only attacks plants. Isn't our gut flora and fauna plant like? This retired MIT

Answered By Kevin Folta - Aug 09, 2013

A: Plants are not "doused" in Roundup or, more precisely, its active ingredient glyphosate.  Relatively small amounts of glyphosate are applied as weeds emerge.  These die and do not compete against emerging glyphosate-resistant crops.  Glyphosate is amazingly non-toxic to humans or any other animals.  Acute effects are seen only at relatively high doses. The LD50 (the dose that kills half of the rats that consume the dose) is about 5,000 mg/kg of body weight.  In other words, if you weigh 200 pounds, you'd have to drink about two pounds of the 41 percent commercial conc [...]

GMO Basics Health & Safety

Question

Q: What does the research conclude about the bioaccumulation of bt toxin resulting from humans consuming GMOs? And did the producers of GMOs produce the evidence of its safety to the FDA before putting these products on the market?

Answered By Kevin Folta - Aug 13, 2013

A: What do you think would happen if a 200-pound human being was force-fed, with a tube down the throat into the stomach, pure bacterial spores equivalent to half a roll of nickels, and then tested for effects 24 hours later? My guess is that you’d see a screaming immune response, massive response from gut flora and probably some effects on physiology that would be reflected in the blood. Agreed? If you agree, then the results of this hypothetical “experiment” are the same as those performed on mice in the Mezzomo study. In short, the work by Mezzomo et al. (J. Hematology and Thromboem [...]

GMO Basics Health & Safety

Question

Q: Monsanto has a history of producing promoting dangerous chemicals and lying about their safety. For example, they started producing PCBs in the 1920s, knew they were dangerous by 1956 (as later proven by internal company memos), and covered up the truth f

Answered By Martin Zucker - Sep 06, 2013

A: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear up some myths and clarify that the premise of your statements and question is completely false. I am familiar with the former Monsanto Company’s activities around DDT and PCB, and I can assure you that the company did not misrepresent information about these products.  And, on the GMO side, we certainly have not misrepresented the extensive, well-documented safety data on GM crops.  You've touched on several topics, though, and in the following bullets, I've attempted to share additional information to address each of your concerns:  [...]

Answered By Kevin Folta - Oct 10, 2014

A: There are two ways to answer this. The first is sort of a copout, but it's true — the Monsanto Company is not the same company. It is a plant breeding and genetic improvement company now. The chemical end of the enterprise was sold off a long time ago, I don't remember the details, but they are easy to find.  Moderator Note: Learn more about the history of Monsanto Company by reading this response. The better answer is this: When we look back at issues like DDT or PCBs, from any company it was public scientists who pointed out the issues. There is no way that any company can hi [...]

Answered By Kevin Folta - Oct 10, 2014

A: There are two ways to answer this. The first is sort of a copout, but it's true — the Monsanto Company is not the same company. It is a plant breeding and genetic improvement company now. The chemical end of the enterprise was sold off a long time ago, I don't remember the details, but they are easy to find.  Moderator Note: Learn more about the history of Monsanto Company by reading this response. The better answer is this: When we look back at issues like DDT or PCBs, from any company it was public scientists who pointed out the issues. There is no way that any company can hi [...]

Business Practices GMOs & Farmers

Question

Q: Monsanto has a history of producing promoting dangerous chemicals and lying about their safety. For example, they started producing PCBs in the 1920s, knew they were dangerous by 1956 (as later proven by internal company memos), and covered up the truth f

Answered By Martin Zucker - Sep 06, 2013

A: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear up some myths and clarify that the premise of your statements and question is completely false. I am familiar with the former Monsanto Company’s activities around DDT and PCB, and I can assure you that the company did not misrepresent information about these products.  And, on the GMO side, we certainly have not misrepresented the extensive, well-documented safety data on GM crops.  You've touched on several topics, though, and in the following bullets, I've attempted to share additional information to address each of your concerns:  [...]

Answered By Kevin Folta - Oct 10, 2014

A: There are two ways to answer this. The first is sort of a copout, but it's true — the Monsanto Company is not the same company. It is a plant breeding and genetic improvement company now. The chemical end of the enterprise was sold off a long time ago, I don't remember the details, but they are easy to find.  Moderator Note: Learn more about the history of Monsanto Company by reading this response. The better answer is this: When we look back at issues like DDT or PCBs, from any company it was public scientists who pointed out the issues. There is no way that any company can hi [...]

Answered By Kevin Folta - Oct 10, 2014

A: There are two ways to answer this. The first is sort of a copout, but it's true — the Monsanto Company is not the same company. It is a plant breeding and genetic improvement company now. The chemical end of the enterprise was sold off a long time ago, I don't remember the details, but they are easy to find.  Moderator Note: Learn more about the history of Monsanto Company by reading this response. The better answer is this: When we look back at issues like DDT or PCBs, from any company it was public scientists who pointed out the issues. There is no way that any company can hi [...]

Business Practices GMOs & Farmers

Question

Q: 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

Answered By Kevin Folta - Jan 27, 2014

A: 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 [...]

GMOs in Groceries Health & Safety Labeling

Question

Q: Why do you think GMOs are the way feed people? DO NOT ARGUE that they produce higher yields to feed the world because we both know 40% of food is tossed out and another good portion goes toward feeding livestock- and also there is significant evidence tha

Answered By Kevin Folta - Oct 09, 2014

A: I’m glad you asked this question and that it was routed to me. I can keep this in perspective, and I want your help in the end. The blanket statement that biotech crops are useless to the world’s populations is not much of a testament to those that are glad to have them — and those that want them. There are well-documented cases where farmers in India do see higher cotton yields (Kathage and Qiam, 2012), and farmers throughout South America have also found the products beneficial. Bt brinjal’s early reviews are good. Several countries in Africa are not waiting for the approval of the ind [...]

Answered By Kevin Folta - Oct 09, 2014

A: I’m glad you asked this question and that it was routed to me. I can keep this in perspective, and I want your help in the end. The blanket statement that biotech crops are useless to the world’s populations is not much of a testament to those that are glad to have them — and those that want them. There are well-documented cases where farmers in India do see higher cotton yields (Kathage and Qiam, 2012), and farmers throughout South America have also found the products beneficial. Bt brinjal’s early reviews are good. Several countries in Africa are not waiting for the approval of the ind [...]

GMO Basics How GMOs Are Made

Question

Q: Why do you think GMOs are the way feed people? DO NOT ARGUE that they produce higher yields to feed the world because we both know 40% of food is tossed out and another good portion goes toward feeding livestock- and also there is significant evidence tha

Answered By Kevin Folta - Oct 09, 2014

A: I’m glad you asked this question and that it was routed to me. I can keep this in perspective, and I want your help in the end. The blanket statement that biotech crops are useless to the world’s populations is not much of a testament to those that are glad to have them — and those that want them. There are well-documented cases where farmers in India do see higher cotton yields (Kathage and Qiam, 2012), and farmers throughout South America have also found the products beneficial. Bt brinjal’s early reviews are good. Several countries in Africa are not waiting for the approval of the ind [...]

Answered By Kevin Folta - Oct 09, 2014

A: I’m glad you asked this question and that it was routed to me. I can keep this in perspective, and I want your help in the end. The blanket statement that biotech crops are useless to the world’s populations is not much of a testament to those that are glad to have them — and those that want them. There are well-documented cases where farmers in India do see higher cotton yields (Kathage and Qiam, 2012), and farmers throughout South America have also found the products beneficial. Bt brinjal’s early reviews are good. Several countries in Africa are not waiting for the approval of the ind [...]

GMO Basics How GMOs Are Made

Question

Q: A study conducted by Brazilian researchers found acute Roundup exposure at *LOW* doses (36ppm, 0.036g/L) for 30 minutes induced cell death in Sertoli cells in prepubertal rat testis. Are you saying that this study, and ALL studies that find safety issues

Answered By Kevin Folta - Aug 14, 2013

A: Short answer, note that the researchers used "Roundup", not the active ingredient glyphosate. It is sort of like saying water is toxic to cells because bleach is 95% water, and when they were incubated with bleach they died. Roundup is a formulation of glyphosate plus a surfactant, in this case POEA. Surfactants are wetting agents, think of them as detergent-like. They help break surface tension on a plant's foliage so the active ingredients have better penetration. This way farmers can use less active ingredient. The effects of POEA on cells in culture and negative impacts in aquat [...]

GMO Basics Health & Safety

Question

Q: Can this site include more studies from the growing number of geneticists against GMO foods? This would offer all of us a better perspective. Here is a good primer by David Susuki on tree plant foods and GMOs: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articl

Answered By Kevin Folta - Dec 20, 2013

A: Chad, The central goal of this website is to provide evidence-based information.  The scientific consensus is backed by massive literature of hard peer-reviewed literature that is the foundation of these products and the problems they seek to solve.  We need to rely on vetted evidence to base our decisions in science, especially as it pertains to policy.  And a “better perspective” is not so good if it is just opinion.  We need to deal in hypothesis-derived evidence.  We don’t invite a Creationist to the evolution conference just because someone feels the earth i [...]

GMO Basics Health & Safety