Business Practices

By • February 09, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article from United News of Bangladesh about the prospect of GMO golden rice being approved in that country. 

Bangladeshi rice scientists have advanced a beta carotene-rich rice to a varietal release stage, heralding a new era in fight against vitamin-A deficiency (VAD).

They said the wait is nearly over for release of Golden Rice, a long touted remedy to VAD. 

According to the World Health Organization's global VAD database, one in every five pre-school children in Bangladesh is vitamin A-deficient. Among the pregnant women, 23.7 percent suffer from VAD.

Upon receipts of positive outcome from two successive years of ‘confined’ field trials, the breeders at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) have just gone for a final cycle of multi-location field trials and sought regulatory approval from the government for an ‘unconfined’ field test prior seeking variety release approval. 

BRRI Senior Plant Breeder Dr M A Kader told UNB that in last Boro season they’ve got 10 to 12 μg/g (micrograms/gram) beta carotene in a BRRI dhan29 line genetically converted into Golden Rice, which should be enough to address half of rice-eating consumers’ daily deficiency of vitamin-A.   

“This season (Boro) we’ve gone for ‘confined’ field trials in five different agro-ecological locations again. Besides, we’ve also sought permission for an open field trial prior starting the process of varietal release,” explained Kader, now overseeing the Golden Rice programme at BRRI. 

Dr Donald J MacKenzie, Regulatory Affairs and Stewardship Leader of the Golden Rice Project of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), now on a visit to Bangladesh, told UNB that Bangladeshi rice scientists have advanced the beta carotene-rich rice to a stage very close to release of Golden Rice. 

To read the entire story, please visit the United News of Bangladesh website

By • January 31, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an opinion piece in U.S. News & World Report by former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on the issue of misleading food labeling

For the food industry, 2017 was the year of the label. Whether 'non-GMO' or 'no high fructose corn syrup', 'no added hormones' or 'gluten free,' consumers are increasingly demanding more information about what's in their food.

A report last fall by Nielsen found that 39 percent of consumers would switch from the brands they currently buy to others that provide clearer, more accurate product information. Additionally, 73 percent reported feeling positively about brands that share the "why behind the buy" information about their products.

On its face, it makes sense. If consumers say they want transparency, tell them exactly what is in your product. That is simply supplying a certain demand.

But the marketing strategy in response to this consumer demand has gone beyond articulating what is in a product, to labeling what is NOT in the food. And this is where "simple" supply and demand is no longer simple. So-called "absence claims" labels – those that arbitrarily tell a consumer what isn't in a product, rather than what is – represent an emerging labeling trend that is harmful both to the consumers who purchase the products and the industry that supplies them.

For example, Hunt's put a "non-GMO" label on its canned crushed tomatoes a few years ago – despite the fact that at the time there was no such thing as a GMO tomato on the market. There still isn't today, yet the label remains. Some dairy companies are using the "non-GMO" label on their milk, despite the fact that all milk is naturally GMO-free, regardless of the type of feed given to the cows that produce it. In addition, the "no added hormones" label has become de rigueur within the poultry industry, even though federal law already makes it illegal to sell poultry in the U.S. that was raised with added hormones.

While creating labels that play on consumer fears and misconceptions about their food may give a company a temporary marketing advantage over competitive products on the grocery aisle, thereby boosting the bottom line, long term this kind of ploy will have just the opposite effect: by injecting fear-mongering into the discourse about our food, we run the risk of eroding consumer trust in not just a single product, but the entire food business.

Click here to read the entire commentary

By • January 31, 2018

The following is an excerpt of a post and video from Julie Gunlock at the the Independent Women's Forum explaining how GMOs could potentially help in the fight against global hunger. 

According to the United Nations, 795 million people currently live with chronic malnutrition and most of those people live in developing nations.

In Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria alone, more than 20 million people face hunger and even starvation. Several factors have contributed to this tragedy--drought and crop failures as well as internal conflicts and wars.

Yet, it's worth noting that radical green activists are also to blame. These activists have actually focused on Africa, telling vulnerable populations that modern agricultural techniques—like the use of GMO seed to grow crops—is associated with a myriad of health problems. These lies have led some government officials of these African nations to ban GMOs and reject modern technologies that could increase agricultural outputs.

For example, in 2016, Zimbabwe faced dangerous food shortages due to drought. Despite the desperate situation, Zimbabwe’s government decided to reject food aid containing GMO ingredients after activists told government leaders that GMO food was dangerous and would injure their citizens (nevermind that the famine was also a major threat to the lives of their citizens).

This immoral behavior must stop. People--particularly those who live in developing nations--deserve the truth about the heath and safety of GMOs.

GMOs have been the subject of thousands of safety tests and are considered safe by every major scientific and medical association on the planet.

To read the entire post, please visit the Independent Women's Forum page.  And to view their new video, please watch here

By • January 24, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article from The Tribune (Greeley, Co.) reporting on a panel about GMOs at a local farm show

Halie Harding, a senior at South High School in Cheyenne, Wyo., is part of the National FFA Organization. She gets frustrated with people who seem to turn to social media more and more to get information.

Especially when those people attack her family's livelihood. Harding has lived in ag and ranching communities for most of her life, and she worries about people who spread and consume misinformation about GMOs, otherwise known as genetically modified organisms.

It worries her because she sees some ridiculous stuff online.

"I see kids eating Tide pods," Harding said.

Harding came to the Colorado Farm Show on Tuesday at Island Grove Regional Park with some of her FFA chapter. She watched a documentary called "Food Evolution," which was followed by a panel that discussed GMOs.

To read the entire article, please visit The Tribune website

By • January 16, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article at Devex that examines the role of genetically modified crops in the struggle for global food security

Food security is, and will continue to be, one of our greatest ongoing development challenges. We not only need to provide food and nutrition for a growing global population, but we must do so in the face of mounting environmental challenges. The global climate is changing, and land suitable for agriculture and food production is changing with it. Salinification and desertification, flooding and drought, and natural disasters threaten agriculture across the globe. With changing temperatures, meanwhile, come new risks from pests and diseases.

Agricultural and food security experts are investigating a range of ways to address these challenges. Solutions range from everything from new breeding programs, to better monitoring and evaluation, to farming strategies that reduce waste and increase yield.

But in discussing a food-secure future, the role of genetically modified organisms remains a raging debate.

At the core of the anti-GMO argument is the role large corporations play in the development, implementation, and profit from GMO products — largely Monsanto. Organizations such as Monsanto grew as GMO leaders due to the initial costs involved in the research, development, testing, and intellectual property associated with GMO. Monsanto has developed a range of crops that produce higher yield — including the controversial roundup ready crops, which are pesticide resistant. Monsanto not only makes money from selling high yield seed, but all the associated products that need to be sprayed on them to produce the best output.

Opponents raise concern over the environmental impacts of such crops and the patent stipulations for small farmers, and they challenge the science and information coming from organizations such as Monsanto. This concern has led to the cultivation of GMOs being banned or prohibited in more than 30 regions, not including bans that have occurred at subregional levels, as well as food labelling standards identifying products as GMO free.

Today, as technology is becoming more accessible and less expensive, smaller labs and researchers are able to produce GMOs at a reduced costs — with the seed produced available for public good, not profit. And this allows them to respond to small, localized food production issues such as bananas in Uganda and papaya in Hawaii.

For the development sector — where the impact of lost local crops can mean loss of income, increased poverty and loss of culture — does “public good” GMO change the debate?

To read the entire article, please visit Devex

By • January 08, 2018

The following is an excerpt of a speech given by former Greenpeace activist (and now GMO supporter) Mark Lynas detailing how parties on both side of this issue can come together more:

  1. Environmentalists accept the science of GMO safety, and scientists in return need to accept that politics matter in how scientific innovations are deployed.
  2. We drop national GMO bans and instead allow fully informed choices to be made by consumers in the marketplace via rigorous labelling and full traceability.
  3. We all get over the Monsanto obsession but make a much more serious effort to start getting off the chemical treadmill and moving farming onto more sound ecological principles.
  4. We agree to support public sector and non-corporate uses of genetic engineering where these can clearly contribute to environmental sustainability and the public interest.
  5. We support all forms of agriculture that aim to find ways towards greater sustainability. Let a hundred flowers bloom.
  6. We stop the name-calling. Let’s avoid using the term anti-science in particular. Anti-GMO activists are not opposing the scientific method in general, they are opposing a particular technological innovation.
  7. Let’s make ethical objections to genetic engineering explicit and in the process recognize real-world trade-offs about where we do and don’t use this technology.

To read Lynas' entire speech, please visit his website. 

By • January 05, 2018

The following is a blog post by GMO Answers Expert Wayne Parrott at the Processed Food Site about the potential downsides of non-GMO labeling. 

One day while walking home some 60 years ago, my uncle was approached by a street vendor, who explained that a fine boy like him could surely use a wrist watch.  He proceeded to show him his assortment of watches.  “Why are they so pricey?” asked my uncle.  “Because these have no jewels, unlike the ones the stores sell,” replied the salesman.   The explanation was good enough for my uncle, who went home, found his savings, and went back for the watch.  The excited boy then ran home to show off his purchase, “And I was even able to get one without jewels,” he bragged.

Consumers who still appreciate a fine mechanical watch over a digital version are undoubtedly familiar with the concept of jewels- namely bearings made out of ruby—that improve the function and longevity of watches.  And, as this ad from 1933 attests, the more jewels used in a watch, the greater its price.  Jewels make for a fine watch.

As my uncle’s misadventure shows, marketers have learned to never underestimate the power of claiming superiority due to the absence of something.  Nowhere is this trend more evident today than in the popularity of ‘-free’ labels, which have skyrocketed in the food industry.  Food singled out by its lack of given ingredients (artificial dyes, transfats, gluten, high fructose corn syrup, added sugars, preservatives, etc) are eagerly snatched up by consumers.  Most do so out of a conviction that these are healthier products.  A small number of these consumers even like to feel smug about it.  We’ve all met someone like that at one time or another.


Perhaps the most popular ‘-free’ label today is the GMO-free or non-GMO label.  However, are GMO-free products truly superior, or are they marketing ploys like a jewel-free watch?  Consider these questions:

  • What is a GMO? Most consumers admit they really do not know what a GMO is. In its current use, GMO (genetically modified organism) has no biological meaning, because both nature and humans have been genetically modifying our food for 1000s of years. Instead, GMO has become a legal term that describes how the latest modification was done, and says nothing about the type of modification made.
  • What makes a GMO product different?   GMO refers to a process, not a product.  GMO is not an ingredient.
  • But, is it safe? Yes, they are as safe as non-GMO foods.  Although there is no reason to single-out GMO foods for extra regulation, the precautionary nature of the regulatory system ensures they get extensive testing, while conventional food gets almost none.  Furthermore, because of our global economy, many other countries & groups, such as Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, and the European Union, repeat or review the safety assessments, meaning there is lots of redundancy in the safety system.  Nevertheless, there are always claims of harm from GMO foods.  Not one of these claims has stood up to close examination.
  • Is there an upside? Yes, there are several. GMO crops have been particularly efficient at increasing sustainability and decreasing the agriculture’s footprint on the environment. GMOs reduce losses from agricultural pests and decreasing the amount of insecticides used.  Other GMO crops have made it easier to implement farming practices that protect the soil from erosion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Returning to my uncle’s watch, more than sixty years later, the rest of family has not let my uncle forget his misadventure, and retell the tale at all family gatherings.  The tale is retold with particularly glee if the youngest generation is present, thus ensuring that they can retell the tale to future generations.  Sixty years from now, will people make fun of today’s aversion to GMOs?  I sure hope so.  So, the next time you see a non-GMO label, do not fall for the marketing ploy.  Like watches without jewels, being free from something does not automatically mean “better.”

Dr. Wayne Parrott is a Professor of Crop and Soil Science at the University of Georgia. His lab research focuses on molecular breeding with an emphasis on soybeans, switchgrass and white clover. He is a member of the university’s Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics. Wayne was recently recognized as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was selected for this prestigious award “for distinguished contributions to the development and implementation of plant transformation technologies and to the discussions of the science and regulatory processes associated with genetically modified organisms.” Perhaps no one in the world has been a more ardent defender of and advocate for genetically modifying agricultural crops for a more bountiful, nutritious and sustainable food supply.

To read the original post, please visit the Processed Food Site. 

By • January 05, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an interview between the advocacy group Food Tank and university professor and agriculture economist Jayson Lusk about a variety of food issues. 

Food Tank (FT): What motivated you to step outside of the halls of academia and bring your analyses and criticisms of policy proposals like soda taxes, vegetable subsidies, and GMO labeling to the popular media?

Jayson Lusk (JL): Having grown up around people involved in production agriculture and working with the scientists who bring new food and agricultural technologies to life, my sense was that the public could use a broader perspective about how and why we grow food the way we do. Popular media portraits of the state of food and agriculture often paint selective and sensational pictures of the state of modern agriculture. My economic training also made me skeptical of the effectiveness of many of the policies that had become fashionable.

I don’t think I’ve ever argued that our current agricultural production system doesn’t face challenges, rather one needs to understand the tradeoffs and consequences of attempts to move away from our current system and consider whether the policies being proposed will actually create the outcomes people want. So, my main motivation is to provide information to help consumers, farmers, agribusinesses, and policy makers make decisions that will lead to a prosperous food future.

FT: The U.S. Food system currently fails to satisfy the basic needs of some consumers. What interventions do you think are most efficiently correcting this deficit and who is driving them?

JL: I’m not sure I agree with the premise of the question. Our food system feeds more people, more affordably, with more variety, and more nutritiously than has any other food system in human history. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Some people, even in rich countries like the U.S., go hungry, and many farmers cannot turn a profit. We have a variety of policies that attempt to address those problems with varying degrees of success. The research suggests the SNAP program, for example, is largely successful in achieving its goal of improving food security.

To read the entire interview, please visit the Food Tank website

By • December 14, 2017

The following is an excerpt of an article by Bloomberg about the high cost (financial and otherwise) of developing a genetically modified product, and how that high cost may have a direct impact in the fight against climate change. 

In the basement of Koshland Hall at the University of California at Berkeley is a trove of seeds with the potential to fix some of agriculture’s most vexing problems.

There are wheat seeds—both hypoallergenic, so more people could eat it, and of a variety able to better withstand unpredictable rainfall—a growing problem because of climate change. UC Berkeley scientists also developed seeds for tomatoes resistant to bacterial spot disease, producing a plant that could combat a pock-marking that leaves the fruit scarred and undesirable. There’s even a fast-germinating barley that could save beer brewers millions of dollars.

Aside from their potential, each of these innovations has something else in common: They’re all the result of genetic modification. And that’s where the problems start. 

“None of what we’ve done has made it anywhere,” says Peggy Lemaux, a crop biotechnologist at Berkeley.

From Lemaux’s perspective, loud, anti-GMO sentiment from activists and consumer groups have kept investors away, even when there’s a huge opportunity for benefits—and profit. That speedy barley, for example, was developed at the request of beer giant Coors Brewing Co. (now Molson Coors Brewing Co.) But when it was ready, Lemaux said, Coors no longer wanted it. “By the time we went back to them, they were like, ‘oh no, we’re not doing that.’”

Molson Coors said that while Coors funded research at Berkeley, it wasn’t for “any of the findings to its barley breeding program.” In a statement, the company emphasized, “Molson Coors does not actively pursue GMO research, nor do we use genetically modified barley in our beers.”

The campaign by consumer activists who questioned the health effects of GMO food, and the drumbeat of nations that imposed tough regulations and labeling rules, has had a marked effect. In some quarters, the GMO label has become radioactive. But with the effects of rapidly advancing climate change shifting how and where the world gets its food, such people as Lemaux believe those who oppose genetic modification may want to reconsider.

Click here to read the entire article. 

By • December 08, 2017

The following is an excerpt of an article posted on the website Women You Should Know profiling UC Davis researcher Pamela Ronald, who has developed a flood-resistant genetically modified rice. 

It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of rice for the human species.  More than a fifth of all the calories consumed by humans are in the form of rice. In terms of nutrition, it is the globe’s most important staple crop, which means that when something goes wrong with rice, the humanitarian implications can be staggering.

And, believe me, rice has some powerful enemies. Rice blight, when it strikes, can wipe out eighty percent of a crop in a grotesquely brief amount of time, and worldwide is responsible for the loss of one hundred thousand tons of grain a year, which could feed just over 750,000 people. That is a terrifying number, but in magnitude it is dwarfed by the destruction wrought each year by water. Flooding has traditionally claimed about 4 million tons of rice every year, which could have gone to feed thirty million people.

Food loss on that scale has attracted all manner of traditional solutions over the years, but the breakthrough that finally created rice seeds strong enough to stand up to blight and flood came when Pamela Ronald (b. 1961), a plant biologist and geneticist at UC Davis, combined the know-how of evolution with the rigor of molecular biology and genetics to solve at last a problem as old as written history.

Ronald had always been intrigued by how plants interact with other organisms, how these seemingly passive living things hide within them a plethora of active responses to the hordes of micro and macroscopic beings attempting to do them in. In college, she studied how plants interface with fungi and the nature of plant-bacteria interactions when it struck her that the biggest problem she could devote her research to was the elucidation of how rice reacts to chemical and biological adversaries.

Rice-A-Ronald: The UC Davis Treat


















To read the entire profile, please visit the Women You Should Know website


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