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Genetically Modified Crops: What Do the Scientists Say?

Genetically Modified Crops: What Do the Scientists Say?

During 2000 and 2001, Plant Physiology® published a series of Editor's Choice articles devoted to biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops. Why did the Editors of the journal take this initiative? In recent years, the media have increased the public's awareness of the environmental and health dimensions of cultivating and consuming GM crops, often uncritically reporting results of controversial studies. Emotionally charged terms such as "frankenfoods," "superweeds," and "genetic pollution" have entered the discussion and the popular vocabulary.

We believe that it is critically important for plant scientists to be actively involved in educating the public, including legislators, about the scientific issues that involve GM technology. We have an obligation to help people understand the reasoning behind scientific research and genetic technology. As scientists, we need to consider the complexity of issues involved from the points of view of history, politics, culture, ecology, safety, environment, and business. Some of our colleagues are actively involved in these educational processes, and we have invited twelve of them to write essays expressing their views on the many issues surrounding this debate. We wanted to put into a broader framework our daily work in the laboratory and our discussions with opponents of genetic modification of crop plants. In some cases opponents of the technology have resorted to criminal activities, resulting not only in destruction of field trials - often of non-GM plants - but also in incidents of arson of research facilities. Graduate students have had their materials destroyed as a result of such activities. Many of our readers are in the "trenches" of these confrontations, and we believe it is extremely important that the voices of prominent scientists be heard, not only by the general public and politicians, but also by plant biologists.

These articles are written mainly for scientists, and particularly for our fellow plant biologists. We believe it is absolutely essential that every plant biologist become educated about the broader issues of food security, especially with respect to biotechnology, and that they become proactive in educational activities at every level. There are many widely held public misconceptions and much unfounded fear about the safety of transgenic crops. Educating the public about the success of biotechnology to date and its future promise will require a commitment on the part of the entire community of plant biologists.

Natasha Raikhel, Editor-in-Chief of Plant Physiology®

View the articles within the book:

Crop Biotechnology. Where Now?
Ben J. Miflin

The Genetically Modified Organism Conflict
Chris Somerville

Biotechnology and the Poor
Maarten J. Chrispeels

Ending World Hunger. The Promise of Biotechnology and the Threat of Antiscience Zealotry
Norman E. Borlaug

Genetically Modified Crops and Developing Countries
Luis R. Herrera-Estrella

The Population/Biodiversity Paradox. Agricultural Efficiency to Save Wilderness
Anthony J. Trewavas

Interpreting the Scientific Literature. Differences in the Scientific and Lay Communities
May R. Berenbaum

Golden Rice and Beyond
Ingo Potrykus

When Transgenes Wander, Should We Worry?
Norman C. Ellstrand

Genetic Engineering and the Allergy Issue
Bob B. Buchanan

The Genetically Modified Crop Debate in the Context of Agricultural Evolution
Channapatna S. Prakash

Agricultural Biotechnology for Africa. African Scientists and Farmers Must Feed Their Own People
Jesse Machuka

Feeding Ten Billion People. Three Views
James N. Siedow

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