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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Biotech in the Land of Oz

If you look at TV Guide any time during the week you can see several nationally syndicated TV programs talking about some of the popular topics in American culture. Food and home are two of the biggest themes so it’s no surprise that agricultural biotechnology and the connections to food would be among the topics discussed. Today’s listings include “Dr. Oz investigates: Genetically Modified Foods.”

The show provided a discussion centered on the safety of GM food and whether GM food should be labeled. The discussion was led by Dr. Mehmet Oz, a medical doctor affiliated with Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital who rose to fame as a the health expert on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” His guests on this specific episode include Dr. Pam Ronald, a plant geneticist from the University of California Davis and biotech proponent, and two biotech critics, Michael Hansen from Consumers Union and author Jeffery Smith.

The request for our participation came at the eleventh hour – we were contacted on Friday for a show to be taped in New York the following Monday. With the limited timeframe and travel schedules, we were not able to participate on the panel. We appreciate the scientific perspective Dr. Ronald provides and feel she did a great job representing farmers, scientists and others in agriculture, including our viewpoint.

The discussion included biotech salmon, currently under regulatory review, as well as crop products that have been fully approved by regulatory agencies around the world and planted by 14 million farmers (90 percent which are small and resource-poor farmers from developing countries) in 25 countries. As a leader in agricultural seed and technology, Monsanto and some of our products were mentioned. There are several resources already on our site that address some of the questions raised:

  • Are GMOs in our food safe? Simply stated, yes. These crops have been extensively tested for food and feed safety in producing countries, and many more countries have approved the import of food or food ingredients that contain GM products.
  • Should foods with biotechnology be labeled? Labeling in the US is overseen by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the system used is science-based. The FDA has determined that genetically-modified crops are basically the same as non-GM crops based on scientific testing and therefore don’t need to be labeled. (A previous blog post touched on this as well.)

We continue to participate in the dialogue through other public venues. What kind of information could Monsanto be providing about GM crops that would be useful to people interested in this topic?

7 Responses to "Biotech in the Land of Oz"

  1. “Simply stated, yes”….GMOs are safe? Testing for food and feed safety is one thing. Human health studies are an entirely different matter. And there’s enough evidence to suggest that GM foods do cause health issues. Science and alleged safety aside, we are talking about a commercial process that requires farmers to buy new seed, chemicals and fertilizer every year. Patents and contracts are aggressively defended and prosecuted. It is ALL ABOUT BUSINESS. This variety of farming, GMO at its core, is what fuels a multi-billion dollar multi-national company sales machine. Farmers pay the Monsanto invoices while the populace at the end of the processed food chain pays a much higher price at the cost of ignorance and their health. The FDA and USDA said GMO is “substantially equivalent.” The same FDA slapped the makers of Oxycontin with a $650 million dollar fine for lying about the drug’s addictive qualities. The drug is still being sold on the market and I know several families who’ve lost children to this legal, FDA-approved drug. So much for agency’s oversight judgement and looking out for the public’s health safety…

    I’m still struggling with “science-based labeling” as if telling the truth is subject to a different set of rules if viewed by a scientist. GM is basically the same as non-GM crops? Well, if given the choice, I choose to eat vegetables that haven’t been soaked in Round-up weed killer. Just because a plant has been engineered to withstand Round-up doesn’t make it a better, more nutritious food. It’s merely able to survive institutionally-sanctioned chemical warfare.

    Let the consumer decide. Publish the data.

  2. Thanks for reading blog Scott and for raising your questions. Health and human safety are certainly a priority for us all. Critics have asserted information that simply is not factual and we’ve addressed that previously in this post http://www.monsantoblog.com/2010/01/12/monsanto-addresses-study/

    Biotechnology offers a very wide range of applications in agriculture just as it does in other scientific fields. From the scientific viewpoint represented on this show, you may find it of interest to read a blog Dr. Ronald posted last night at http://scienceblogs.com/tomorrowstable/2010/12/dr_oz_prescribes_non-gmo_diets.php

  3. My question for Scott and anyone else who is affraid of GMO containing foods: What level of proof do they need to feel safe?

  4. @Scott – GMO and biotech in and of itself does not require farmers to buy new seed, chemical and fertilizers each year. I don’t understand how people keep coming to this conclusion. That has nothing do to with biotech!

    Truly, how are you arriving at that idea? Even farmers of non-GMO corn and soybeans often buy new seed, chemical and fertilizers each year.

  5. For those of us who weren’t in the studio audience, Dr. Ronald’s latest blog post provides an interesting perspective on what was said in taping and what actually made it into the TV show — hardly any of the real scientific evidence that biotech is safe. She also shares a letter she sent to the Dr. Oz show producers, telling them she feels his audience is smarter than they think and deserve to hear the science behind this discussion. http://scienceblogs.com/tomorrowstable/2010/11/update_dr_oz_show_on_plant_gen.php I agree! I am tired of dumbed-down TV presented by intelligent hosts.

  6. Scott Smith
    “Well, if given the choice, I choose to eat vegetables that haven’t been soaked in Round-up weed killer. Just because a plant has been engineered to withstand Round-up doesn’t make it a better, more nutritious food. It’s merely able to survive institutionally-sanctioned chemical warfare.”

    a) nothing edible is “soaked” in roundup – treatments are applied well before emergence

    b) As far as I am aware no vegetables would be soaked in Roundup anyway – there simply aren’t any roundup-ready vegetables on the market – you can therefore put this concern to one side.


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