Jeff Kahn, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics; Dave Somers, professor in the department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota, discuss the question "What are GMO's?" (Genetically Modified Organisms).
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(00:00:24) Good morning, and welcome to midday on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary eichten glad you could join us yesterday with the snow falling the winds howling and the temperature dropping Like a Rock yesterday was not a particularly good day for a protest. So it may say something about the depth of concern over GMOs that protesters did indeed show up yesterday at a University of Minnesota seminar in Southeastern Minnesota to voice their opposition to genetically modified organisms the protesters argue that genetically modified products haven't been properly tested and will wreak havoc on the environment. They also worry about the influence of large agricultural corporations that sponsor such Seminars the debate over GMOs has become a very Hot Topic in agriculture and Science and today on. Midday. We're going to take a closer. Look at what GMOs are what benefits they offer and what problems they may cause first it before we get to our - let's hear more about that meeting in Rushford yesterday Minnesota public. Radio's Art Hughes reports. About Two Dozen organic farmers students and environmentalists collectively calling themselves. The gene watch action team braved the blizzard warning to make their protest. They chanted slogans outside the Rushford American Legion Hall expressing their opposition to genetically modified organisms or GMOs snow piled up on the shoulders of Jim riddles insulated coveralls as he explained his concern that nobody truly knows whether such products as BT corn and Roundup Ready soybeans are bad for people (00:02:04) you and your children are eating genetically engineered food. If you're not eating certified organic food or growing your own and you don't even know it because GMO foods are not labeled (00:02:19) rally organizer riddle who lives in Monona is an independent organic inspector. He says, he's worried GMO crops can contaminate smaller organic farms near by the BT corn variety, which is genetically engineered (00:02:34) Kills monarch butterflies kills lace wings and ladybugs which are beneficial insects. And it also doesn't break down in the soil when the residues of the crops are plowed under it stays active and Alters the soil (00:02:46) ecology BT corn is genetically engineered to produce a toxin that kills harmful corn borers the toxin in the plant eliminates the need for spraying the field Roundup Ready crops are resistant to monsanto's popular and very effective herbicide Roundup kills the weeds, but not the genetically altered crops can Shopper has heard of brown Swiss dairy cows outside of La Crescent Minnesota. He says he hasn't used chemicals on his farm in 20 years. He says just as many agricultural chemicals have proven to be harmful to humans or the environment genetic alterations carry an unknown (00:03:22) risk. I mean, it's like we're entering a 50-year experimental period here where the whole population are the experimental, you know, the trials experiment is being conducted on the whole world. Listen here (00:03:36) protesters pick this meeting in Rushford in part because several big agricultural corporations, including American cyanamid ronpa lank and Novartis signed on as sponsors inside the dim American Legion Hall men in plaid flannel shirts talk about soil in terms of nitrate and potassium levels seminar topics include nutrient management soybean cyst nematode and one session called the ABCs of GMOs David Walgren Bach is head of the University of Minnesota's research and Outreach Center in Waseca. He says GMOs now provide only a moderate benefit to Farmers, but the potential is great. The future of (00:04:15) GMOs is yet to can only be talked (00:04:17) about but we're just tapping the well in terms of where (00:04:21) biotechnology and infusion of genes into plants are going to take us (00:04:27) but that doesn't mean such a journey should go unchecked and we do need to put some limits on where we can go and (00:04:33) what we do. And how we do it and the real benefit has to be to the people that consume (00:04:40) these products and utilizes products login box says the debate is healthy and ultimately in the best interests of farmers and everyone else he dismisses claims that industry Giants and University researchers are conspiring to force GMOs on producers the sponsors of the seminar in Rushford each pitched in a small amount to cover food and the feeder rent the hall Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio Rochester. Well joining us now to discuss GMO is what they are and some of the questions they raise our Jeffrey Cahn the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for bioethics and Dave Summers who's a professor in the department of agronomy in plant genetics at the University of Minnesota. We also invite you to join our conversation. Give us a call. If you've got a question about genetically modified organisms GMOs is they're called number in the Twin Cities is 6 5 1 2 2 7 6 thousand 6 5 1 2 2 7 6,000 outside the Twin Cities you can reach us toll-free and that number is 1-800-218-4243 and or 1-800 to for to to 828 Jeffrey Cahn Dave Summers. Thanks for joining us this morning. (00:05:49) Good to be here. Thanks. Thank you (00:05:50) Professor Summers. Let me start with you. If you could briefly give us a quick Layman's explanation. What is a GMO? I mean, how does it differ from your regular run-of-the-mill (00:06:01) plant? Well, the term Jim o is somewhat of a confusing term to me meaning genetically modified organism in this field. We often say that man has crafted or improve the crop plants over the Millennia to the point that they are today, but I distinguish the current use of GMO as a definition for these types of crops as genetically engineered crops that is genes either removed from the plant manipulated and place. Back into the plant itself or genes from another organism introduced into the plant which is certainly the case of the Roundup Ready soybeans in the BT corn that were mentioned in the article before the discussion (00:06:46) fundamentally different than what we've had (00:06:49) before. Well it's arguable because there are there is evidence that there is this horizontal Gene transfer that occurs naturally, but the fundamental difference in my opinion is the fact that this is a man-made difference humans take these jeans manipulate them and then place them back into the (00:07:07) plant and I understand this is relatively new to the Midwest anyway, but four years or so in the (00:07:13) making well, the technology itself is also a relatively new technology. The first plants were genetically engineered back in 1983 and what we're seeing in the crops that we hear about today are the prototypes of that technology. And yes, they were first rolled out in 1996 and now in particular Really believe Roundup Ready soybeans occupy about 50% or more of the soybean acreage in the United States and BT corn BT corn is a little bit behind that with about 15 million acres and both of those crops occupy about 80 million Acres throughout the u.s. (00:07:51) Jeffrey Cahn worst-case best-case situation with GMOs. What is the worst possible thing that could happen? If all of the people who are concerned about GMOs of all of their worst nightmares come true what would (00:08:07) happen? You know, I think we have to divide up the answer to that question into the kinds of impacts that GMOs might have and just to sort of be brief about that. I think that the categories would fall into something like environmental impact as we heard in the lead in story economic impacts Health impacts on on those of us who eat it and also on the Flora and Fauna in the wild and then research issues. So I think if you want to talk about each Those in turn we can talk about sort of the worst case or maybe just think of about one of those in particular and give you a scenario. So for instance in terms of environmental impact, there is some concern that whatever we do to genetically modify plants and put them out into Fields may actually cause some cross-pollination with wild type plants. So for instance, there's now a squash variety that's resistant to certain viruses that infect squashes and it won't the virus won't infect this particular strain of squash but this squash can cross breed with wild squash and so create potentially resistant wild squash that might not be held back by the normal forces of nature. So we won't have a case like we have a kudzu in the South if anybody's driven down roads or highways in the southern part of the United States. You see this incredible explosion of a what looks like a weed it is sort of taking over. It was a plan that was introduced to the United States. It was not not found here. Naturally that has no sort of natural. Jurors, and so we could easily see a scenario that would create that kind of a problem by genetically modified Plants release into the wild if they could cross breed that's just one (00:09:43) example and on the other end of the Spectrum in terms of the maximum benefit that we could derive from GMOs. If everything went just according to plan and what's the best possible thing the GMOs could bring (00:10:01) us well and let's just to reiterate what what Dave said, we enjoy the product of genetically modified food now nectarines don't occur in nature. They're the product of grafting aplomb and a peach together and we all eat those without much concern now the stuff we're talking about in terms of Roundup Ready soybean or BT corn is not something that will occur in nature and that's how it had to be manipulated by man. And that's the distinction that I think we have to keep in mind. But if everything goes according to the way we hope and think we will actually have much Yield for our crops, which will yield cheaper and more plentiful food will be able to genetically modify food to potentially vaccinate us against disease. There's actually a lot of research going on now where there are potatoes being created that if you eat them will cause you to be vaccinated against salmonella infection for instance. So we actually get other health benefits than just the nutritional value in our food from these genetically modified crops and that's just on the plant side. We can also talk about genetically modified organisms in terms of Biologicals like bacteria that produce new drugs. So I think there's a lot of upside on the on the health side that we need to keep in mind in terms of the benefit to be weighed against whatever risk we see. (00:11:15) Okay question for both of you before we go to some callers here. Is there any scientific consensus about genetically modified organisms their dangers and their benefits are is the science all over the lot on (00:11:31) this. Well, this is the Summers I'd say the scientific Community is also actively debating the safety and concern issues surrounding genetically modified organisms. I think could find different types of scientists more concerned about different types of organisms and other words plants versus microbes Etc. But yes, I'd say the scientific Community both involved in the research and the issues surrounding these products is actively involved in a debate right now. And I think just to Echo a Dave Walton box that it's a good time for the debate. It's very healthy to engage the public in these advances. It's very important that we all move forward to this on this together. Yeah, and I would I would concur with that. It's important to have this debate in an open and public way. I think it's been a little slow in happening which is why we saw the part of the the World Trade Organization protests that happened in Seattle just a month ago with around the slowness of the discussion. Take place in a public way that people could actually see and engage in I think also we have to be careful about what kind of information gets out. So for instance in the lead in to the to our conversation, there was a statement that BT corn kills monarch butterflies butterflies and Lace wings. And in fact, there's a some good evidence that's been recently published that that is not necessarily the case. So I think the science has to be done so that we can have a conversation that actually relies on facts and not a lot of them sort of emotional rhetoric. We have to be careful on sort of both ends. I would (00:13:02) say I guess I have one more question then before we go to collars, is it reasonable to say given the debate underway in the scientific community that GMOs there should be some kind of a moratorium until all the scientists agree one way or the other on these organisms. (00:13:20) You want to take that day? Yeah, this is the Summers. I believe what's probably more likely to happen is is will see labeling on GMO products right now as I understand the policy the FDI at the FDA labels food products only that differ markedly in their constituents and and nutrient value. I believe that'll probably change on the other hand a moratorium on the technology. I'm not sure Gary if you mean a moratorium on the technology of the products. (00:13:51) Well, I guess I guess it would be the products themselves. I suppose you could continue to work on them in the lab but not put them in a field. (00:13:58) Uh-huh. Well, as I mentioned before substantial acreage is implanted over the last three years at least in corn soybeans. Jeff mentioned the Cucumber for example, papayas grown in Hawaii are also genetically engineered to be virus-resistant. I don't think it would hurt to maybe slow down when I think all the rollout but So but moratorium seems unrealistic to me Defcon. I think also that a way to address that sort of as in between step is what's going on at the level of our federal government the EPA just last week the Environmental Protection Agency announced some guidelines that I think will probably become regulation at some point for instance suggesting that farmers should plant a buffer zone of non-GMO corn around the perimeter of their BT corn if there's a concern at the pollen, they actually travel or that that positive insects may actually get to that BT corn. If you give them something else to eat before they get to the BT corn we might actually do some Environmental Protection that way so I think that there are policies that can be put in place that aren't moratoria that actually address some of the concerns that we've been (00:15:10) discussing. We're talking this our about GMOs or genetically modified organisms great opportunity here to learn a little bit more about what they are. And how they work and what possible benefits we might accrue from GMOs. What possible dangers we Face from GMOs our guests this our Jeffrey Cahn is with the University of Minnesota Center for bioethics. Dave Summers is with us. He's professor in the department of agronomy and plant genetics at the you. If you'd like to join our conversation. Give us a call here at 6512276 thousand 6512276 thousand outside the Twin Cities 1-800 to for 22828 Russell's on the line for Minneapolis with a question. Go ahead sir. (00:15:55) Yes, am I being heard? Yes, you're in the area. I have both the comment and a question. My comment is the state of Minnesota is pretty famous for using untested chemicals in the environment are probably one of the best examples I can think of as in poisoning Minnesota lakes to get rid of carp. They use chemicals that were not tested later. They were found to be carcinogenic and they were banned. These chemicals toxaphene is still found in Minnesota fish. The question I have is in a in a state like Minnesota where one out of two are expected to get cancer in their lifetime according to the Department of Health. This should be an alarming thing for everybody. But my question is can we buy buying organically labeled foods? Can we be sure that we are buying foods that have not been A modified uses. Okay, this is Dave Summers. My understanding of the labeling requirements for organic food is that that would exclude genetically modified crops or ingredients in the production of that food and I recall recently an article mentioning two large organic food distributors indicating that they would not distribute that type of food Jeff kind of one of those changes Whole Foods, which we now have in the in the Twin Cities. So they're adding there is an option for people to purchase foods that are labeled non-GMO. I think there's a bigger policy question. However, which is what counts as a GMO food what percentage of the ingredients can be GMO before it gets label GMO and the FDA Our Food and Drug Administration has to make a judgment about that is 1% of the ingredients sufficient to make it a GMO labeled product or does it have to be more than that and what counts as a GMO product. Most of the flour that we consume in the bread that we eat and other baked goods comes from at least partly genetically modified wheat, I'm sure it's a it's a fact and so I think it's going to be a while till we really know what we're putting into our mouth in terms of whether it's genetically modified or (00:18:10) not Russell also raises the question that in the past perhaps we haven't provided the kind of oversight of chemicals and various scientific developments that that we should is that the case with the GMOs (00:18:27) Gary to my knowledge. No, I mean I would regard the state is quite proactive and I believe the only state that has a state level oversight of the introduction of genetically modified crops at least in this is a function of the Environmental Quality board that is overseen by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. And I believe those regulations are still in place. So it's an additional layer of Regulation then than the And as I mentioned, I believe we're the only state that does that okay and some of this is Jeff cons. Some of these genetic modifications may actually allow Farmers to use less pesticide. So for instance Roundup resistant crops may allow pharmacies smaller amounts of pesticide on the crop and therefore less will get into the food chain and potentially affect human health. So I'm not sure that it's all bad news in terms of of toxic substances into the food chain. It may actually improve that Steve your question, please I have a son who's a highly allergic and we need to know what he's anyways not eating. How can I what can I do to make sure that the labeling issue goes through because right now it's kind of snowballing at the you know at our consumer level but really in Washington, I think that's where these decisions need to get, you know made and get our influence their what can I do as a consumer? This is Jeff con there actually was recently a a meeting in Washington and I believe was directly sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA to discuss exactly the issue that you raised at. The collar race related to how will people who are allergic know whether they're consuming things that may cause them to react and I think what I would do is go onto the World Wide Web if you have access to either of the of those organizations websites, the government has lots of websites for their their bureaucratic agencies and see if there's not a place to register your your comments because that's the way to those who get in there and Pitch are the ones who have an impact. Yes. I wanted to add that. I believe the FDA and perhaps EPA are soliciting public comment right now on that issue at least FDA, I (00:20:39) believe. Okay back to the phones Peters on the line with a question. Go ahead, sir. (00:20:44) Hi. Thanks for taking my call. I'm a member of the wedge co-op in South Minneapolis, which The Coop that's been in existence for about 25 years right now and it's grown to I think yearly sales now are well over a million dollars and as a really big membership and I guess I bring that up because there's a lot of talk about, you know, creating genetically modified food to you know, create resistance to strains of disease and to create rice and overseas that's going to have certain nutritional supplements and vaccinations and all this type of stuff which really sounds quite frankly insane to me what the wedge has proved and other coops like it is that sustainable agriculture is possible and creating a super, you know, excellent high quality of food standards not using these types of methods. There's just numbers and it's just tremendous numbers of examples of agricultural Farms that you know, She gave these without using any chemicals or any genetic genetically modified foods, and I think a lot of people will use the genetically modified food argument to say jeez. We're going to you know, create more food for the world and or we're going to you know, create better fool and you know, the real truth of the matter is I think is that there's plenty of food there. We're just not getting it to people for a lot of different socio-economic reasons, but I guess my question my question is on those are all my opinions, but anybody going to the wedge and Southwest Minneapolis can witness it and you can taste the difference in the food believe me, you can taste the difference. So my question my question is really quickly is how could the FDA in 1992 allow food to be, you know, having whatever percentage of genetically modified food and I think that's completely irrelevant hump what the percentage of demonically genetically modified food. There is how could they allow? You know basically the entire United States to be used as guinea pigs, you know, just you know without really thoroughly testing this which seems to be kind of happening more and more with the FDA. The other comment I'd like to make in question to ask is why do so many national world countries now not want to import our Foods because of our hormone use and because of the genic genetically modified use of food and I'll hang up. Thank you. All right. Well, we've got a whole plateful of cookie (00:23:09) issues there. Let's see Where Do We Begin first of all is there if we if we stopped all these manipulations with food and simply grew essentially I suppose for lack of a better term Pure Food. Why not? Just go that way. Is there enough food to feed everybody and would that (00:23:27) work? I guess at this time in history, I would agree with the caller that my understanding is the world food. Supply does meet the needs and at the major problems are poverty and distribution of that food in keeping people from access to that food. The caller also mentioned that we can expect increased population human population growth and therefore increased demand for food also were experiencing an increase in affluence throughout the world, which is increased the demand for meat which then increases the demand for the commodity crops that are grown to feed those animals. So but but at this time food supply is is adequate I believe and but I you know, I'm not sure about the question of whether or not we could we could produce adequate amounts of food in a sustainable manner with our current practices. I would you know, I would say that I also believe that genetic engineering or GMO technology has a lot that could be applied to offers a lot to be applied to enhancing sustainability of agricultural systems (00:24:43) FDA. Why did the FDA allow companies to move ahead with genetically modified organisms before all the testing was complete. (00:24:55) It's Jeff Kane. I think actually that that's a problem that people have recognized that our federal oversight system really has not been geared up to deal with this issue and that's a legitimate critique and I think the FDA and the EPA have been taking steps to try to answer that concern to have proper oversight in place to have the proper experts in place to just to decide whether things can go forward and be planted in the field. I want to add something to the previous to the comments. They've just made about Sustainability and and gml why not just grow non-GMO food. I think to be honest part of it is American and other developed countries sensitivity to the price of food. It's cheaper. We get cheaper products if we use pesticides we get cheaper products if we grow genetically modified food. And so if people are willing to pay more money for their vegetables and things that come from crops, then that would be something that that the the market sort of dictates. So I think it's not even so complicated as a sustainable food for the world. It's actually much more crass than that. It's about how much things cost and people's willingness to pay. (00:26:06) Now. We have to break for news here in a moment. But quick comment on the other aspect of the question the final aspect and that is why is it if these foods are so safe? Why is it that so many people in so many other countries are so upset about (00:26:23) GMOs. This is just kind and Dave you can jump in if you want there's a actually an interesting history to the answer that question and it's been written about a fair amount in the popular. Press it really has been the work of a small group of Advocates who got the ear of some members of parliament green members of parliament in Germany, mostly and convince them that it was a bad thing to import genetically modified crops and it went through the legislature in European countries without the any real response from the companies that make these seeds and so the advocacy groups has got way ahead of the of the science or the or the or the companies that make the product and so it sort of snowballed on them and I think got out of control. I'm not sure it's really found that on anything based on fact, it's really about a good lobbying job on the part of it of a small group of Advocates (00:27:20) quick comment Dave Summers. (00:27:22) Yeah. My sense is it's in part also an issue of Freedom of choice or the right to know what one is consuming? I think that at least in some European and perhaps Asian cultures of folks are much more closely tied to their food system and their food quality and you know, my sense is they felt that these exports restricted their choices or their freedom to make decisions about their food system and in part we're getting a lash back because of that (00:27:49) name Summers is with us professor in the department of agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota. Jeffrey Cahn has joined us as well. He's the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for bioethics at the U of M and we're talking this our about GMOs is they're called genetically modified organisms what they are what their potential benefits are what the potential dangers of GMOs are and again, let me give you the phone number dont call right now. You'll just get a busy signal but the number to call it a few minutes six five one two, two seven six thousand outside the Twin Cities 1-800 to for 22828. Programming on NPR is supported by the Guthrie Theater now performing George Bernard Shaw's classic comedy misalliance, January 14th through February 13th tickets available six. One, two, three, seven seven 22 24. Hello. This is Chris Farrell here with the hot Financial tip before you invest your money invest some time at the sound money personal finance bear brought to you by Minnesota Public Radio in stock walk.com on February 11th and 12th at the International Market Square. It's all about money current trends Investments retirement planning, avoiding scams and much more tickets are available online at sound money dot org, or call one eight hundred two to eight 7123 news headlines now, here's Patty Marcie Econo Patti. Thanks. Gary prosecutors won't discuss what could have caused the deadly dorm fire at Seton Hall University in New Jersey a newspaper reports that fire officials have ruled out careless smoking or an electrical problem The Star-Ledger of Newark. Also says investigators are looking for three young men who had been asked to leave the dorm shortly before the fire Senator Bob Kerry announced today. He will not seek re-election this year setting back Democratic hopes of making gains in the Senate Kerry who has been in the Senate since 1989 and once sought the Democratic presidential nomination said it was time to return to private life thousands of mourners gathered in belgrade's main Cemetery for the funeral of Serbia's most notorious paramilitary leader known as archon someone shot him to death last Saturday newspaper reports authorities have arrested two suspects and that police have identified a third as the main culprit in the murder there have also been rumors that the Yugoslav government was in on the murder to prevent our con from testifying against President Slobodan milosevic at the international war crimes. Tribunal Northwest Airlines says it earned twenty nine million dollars in the fourth quarter of last year surpassing analysts Expectations by nearly 30% for the full year of 99 Northwest posted net income of three hundred million dollars Northwest spokesman. John Austin says Northwest regained a leading position in on-time performance and a low level of customer complaints tonight is the first time in four years, you'll be able to see a total eclipse of the moon. The Minneapolis planetariums, Bob on endure says if the weather holds up we could see a little reddening of the Moon the Minnesota state forecast for today cold. Mostly sunny in the South and partly sunny in the north the highs from Five Below to around 15 above right now in Rochester. It's 11 below in Marshall. It's cloudy and 12 above and in the Twin Cities. It's partly sunny and six below zero and Gary. That's a look at news. Thanks Patty 23 minutes before noon. This is midday on Minnesota Public Radio in this hour we're talking about genetically modified organisms to experts from the U of M of joined us a couple of gentlemen who have been tracking this issue Jeffrey Cahn who's with the U of M Center for bioethics and Dave summer. Who's with the use Department of agronomy and plant genetics? Let's go back to the phones. Lots of callers on. The line with questions about GMOs. Next caller is from Grand Granite Falls. I'm sorry ray gun your question, please (00:31:38) yes, good morning. I used to be a grand Ami student at the U of M and now work with several the feed mills in the Midwest and notice this fall that all of them require Farmers to declare whether or not they are going to be storing or dumping GMO corn or non-GMO corn and with all the custom combining in the fact that a lot of farmers grow. Each of the different kinds of crop to you gentlemen for see that as being a major deterrent to planning GMOs in the future. I'll take my answer after year. Thank you. (00:32:14) This whole issue of mixing GMO corn soybeans and non-GMO corn soybeans. (00:32:23) This is Jeff con. It's apparently creating a problem for Farmers because they when they even if they segregate their crops the combine may actually be having some seeds in it from the the GMO side of their crops a and when they go to the to the elevator and dump their their corn it's tested and it may still have traces of genetically modified crops. So there are some concerns about how best to segregate crops when they're growing and when they're harvesting and I think that's something that the technology will have to address on the positive side Cargill recently came out and said that they would buy genetically modified crop that there wasn't going to be a sort of Mad Dash to stop growing GMO crop because no one would purchase it and that seems to settle down some of the concerns that there was sort of a limited future for those commodities. (00:33:14) Is there any Financial benefit for Farmers to plant GMO crops? (00:33:21) David can you good good question and I don't have the exact figures course. The caller was referring to separating GMO from GMO non-GMO crops because at some stage this fall it was declared that there may be a premium for non GMO crops at that stage. Now, I'm not sure where that exists now and as I understand it from folks in our department involved with extension and Outreach that the trend seems to be that seed sales are about the same in terms of proportion of GMO versus non GMO crop for next spring, but I would say that I don't actually know the specifics of the production cost. My guess is they're probably pitched at a competitive production cost to Conventional production costs just to launch the (00:34:13) technology, right? I would think it would be cheaper wouldn't it because you don't have to use all the pesticides and go back over the field all the time. (00:34:19) Well in theory Course it should be but because it's an advanced technology. There are associated fees that the some of the companies have levied on the seed to recoup their investment in the technology. I don't think it's a huge investment but you're astute in picking up the fact that this is probably the most rapidly adopted agricultural technology in as far as I can tell the history of agriculture in just three years to go to nearly 50 percent of the market. Share of the soybean is grown in the u.s. Is astounding this is faster than hybrid corn or the tractor was the far as an agricultural technology. There must be a strong pull by The Growers to adopt us there actually is another interesting economic impact, which is that the seed companies Monsanto. I know in particular requires Farmers to sign an agreement that they won't collect the seeds that are in the field after the crop has been harvested and replant them the next year because it's a A patented technology they own the the intellectual property and they require the farmer to buy it again every year it's less of an issue in the United States than it is in developing countries where that's a major way that farmers actually re planter their crops from year to year. And so if that policy is exported with this technology, I think it will have serious economic impact on the developing (00:35:44) world. Let's go back to the phones and Jeff's on the line from Shore V with a question Jeff. (00:35:49) Yes, good morning. Maybe you've partially answered this question, but with crop prices seeming to be depressed and a lot of the small farmers going out of business. Are you there? (00:36:02) Yes, you're on the air, uh-huh (00:36:05) and the more and more small farmers going on to business and what you talking about. The higher yields may be maintained by these. Certain crops who in the long run is going to benefit from this the larger Farms who are able to or the corporate Farms who aren't going to suffer as much in a local market or or smaller Farmers. They go to be able to maintain. Okay, you understand what I mean there? Yeah. Okay. Thank you. Thanks for your question. Well, I think we have a number of factors combined here that are leading this trend in the increase in farm size and certainly economics is one of them. I used to answer this question in thinking that the technology was Farm scale neutral and I believe still that it has much to offer to small farmers, but as the color points out, there's very alarming trend of fewer farms and increase Farm size to the point and this is just a matter of economic survival, especially in this climate of extremely low commodity prices. (00:37:09) I'm wondering how much Jeffrey come maybe you could address this. How much do you suppose the opposition to GMOs is rooted in an inherent distrust of large multinational corporations (00:37:24) that certainly has a role to play and I think it's hard to know. How much is is that how much is I think an increased desire to know what we are eating a little labeling a desire for labeling? I think if you think about it labeling of food products and then intentional information that we have now is a relatively recent admin that's not been around forever and ever and only in the last ride a number maybe 15 or 20 years. Do we see the ingredients put on the labels of food? So I think it's partly a mistrust as you point out partly a desire to know what we're eating and the sense that we don't know what's going into our bodies and make the experience with bovine growth hormone treated cows and milk is an example of that how the market really rejected that product once it was labeled as such the people just Don't trust what they don't know and can't see and so I think it's a combination of (00:38:17) factors Jim's on the line from Winona with a question Jim. Go ahead, please. (00:38:23) Yeah. Hello. I have several comments and then a couple questions. (00:38:26) Okay, just one or two because we'd like to get to some other callers (00:38:29) to yeah. Well, I attended the university seminar Yesterday co-sponsored by biotech companies and their the information showed that there was no increase in yield or profits and companies are looking at a 25% drop in GMO seed sales next year and you know, it may be reassuring the Cargill will buy GMOs, but you should also point out that their seed division cells GMO seeds a caller asked why the FDA rushed to approve these products without any human safety testing and it should be pointed out that familiar names such as Mickey Kantor William ruckelshaus Marcia Hales Michael Taylor And many many more have gone from the board of Monsanto High positions in the FDA EPA and directly impacted these decisions to allow these products onto the market without being labeled and there is a Bill in Congress (00:39:28) had a question then (00:39:29) yeah. My question is an earlier caller asked about the impact on organic foods and it's apparent that they will do these GMO pollens will drift and contaminate organic crops. I'd like to ask what size of an isolation zone is needed to protect non-GMO and organic crops, especially corn and who Bears the liability for this kind of genetic (00:39:54) pollution. Okay, what kind of protection is needed to to preserve the Purity? I guess of the of the organic Fields if these GMO plants are planted nearby. (00:40:12) Well, this is Summers is the color points out. This is a major problem with corn which is pretty much the only major crop we planted as widely cross-pollinated as corn does and it it's pollen is capable of drifting along distance. I'm afraid I'm not not the correct caller to I mean not the correct person to respond to that question, but certainly the isolation of a GMO or an organic field from a GMO field needs to be on the order of hundreds of yards or perhaps even even further the liability. That's a big problem. Especially if there is a if an organic farmer loses his organic label because of the detection of a certain level of GMO contamination through the pollen, I think this is Jeff con. The good news is if the EPA is taking up this issue and I certainly don't have the answer to the caller's question either but I feel like the federal government has this responsibility Taking it seriously and I don't really see it as a grand conspiracy to allow untested and unsafe products onto the market. So I think that there's a process in place that seems to be functioning whether it works or not. We'll have to see I'd like to add just as an interesting side note. There's a whole new industry that's sprung up that focused on testing or for detection of GMO material in crop lot so there certainly the capacity to have it tested but nevertheless to isolate your corn is quite a challenge (00:41:46) terms of the liability. I understand that some legislators, Minnesota legislators are thinking about introducing a bill, which would I suppose provide some immunity for Minnesota Farmers if down the road it turns out that these GMOs are in fact dangerous. They wouldn't be sued I guess under this legislation the companies that sell the seeds would be is is is with that. Have a good impact. Done the marketplace in the sense that people at least would know what the ground rules are or is that that kind of legislation introduced a whole new series of questions that need to be answered. (00:42:24) Jeff that's out of my expertise to Dave. I'm afraid we have to get a lawyer on the talk about that. Okay. I'm married to a lawyer but that's about as close as I can (00:42:33) come. All right, let's go back to the phones here mats on the line with a with a question Matt. (00:42:38) Yeah, I'd like to ask what the rationale is and introducing new GMOs which as you say work to increase yield when our government already pays Farmers not to plant to keep prices competitive and I'll take my answer off their thanks (00:42:51) kind of related to a question. We had earlier (00:42:53) sure. Well as I mentioned before this is days Summers these first crops were seeing are essentially the prototypes of the GMO technology and represent the first wave of types of changes and they are mostly pests or weed resistance type of traits. The next wave will almost certainly start to see in the very near future our crops that produce altered nutritional quality or for example vegetable oils with improved cooking quality and then behind And I suspect we'll see as Jeff mentioned crops that actually could serve as or vegetables and fruits that could serve as vaccines humans vaccines or animal vaccines. And then finally I suspect our knowledge will get to a point where we can manipulate the very very complex traits which are back to yield and and other plant traits for example environmental stress resistance. So so it's not so much the rationale. It's just what was technically approachable at the time. (00:43:58) Hmm what happens to the entire field of biotechnology. If in fact the the resistance to genetically modified organisms grows, the whole agriculture aspect of this collapses. Is that have any long-term ramifications for the Biotech Industry in general or is it just we won't be planning these kind (00:44:23) of (00:44:24) Organisms. (00:44:25) Well Gary, I'm glad you asked that because I feel it could have substantial ramifications particularly in our basic research Enterprises many people probably don't realize that genetic engineering is as an important research tool as it is a plant or organism Improvement or modification tool and and so it's part and parcel of our Research into Enterprises and determining how genes function and in to relate to to produce humans or plants and how they respond to the environment. So a complete moratorium, I think would have devastating impacts on our research Enterprise both basic and apply Africa. I absolutely agree with the one caveat that the agricultural side of biotechnology is only one part. There's a very huge effort going on around the country and around the globe. In the area of genomics which are focused on human health in terms of gene therapy and genetic engineering genetic testing genetically modified bacteria and other organisms to produce new drugs and vaccines. So, I think that that agriculture is a piece in a big piece and certainly a calling a halt to that work would have both applied and basic research impact they've had said, but I think that there's a lot of biotechnology that's not related to agriculture as well. (00:45:51) Not a lot of time left, but let's get one more caller on here with a question Baba quick question, please. (00:45:56) Yes, I I guess I know Dave I'm Bob munsen, and I wonder if there's been any discussion about the addition of the vitamin E Gene to Rice which potentially will produce blindness in millions of children around the world where that's rice is a major part of the diet. Okay, and there's other other things that are going on. On in that realm that should be discussed. Okay by Allah (00:46:28) we touched on that a little bit but I guess we should re-emphasize that for people who joined us (00:46:33) late. Sure. Thanks Bob. In fact, I read the article on on the altered rice last night. And in fact researchers have been able to genetically engineer rise to improve to improve its Ori actually add the production of vitamin A to the rice and the sperm will the grain that's actually consumed and this vitamin A deficiency is a major problem throughout the world and Bob already mentioned the possible positive benefits of this and I think it's a prime example of the types of directions that genetic modifications can take Beyond just increasing yield that's a whole field of what for lack of a better term. We might call nutraceuticals wear something we eat actually provide some sort of health benefit aside from the nutrition in the in the product and I think in terms of the public health implications, It's really huge not just in the United States, but maybe even more importantly in the developing parts of the (00:47:29) world for those of us who like certainty. Is there any time in the near future when all scientists will agree one way or another on GMOs gentlemen, (00:47:38) there are certain about anything in science Sciences shouldn't be certain not just about this but about pretty much everything we talked about exactly. All right, that's why I didn't do (00:47:48) well in science that thanks a lot for joining us this I really appreciate a good discussion. (00:47:52) Thanks for having us. Thank (00:47:54) you, Jeffrey Cahn who's the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for bioethics at the University of Minnesota and also joining us this hour Dave Summers professor in the department of agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota joining us during this first hour of our midday program to talk about GMOs genetically modified organisms a reminder over the noon hour. Today. We're going to hear from China's ambassador to the United States. Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. You don't have a ticket to this weekend's live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. Don't worry beginning at 4:15 Saturday afternoon. All of the on stage seating in the front row seats are sold in a $10 Rush ticket loan just show up at the Fitzgerald Theater box office in downtown st. Paul before for 15 to get in line. Bring a friend and then sit back and enjoy the show all $10. Rush seats are cash only in its first come first serve. So (00:48:46) you might want to get there early. Don't miss it for all the women.