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Surprising Science

Has Pro-GMO Sentiment Reached a Tipping Point?

After a recent Intelligence Squared U.S. debate the audience turns in their votes as 'for' GMOs. But some scientists, like Bill Nye, still aren't convinced.

Genetically modified (GM) foods—plants and produce that could never evolve in nature—is a hot button topic. Fish DNA mingling with tomatoes, and pest-resistant bacteria in our corn have some cause for concern. But these advancements are meant to help our food grow in way nature would never allow so we don’t go hungry. So where should we stand?

The Intelligence Squared U.S. recently pitted a genetics professor and Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer (for GM) to debate with researchers against genetically modified food. Around 450 people were in attendance for the debate, and voted on their stance before and after. Before the debate, 32 percent were for genetically engineered crops, 30 percent were against, and 38 percent were undecided. By the end, there was a great shift in the numbers: 31 percent were against and 60 percent were for.

Francie Diep who wrote on the debate for Popular Science, notes that this number contradicts national polls, which have found 52 percent believe GM foods are unsafe while 13 percent are still unsure.

Diep caught up with Bill Nye (the Science Guy) who was in attendance for the debate. Nye stands in the against crowd, saying that these crops haven’t been studied for a long enough period of time to truly see their effects on a wide scale.

“I’m still not satisfied, as a scientist, as a voter, that five years is enough.”

Nye believes the ‘for’ side was more well-spoken, which helped them win the debate. They spent their time highlighting the benefits of existing GMOs, like insulin for diabetics. Alison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist at the University of California at Davis, who was in attendance believes that the benefits are too important to put aside.  

“GM is sometimes uniquely able to deliver a useful trait, like crops that are more resilient to climate change.”

“The benefits of GM are too great to vote anything but yes for GM tonight.”

It’s worth looking at both sides. David Ropeik in an article for Big Think, says fear of GMOs is groundless, and that the research shows there’s no harm to humans. Whereas Bill Nye believes the technology warrants more time and study before we put it in our food. However, as the population continues to rise, we need to find better ways to manage and maintain our food supply in the years to come.

Read More at Popular Science

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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