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Who's in the Video

Spencer Wells

Spencer Wells is a leading population geneticist and director of the Genographic Project from National Geographic and IBM. His fascination with the past has led the scientist, author, and documentary[…]

The tests don’t go long enough, Wells says.

Question: Is genetically modified food safe?

Spencer Wells: Well, you know, I’m not an expert on genetic modification, it’s certainly not the sort of genetics I do, it is possible to do some very interesting and perhaps depending on your perspective, scary things to genomes these days including inserting genes that were never before, you know, the standards I think should be relatively tight for allowing these things to get out into the food supply. The problem is, you know, often that the tests don’t go on perhaps as long as they should, so how long is long enough, we don’t know, that’s one of the big questions. I mean is two years long enough, is five years long enough, is 20 years long enough, you know, I think that again is part of the social debate that we need to be having and I think, you know, citizens, people who should be able to vote on these possibilities, these topics, should be part of the debate, need to understand the pros and cons, you know, by inserting genes into plants, maybe we can up the protein content and that, you know, saves another hundred million people a year living in Sub Sahara in Africa. On the other hand, you know, is it possible that we’re inserting the wrong genes or that they might do something that, you know, we can’t anticipate at the outset, it’s a possibility, we need to know, you know, what those possibilities are, how this stuff really works, you know, the underlying mechanism I think that is part of being a scientifically literate citizen today.


Recorded on: 5/22/08