by Emily Vaughn
The National Academy of Science recently released “the first comprehensive assessment of how GE [genetically engineered] crops are affecting all U.S. farmers.” That’s exciting news– if you follow the controversy surrounding GE food crops, you know that the lack of scientific consensus on either side is a source of constant debate.
One reason it’s so hard to sort out the science behind GE crops is that major chemical companies and food industry giants often sit on research committees. Take the study that the National Academy just released. Out of the study’s three authoring bodies, one included a representative from Monsanto, another had a representative from Cargill.
I’m not saying that there’s no way for public and private interests to work together to produce good science. For example, the much-lauded IAASTD report, for which the World Bank, the FAO and the UNDP brought together 400 leading natural and social scientists, representatives from government (including the U.S.), private sector and non-governmental organizations to ask how we would feed the world in 2050. The scientists concluded that genetically modified crops and chemical agriculture had failed to show much promise in feeding the world. (Although it’s worth noting that before the report was released, Monsanto and Syngenta withdrew from the project.)
Instead I’m calling for more transparency. Pointing out potential conflicts of interest will allow scientists, consumers, environmentalists, and farmers to make more informed decisions. And where transparency isn’t offered, it’s up to everyday people to create it, and spread the word.
Where do you turn for GE news?