GMO Issues in the Year 2000

December 3, 1999
I write this brief article the day after the first day of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle; I'm sure all of you are aware of the violent protests that took place. There are many issues associated with the meeting of the WTO, only some of which are related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), specifically in agriculture. However, the intensity of the protests is a clear indication that GMO issues continue to be front and center as this year ends, and we should expect much of the same as the new year begins. In fact, I'd be surprised if the debate subsided much in 2000.

Each day I receive many e-mail messages, some with lengthy attachments, focused on GMO issues. The information comes from the popular press, the farm press, and the scientific arena, and most of us find it difficult to keep up with the immense amount of information being generated. I believe I could argue successfully that no other issue in agriculture has received such scrutiny and media coverage since the publication of Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, in 1962. The GMO issue is a hot potato, and we all will have to make a special effort to keep informed. Conflicting reports can lead to significant confusion, and it will be up to us in agriculture to be able to examine the issues objectively and make decisions that satisfy most of the general public.

We will continue to use the Bulletin to discuss the GMO issues, whether the issues are associated with Bt corn, Roundup-Ready crops, or other genetically enhanced crops. We will try to provide the most objective and current information available and direct you to other sources that should enhance your understanding. Remember, it's up to us to handle this new technology appropriately and to demonstrate stewardship. What happens now could have an impact on the availability of similar technologies in the future.--Kevin Steffey

Author: Kevin Steffey