The debate over genetically modified organisms — or GMOs — in food has been heating up in recent months. Robert Fraley, of crop-seed maker Monsanto, is often referred to as “the father of agricultural biotechnology.” Fraley says he’s convinced opponents of GMOs represent a small percentage of consumers.
“Those are extreme voices,” Fraley says. “As I travel and talk to audiences, the vast majority of people are in the middle.” Fraley is in Des Moines this week for the World Food Prize events. He was one of the winners of the 2013 World Food Prize. Fraley estimates that 70 to 80 percent of the U.S. population believe genetically modified foods are safe.
The latest issue of National Geographic magazine features a cover story about the role of genetics in food production. Dennis Dimick, Executive Environment Editor at National Geographic, says biotechnology is critical to solving the problem of feeding 9 billion people — the world’s estimated population by 2050.
“In a world where we need to improve productivity, things like drought, salt, and heat tolerant crops are so important and should be allowed to happen, even if they do involve the use of genetic engineering,” Dimick said Tuesday at the Iowa Hunger Summit, part of the World Food Prize. In November, voters in Oregon and Colorado will decide if manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers should be required to label foods produced entirely or partially by genetic engineering.
In recent years, similar measures in California and in Washington state were narrowly rejected after millions of dollars were spent by Monsanto and other labeling opponents to defeat the campaigns.