|Biotechnology engineer examining immature corn cob on field|
One controversy is over the use of a genetically modified plant involves the case of Bt corn. Bt corn expresses a protein from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Before construction of the recombinant corn, the protein had long been known to be toxic to a several pest insects, including the monarch caterpillar, and it had been successfully used as an environmentally friendly insecticide for several years. The benefit of the expression of this protein by corn plants is a reduction in the amount of insecticide that farmers must apply to their crops. Unfortunately, seeds containing genes for recombinant proteins can cause unintentional spread of recombinant genes or exposure of non-target organisms to new toxic compounds in the environment.
The ethical issues surrounding GMOs include debate over our right to "play God," as well as the introduction of foreign material into foods that are abstained from for religious reasons. Some people believe that tampering with nature is intrinsically wrong, and others maintain that inserting plant genes in animals, or vice versa, is immoral. When it comes to genetically modified foods, those who feel strongly that the development of GMOs is against nature or religion have called for clear labeling rules so they can make informed selections when choosing which items to purchase. Respect for consumer choice and assumed risk is as important as having safeguards to prevent mixing of genetically modified products with non-genetically modified foods.
The motion was "Should We Genetically Modify Food?." Before the debate, the audience voted 32 percent in favor of the motion, with 30 percent against and 38 percent undecided. Afterward, 60 percent agreed with the motion, and 31 percent disagreed — making the side arguing in favor of the motion the winners of this debate.
Robert Fraley is executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto, where he has worked for more than 30 years. Robert currently oversees the company's global technology division which includes plant breeding, biotechnology and crop protection research facilities in dozens of countries.
Alison Van Eenennaam is a genomics and biotechnology researcher and cooperative extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at University of California, Davis. Alison outreach program focuses on the development of science-based educational materials, including the controversial biotechnologies of genetic engineering and cloning.
Against The Motion
Charles Benbrook is a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, and leader of the center's program Measure to Manage: Farm and Food Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health. Charles spent the first 18 years of his career working in Washington, D.C., first for the Executive Office of the President, then as the staff director for a U.S. House of Representatives agricultural subcommittee.
Margaret Mellon is a science policy consultant in the areas of antibiotics, genetic engineering and sustainable agriculture. Margaret has published widely on the potential environmental impacts of biotechnology applications, and served three terms on USDA's Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture.
Podcast source: intelligence2: Debate: Should We Genetically Modify Food?
Steve Inskeep talks to Shankar Vedantam about poverty. Data from the Mothers Pension Program, launched at the turn of the 20th century, finds benefits on education, income and longevity. It has documented long-term benefits over the span of a century.
Podcast source: npr: Study Shows Long-Term Benefits Of Welfare Program
|The cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir near San Jose shows the strain of California's megadrought. |
The governor has declared a drought "state of emergency."
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ, AP
To cope with California’s drought, farmers are both carefully selecting which crops they plant and overpumping from deep underground aquifers. The President of the Pacific Institute, Peter Gleick tells Steve Curwood that the water crisis requires rethinking priorities and conserving much more water.
Podcast source: living on earth: California's Water Crisis
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