We know GMOs are a complex topic that warrants many different perspectives. Here are a couple from our own employees we think are valuable additions to the conversation. Sometimes it helps to know what the scientists think as we work to determine what is best for us and our families.
New Dad David Pinzon: How becoming a father influenced my views of GMOs
I’m a new dad of a six-month-old baby girl. Before she was born, and now with every stage in her development, my wife and I have the best intention of providing what is best for her, more affordable for our family, and better to protect the planet for our future generations.
But these are hard decisions to make, so we try to base our decisions on facts, on science. I am a doctor in plant biology and my wife is a doctor in microbiology and biotechnology, so we see the benefits that innovation in science provides to the world where she is going to live in our day to day work.
I truly understand those that fear embracing all those new technologies. After all, as humans, we prefer to be cautious and avoid something we don’t have enough knowledge about. GMOs are a great example of that. There are so many conflicting opinions and articles about them that it is hard to decide what’s right.
One of the most common concerns is if GMOs are safe. The answer is an enormous yes. In fact, a recent compilation by the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (2016) “found no substantiated evidence that foods from genetically engineered (GE) crops were less safe than foods from non-GE crops.”
So, a given food is as good or as bad regardless of being GMO, with the great bonus that GMOS have a lower impact on the environment by reducing the land and amount of fuel used to produce the same amount of conventional food (RIAS, 2015).
Sometimes science is difficult to understand, and scientists haven’t focused enough time to share their knowledge in easy-to-understand terms. But I believe in hearing both sides of the story, and I trust in science and regulatory agencies. Their main objective is to produce results and make decisions based on facts, and that is what matters the most for me.
David Pinzon grew up in Bogota, Colombia and moved to Canada in 2009 with his wife to study a PhD at the University of Alberta. They had their first child 6 months ago. “It is a constant learning to find out what’s the best for her, that’s why being able to share my experience with other parents is gratifying.” David dedicated 12 years of his life to become a scientist, no one taught him to be a dad, other than the example of his parents, with these many challenges and new opportunities to learn came up, with the priority to do the best for his daughter. “Now I have the pleasure to see the huge amount of scientific support needed to prove GMOs and pesticides are safe for humans and the environment, so I can take decisions and pass along my knowledge to hose that are eager to learn.
Research veteran Holly Loucas: Behind the curtain – GMO research from a public and private perspective
We as consumers often don’t see the products in our carts at the supermarket as the results of all research that the public and private sectors do. However, we can think of it as similar to how an athlete prepares for the Olympics. Countless hours of practice, proper eating, mental preparation etc. are all used to make the athlete successful, but we only see the final product at the Olympics. Same goes for research.
The private sector (ag companies) learns how and why certain genes work in plants from public (university) research and can use this knowledge to create a new technology or improve an existing one. Often both groups will work together to find a solution.
All plant research, whether it is GMO, conventional breeding, basic science, etc., has the goal of improving the planet in some way shape or form. Whether it be more sustainable farming practices, less pesticide use, healthier food, you name it, the end goal is the same.
Regardless of whether someone works in the public or private sector, they all care about the research they are doing and how it will benefit the world.
In the private sector, the focus is developing innovative solutions to solve a problem and bring new products to the market. These companies typically employ many scientists to work together as a team to reach the goals as efficiently as possible. Their research focuses on understanding how a product works in the plant, and it’s not the highest priority to understand basic plant science.
In the public sector, the focus of a particular research program is specific to the interests of the faculty member leading the work. Academic research helps us understand how specific mechanisms of plants work, and this often will reflect certain problems or needs of that particular crop. Most public research programs seek to generate publishable data in a reputable journal, so the research aims to answer the questions of how specific parts of the plant work, rather than what and how the research will impact end users.
One of the most important jobs of a university lab is to train future scientists to fill positions in both private and public sector laboratories. Most private research programs rely heavily on public research programs to examine the basic science of how plants work, so that more information is known that can be used to find solutions. Both programs are essential to driving science forward.
Holly Loucas is a 44yr old mother of 2 who has spent the last 20+ years doing research developing and using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and molecular biology at the University of Guelph and University of Florida. She is now employed as a Customer Agronomist with Dow Seeds, which is a seed company that is owned by Dow AgroSciences. She is a dedicated supporter of the safety of GMO crops.