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How did we get here – a tale of myth vs. reality

“How in the world did we get here?” That’s the question Adrianne Massey says she asks herself almost every day about the current state of the adoption of biotech traits in agronomic crops.

Dr. Massey, managing director for science & regulatory affairs for BIO, the trade organization representing the biotechnology industry, says repeated studies have shown that GMOs in crops are environmentally safe and economically beneficial.

But environmental activist groups have so poisoned the well for GMOs with innuendo and non-scientific babble that proponents of the technology are finding themselves more and more on the defensive, she noted in remarks to the Southern Crop Production Association annual meeting.

“I’m sure y’all have seen this graphic a million times before,” she said. “This is a USDA graph of the rate of adoption of various biotech crops in the U.S. It is a rate that is unprecedented in the development of agricultural technology. We aren’t the only country that likes them. In fact, in the 27 countries where they’re grown you see a similar rate of increase.

“Once farmers are allowed access to these crops they also adopt them at an unprecedented rate. And while everybody thinks of this as a U.S. technology and us forcing ourselves in an imperialistic way all over the world, in fact, you now see that more developing countries grow them and that, since 2012, the rate of adoption has been higher in developing countries.”

Dr. Massey said the message that comes through whether you’re looking at USDA, academic, global studies, country-specific studies is that the unprecedented rate of adoption is occurring because the traits benefit growers.

“Why else would you see that rate of adoption?” she asked. “It’s sort of not magic. They benefit growers economically, They’re environmentally beneficial. They’re saving growers time. They’re making agricultural production easier.”

She displayed a list of prestigious scientific organizations that have spoken out in favor of biotechnology development., including groups from Europe, Brazil, China, India and other countries.

“How did we get to the point where we have all these scientific societies endorsing this process?” she asked. “One reason is that when you look at the regulatory requirements that these crops are subjected to no crop variety in the history of agriculture is subjected to as many regulatory requirements.

“In 1987, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences looked at these technologies and said that what we can expect is that the risk of these crops is going to be essentially the same as all crops. There’s nothing about the activity of genetically engineering these crops that’s going to introduce new risk. We don’t think there’s going to be any problem, and, sure enough, there haven’t been.”

She said more than 600 studies have been conducted by independent scientists; i.e., not funded by industry, looking at the safety and efficacy of GMOs. “Millions of acres of GMO crops have been planted all over the world and billions of meals consumed and not a single instance of harm has been found.”

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