The Great Debate On GMO Crops

Iowa Farm Scene

Believing in safety of genetically modified crops depends on trust and science.

Published on: November 4, 2013

Iowa farmer Bill Horan's prediction about biotechnology drew jeers from the anti-GMO people in the audience at a debate a couple weeks ago in Des Moines. Horan said he believes two decades from now, every livestock animal and crop used to feed the world's increasing population will be genetically enhanced. He added, "People will look back 20 years from now, and say, "Gosh, what was all the fuss about?"

An overflow crowd of 250-plus listened to Horan and five others debate the use of genetically modified organisms or GMOs. That is, genes from other species inserted into crops using biotechnology, to control pests and diseases and improve yields. The debate was sponsored by the Des Moines Register on October 14, as a kick-off to World Food Prize week. Over 1,500 attendees journeyed from 70 countries to Iowa to attend the 2013 World Food Prize International Symposium on October 16-18.

GMO, YES OR NO?: To begin the World Food Prize week of events in Des Moines on October 14, a panel debated the pros and cons of using genetically modified organisms to improve crop production. Panelists were (from left) Ruth MacDonald, Bill Horan, Gary Munkvold, Carol Hunter (moderator), Mike Owen, Ron Rosmann and Steven Druker.
GMO, YES OR NO?: To begin the World Food Prize week of events in Des Moines on October 14, a panel debated the pros and cons of using genetically modified organisms to improve crop production. Panelists were (from left) Ruth MacDonald, Bill Horan, Gary Munkvold, Carol Hunter (moderator), Mike Owen, Ron Rosmann and Steven Druker.

The debate was carried out by a panel discussion; the theme was "GMOs: Possibilities and Peril." The panel had six people, four of them supportive of using genetically modified organisms to enhance crops. The other two panelists were anti-GMO and raised questions about the safety of GMOs.

WHAT THE DEVIL IS GOING ON? Opponents of GMO crops protested this years World Food Prize events in Des Moines. About 25 activists wore devil masks and carried signs "to call attention to the greed and destruction caused by biotechnology," said Katy Haley, a protester outside the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates.
WHAT THE DEVIL IS GOING ON? Opponents of GMO crops protested this year's World Food Prize events in Des Moines. About 25 activists wore devil masks and carried signs "to call attention to the greed and destruction caused by biotechnology," said Katy Haley, a protester outside the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates.

Panelists traded barbs and gave their own opinions on issues surrounding GMOs

The debate was open to the public and the crowd at the Iowa Historical Museum auditorium in Des Moines seemed tilted toward being anti-GMO. About two-thirds applauded the critics at various times during the debate. About one-third clapped for the scientists on the panel.

DEBATING GMO SAFETY: Proponents of genetically modified organism or GMO crops say theyre safe and necessary to feed an increasing world population, and help farmers be profitable and productive. Opponents believe GMOs pose a threat to human health and the environment and should be banned or at least labeled on food products.
DEBATING GMO SAFETY: Proponents of genetically modified organism or GMO crops say they're safe and necessary to feed an increasing world population, and help farmers be profitable and productive. Opponents believe GMOs pose a threat to human health and the environment and should be banned or at least labeled on food products.

The pros and cons of biotech crops were also discussed by scientists, politicians and others at the World Food Prize International Symposium, held later that week. The GMO debate on Monday got the World Food Prize week activities started. The panelists traded barbs in a spirited and lively discussion, with little middle ground on issues ranging from the need to have labels on food products that contain GMOs, to the effectiveness of GMO crops in feeding starving people in developing countries.