"Why" of GMO Resistance Still a Mystery

World Food Prize Laureates, all GMO scientists, weigh in on why science matters more than politics

Published on: Oct 21, 2013

Despite thousands of peer-reviewed papers, there are still people who insist that food from genetically modified organisms are harmful to human health.

Despite three decades of integration into the food system without a single incidence of illness from consuming GMOs, there are those who insist that GMO foods cause cancer, autism, allergies and a host of other problems.

The "why" of those realities are frustrating to this year's World Food Prize Laureates, who were honored last week in Des Moines, Iowa at the annual World Food Prize Symposium.

World Food Prize Laureates Defend GMOs

Speaking in a press conference a day before their honor was bestowed, Robert Fraley, CEO of Monsanto, Mary-Dell Chilton, head of biotech for Syngenta and Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, all defended the science and technology behind genetically modified foods.

At the 2013 World Food Prize Symposium at the Iowa State Capitol, this years laureates discussed how, despite three decades of integration into the food system without an incidence of illness from consuming GMOs, there are still people who insist GMOs are harmful to human health.
At the 2013 World Food Prize Symposium at the Iowa State Capitol, this year's laureates discussed how, despite three decades of integration into the food system without an incidence of illness from consuming GMOs, there are still people who insist GMOs are harmful to human health.

Chilton said her primary message would be that GMO foods are safe, maybe even safer, than their traditional counterparts because they are more thoroughly and vigorously tested.

Von Montagu said that developed societies like those in the U.S. and Europe are so well–off and so accustomed to affluence that they forget what life is like in areas of the world where starvation is a day-to-day reality.

Fraley said he understands that the new tools that are designed to feed people around the world have not been fully explained and that some of the fault lies with leadership companies, including his.

"We have had a focus on helping farmers," he said. "We have been trying to help them and we have not been as receptive to helping consumers understand what we are doing to help them. We understand that we haven't done as good a job at communicating as we should."

Fraley said he can't explain why his company, Monsanto, seems to bear the brunt of the wrath of GMO protesters, other than it is the most successful of biotech companies and is viewed as a leader.

"I guess we should be flattered," he said. "But really, we didn't expect the concerns and issues that have arisen. We need to have a better outreach to consumers."