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April 29, 2000


Answers to your GMO questions


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Dear Teren:

I would like to answer your questions from a personal point of view. I am
President of an organization that is heavily involved in the genetic
modification of plants but I am not now speaking as their representative,
just for myself.

I grew up on a farm in southern Missouri and I saw the many problems that
farmers face year in and year out. Besides the natural hazards (drought,
floods, storms that damage crops, etc.) farmers are constantly trying to
lower costs so that even in not-so-great years they can still pay their
bills. My reasoning for getting into this line of work was to find ways to
help these people, and concurrently, the many farmers all over the world.

I thought to myself, how wonderful it would be if the farmers no longer had
to apply fertilizer and pesticides and herbicides every year! How wonderful
it would be if the crops could withstand severe drought and wind! Well, we
had to start someplace and herbicide and insect resistance were doable early.
It's very unfortunate that so many people fail to understand the true
ramifications of this technology.

To answer your questions in order:

1. We have thought about taking the activists to court but it is a risky and
expensive proposition. The current thinking is that given time, the powers
that be will recognize the truth and the criticism will end for the most
part. When that will happen is anybody's guess.

2. When we hear the opponent's arguments, it is clear they are speaking
mostly, but not entirely, from ignorance. Many of their themes are crazy and
they appear to be speaking as if they want to go back to a completely
agrarian society which will never happen. Instead, if they were to be
completely successful in their efforts, the likely scenario is we would go
back to the high chemical input they we are trying to get away from, i.e.
several applications a year of nonspecific pesticides, more usage of
dangerous herbicides that we know are poisonous.

3. We don't "fight back" per se but we do try to protect ourselves with
higher security and awareness. Companies can do a pretty good job at that but
Universities are by nature "open" facilities and are less secure.

4. For the most part, the commercial research is paid for in private monies
while the basic research is paid for by public dollars. Depending on your
political bent, this is the way it should be.

5. I think I explained my reasons above. But let me add one thing. The world
food supply is very tenuous and relies to a large degree on supply and
demand. The US produces more than enough food to feed itself so we export
plenty. If our yields were to drop badly and our inventories dropped lower
than is secure, we would export far less and more people around the world
would starve. We shouldn't think of ourselves as an entity in and of
ourselves, but rather as one piece of the entire world puzzle.

6. When you fight a fight you really believe in, motivation is not a huge
problem. And those of us that are not directly affected help those that are.

Michael E. Horn Ph.D.
College Station, TX