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Background Briefs

The Union of Concerned Scientists provides a good overview of GMO techniques, on the risks of GMOs, and other information on the impacts of GMO food and agriculture.

The Promise of Plant Biotechnology: The Threat of Genetically Modified Organisms – why GMO foods are different from and riskier than foods produced by natural breeding, by a UC Davis plant biologist.

A 2008 peer-reviewed article on The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science (part 1). The paper concludes, “The hasty transition of the radically new technology of crop transgenics from the research and development stage to commercialization, in which products of the young industry have permeated global food markets, has resulted in what may turn out to be the largest diet experiment in history….The lack of oversight that has led to the transgenic foods situation has been a major failure of US’s science leadership.” Part 2 explores Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity.

What Is Genetically Modified Food (And Why Should You Care)?, article by a pediatric neurologist from Harvard Medical School.

GM on Trial, scientific testimony submitted by independent scientists and experts in defense of Greenpeace activists on trial for pulling-up a GMO corn field (the activists were acquitted). Includes testimony from food safety experts, ecologists, soil scientists, and others.

The Need for Special Regulation of GMO foods, by the UK nonprofit GeneWatch.

Sowing Technology, a brief overview from the Nature Institute; the Institute’s website has several other articles on GMO foods, and the full text of the book, Genetics and the Manipulation of Life.

Crops of Uncertain Nature?, a lengthier overview of controversies and knowledge gaps in GMO plant science, by Plant Research International, The Netherlands

New Scientist magazine – overview of GMO food issues.

Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us, by Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy, on the risks of GMOs, robotics and nanotech.

Playing God in the Garden, Michael Pollan, NY Times, October 25, 1998.

A 1999 page 1 article in the Wall Street Journal outlines why Gerber (and other baby food makers) decided to ban GMOs from its baby foods: Strained Peace: Gerber Baby Food, Grilled by Greenpeace, Plans Swift Overhaul.”

Full version of the “Monsanto Files,” the Ecologist magazine (Vol 28 #5, Sept/Oct 1998) that Monsanto tried to squash:

Animal genes in GMO crops, an article and list (not comprehensive but illustrative) compiled in 2009.

A 2010 peer-reviewed paper on Environmental Considerations Concerning the Release of Genetically Modified Organisms. Contains some of the greatest lines ever found in any peer-reviewed journal. For example:

…there is no comparison between selective breeding and modern genetic engineering which allows the transposition of genes between diverse taxa from remote habitats. Genetic engineering is used to effect genetic transpositions which, without human intervention, in a period of time incomparably large with the age of the universe, would have an infinitesimal probability in a cosmological ensemble of astronomical cardinality. To speak otherwise of transposing genes from the African clawed frog into Iwa potatoes is an intellectual absurdity.

…Future generations will curse us for our arrogance. We have now outstripped the possibilities for laying waste the provenance of evolution’s billennia that we contemplated in the accumulation of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads during recent decades and from which we have partially stepped back.
We should learn from the error of our ways and restrict the use of our cleverness to the investigation of natural phenomena, not their manipulation and ultimately uncontrollable alteration. The unpredictability of the consequences of our current actions is not a matter of our incomplete knowledge or limited means of management, it is the most deeply embedded and genetically encoded characteristic of ecosystem.

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