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New website aims to answer the public’s questions about GMOs

SAN ANTONIO—GMOAnswers.com was created to answer consumers’ questions about foods that are genetically modified organisms.

“We want to empower consumers to make up their own minds about GMOs with facts and not fear,” said Dr. Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of Food and Agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the world’s largest biotechnology trade association.

Enright led a Jan. 12 workshop titled “Ensuring Our Access to Biotechnology: Changing the Conversation” during the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention. BIO has 1,100 member organizations that are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental technology products.

The group launched its website in July 2013 because opposition to GMOs has become more vocal and more effective in creating anti-GMO sentiment.

But eliminating GMOs is not an option, Enright said. Food production using GMO seeds is critical to global food security. “If we don’t make multiple yield gains, we won’t have enough food” when the world’s population increases to 9 billion by 2050.

“We will need as much knowledge, diversity and innovation as possible, but we need all agriculture production systems.”

Between 1996 and 2012, 17.3 million farmers planted genetically modified seeds on 420 million acres in 28 different countries. However, Enright said, opposition groups in the United States are working “to create fear” and attack traditional agriculture.

In 2012, 36 bills in favor of labeling GMO foods were introduced and were framed as the consumer’s right to know, Enright said. A 2012 ballot initiative in California to label GMO foods was defeated by a 2.8 percent margin, but it cost the GMO supporters $44 million to accomplish that. “That kind of investment is better placed elsewhere,” Enright said.

Because of vocal anti-GMO groups, the United States is falling behind other countries in approval times for genetically engineered seeds, she said. “Argentina and Brazil are way ahead of us. They have taken the emotion out of their scientific regulatory decisions.”

On GMOAnswers.com, consumers can ask questions about GMOs and the farmers who plant them. Since the site’s launch, visitors have submitted 626 questions; 404 of them have been answered and another 150 answers are in progress. Many of the questions have been tough, but their tone is starting to change, Enright said.

Media: Contact Kathy Dixon, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1137.

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