| July 29
July 29 A group of biotech seed companies on
Monday launched an online forum to combat mounting opposition to
genetically modified foods among consumer groups and activists.
The website, www.GMOAnswers.com, is designed as a "central
online resource" for information on genetically modified
organisms and their use in agriculture and food production, the
Biotechnology Industry Organization said.
The website is backed in part by Monsanto, DuPont
, Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, and
other companies whose products include seeds that have been
genetically altered in ways the companies say improve food
The website launch is part of a broad campaign by the
biotech industry to try to beat back growing calls for GMO food
labeling and for tighter regulation of the biotech seed industry
in the United States. European opposition to GMOs is so strong
that Monsanto this month said it would withdraw all pending
requests to grow new types of GMO crops.
Paul Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer, the
agricultural unit of DuPont, said anti-GMO forces have been
using the Internet very effectively to get their message out,
and industry wants to use the same strategy to combat what he
said were notions "not always based in fact."
"This... is an effort to increase the dialogue. That is all
we want," said Schickler. "Dialogue is good. Over time I think
we'll come to a common understanding."
Critics predicted the industry effort to change consumer
skepticism would fail, saying there is ample scientific evidence
that GMO foods can contribute to health problems in animals and
humans, and hurt the environment.
"This latest effort will likely do little to stop the
consumer backlash against genetically engineered foods that has
been brewing for years," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director
of Food & Water Watch, a consumer organization.
The most popular gene-altered crops withstand dousings of
weed-killing chemicals and produce their own insect-killing
toxins. Biotech corn, canola, soybeans, and other crops are used
in human food and animal feed around the world and biotech
companies say they are heavily regulated and thoroughly tested.
But some scientific studies have cast doubt on the safety of
these biotech crops.
Last year, Monsanto and other industry members spent $40
million to defeat a ballot initiative in California to require
labeling of GMO food. Similar initiatives are underway in
several other U.S. states and at the federal level.
Grocery retailer Whole Foods said this year it would require
suppliers to label any product made with genetically modified
ingredients. And the Natural Products Association, which
represents 1,900 food industry players, has called for a uniform
standard for GMO labeling to apply nationwide.
Burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. recently became
the first major U.S. restaurant chain do disclose GMO
ingredients and is moving to remove such products from its