4262.0 Beyond Genetic Engineering: Modern Solutions for a Healthy, Nutritious, and Sustainable Food Supply (jointly organized by the Environment and Food & Nutrition Sections)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 2:30 PM
While the benefits of biotechnology in the area of pharmaceuticals and biomedical research are substantial, its application to agriculture is another matter. For more than 20 years, the agricultural biotechnology industry has promised a cornucopia of new foods that would offer enhanced nutrition and other consumer and environmental benefits and feed a growing world population. Billions of taxpayer and private dollars have been invested in research and development of new genetically engineered (GE) crops. To date, however, the industry has achieved commercial success with only two major food crops and two GE traits of value to farmers, not consumers. Meanwhile, although underfunded by government agencies and corporate investors, sophisticated and modern methods of crop culture and breeding offer an abundant and nutritious food supply produced in healthy and environmentally friendly ways. There is increasing evidence that modern organic farming systems can deliver high yields along with environmental benefits such as clean water, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration. Recent studies also suggest that organic systems may increase levels of certain micronutrients in food. In addition, plant and animal breeders have developed non-GE varieties with enhanced nutrients, higher intrinsic yield, superior performance under local conditions, and other benefits. Disproportionate investment in biotechnology may have hampered development of these alternatives, but it is not too late to shift priorities. This session will evaluate the benefits of GE food crops and explore the opportunity costs of heavy investment in genetic engineering versus modern plant breeding technologies, organic methods, and other sustainable food-production techniques.
Session Objectives: 1. Describe the extent of public and private investment in crop genetic engineering versus sustainable alternatives for food production. 2. Evaluate the environmental, nutritional, and health benefits gained from investments in genetic engineering, with an emphasis on pesticide use on GE crops. 3. Articulate the principles of agroecology and its contribution to a healthy and environmentally sustainable food supply. 4. Discuss recent evidence of the capacity of organic agriculture systems to increase levels of certain nutrients in food.

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Organized by: Environment
Endorsed by: Socialist Caucus

CE Credits: CME, Health Education (CHES), Nursing

See more of: Environment