North Texas Daily

Professor joins national GMO study

Professor joins national GMO study

September 25
00:09 2014

Paul Wedding / Intern Writer

The National Research Council has appointed distinguished biology research professor Richard Dixon to serve on a committee studying genetically engineered crops and the positive or negative effects they may have on the world.

The committee had its first meeting last week in Washington, D.C. to hear public opinions on the matter. The study’s report is expected in early 2016.

GMOs may be something the world needs, Dixon said. As the population continues to grow, scientists may have to accommodate for that by modifying plants.

Before arriving at UNT in February 2013, Dixon served as the director of the plant biology division at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, a nonprofit organization that researches plant science and agricultural programs to enhance agricultural productivity.

Dixon was recently elected to serve one year as president of the American Society of Plant Biologists, a major society for plant science in the world.

The two main focus points of the research committee will be studying genetically modified crops as a source of energy and how to make crops more digestible for animals. They will be looking at native grasses, such a switchgrass, to find ways to make its sugar more accessible to become fuel.

Currently, the best-known alternative fuel source and sugar substitute is corn, which is often genetically modified to help meet America’s vast demand for the crop. However, Dixon believes that corn is not the best solution.

“It takes a lot of input to grow corn,” he said. “Corn is used in most food products already, so it isn’t a good solution to an alternative fuel source.”

There is a great debate today on the ethics of genetically modified food and whether it is healthy for society and the environment. Many groups believe that GMOs are not the solution to the world’s food supply problems.

Part of this debate regards whether or not genetically modified crops and meat from animals that graze on them need to be labeled in grocery stores. Many are also concerned with crops being exposed to pesticides of increasing toxicity as insects around the world evolve immunities to industrial poisons.

“If we’re going to get rid of climate change, the biggest contributor to global warming is industrial agriculture, which is mainly GMO crops,” said Katherine Paul, director of development and communications at the Organic Consumers Association. “GMOs aren’t feeding the world, and herbicides and pesticides aren’t working. We are on a treadmill of increasingly toxic poisons.”

Many UNT students are unsure as to whether GMOs are the solution as well.

“I definitely think they need to label the food, so people are aware that it has been genetically modified,” international studies sophomore Rubab Raza said.

Dixon does agree that GMOs are causing some problems, but he believes it has to do with outdated regulation more than anything, which the committee will also be looking at during its research.

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