Ben Howard, laboratory director at Certified Laboratories moderated the debate between Sunny Gilbert, Ph.D., project scientist at Cofactor Genomics who is pro-GMOs and Joel Warady, chief sales and marketing officer at Enjoy Life Foods who held the opposing side.
Gilbert explaned how GMOs can reduce food waste and potentially save 2.7 million children who are lacking essential vitamins—according to the World Health Organization (WHO)—which can be included in a food crop such as rice.
“I do wholeheartedly believe that GMOs are beneficial,” she said.
Healthier soybean oil and apples that never brown are other examples of GMO used in food products, Gilbert continued.
Four products engineered by GMOs, which the world recognizes today include:
“GMO is just another technology,” explained Gilbert.
She believes companies will actively advance because of pro-GMO consumers like herself who believe such products are safe. Additionally, she believes GMOs are becoming more consumer-friendly.
Last year, past-president, Barack Obama signed a bill into law that established national uniformity on how GMOs are labeled on food and beverage products. The bill's co-sponsor, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan) told P&F, "We worked hard to ensure the marketplace works for everyone. I mean everyone. Our legislation allows farmers to continue using sound science to produce more food with fewer resources, gives flexibility to food manufacturers in disclosing information, and gives access to more food information that consumers demand."
Warady’s concern is the negative impact GMOs cause to health in both children and adults. While children are able to grow out of food allergies eventually, adults are not able to.
“Being a sales-marketing guy, I look at a consumer’s point of view,” he said. “I want a non-GMO world.”
Food allergies in children have risen by 50% in the last 10 years, explained Warady. Some facts he looked at from WHO involved the number of kids affected by food allergies:
- One in 50 kids in 1990
- One in 13 kids in 2016
- One in 10 kids in 2019
“The solution is in the food because the allergic reaction is in the food,” he said.
In the future, GMOs will fade, but will not go away, he added. Forty-nine percent of the country is worried about this.
BH: Are GMO foods safe for consumers?
JW: We don’t know and need more evidence. We don’t know if it’s bad, but we are big believers in people finding out themselves.
SG: I believe they are. They are the most studied part of our food supply and considered safe.
BH: Are the health and safety of GMOs enhancing nutritional value?
JW: I believe in GMOs, it’s all about growing sales, business, creating yields. If GMOs use allergy-free technology, then I’ll fully support it.
SG: The U.S. goes above and beyond its regulation. I think meat with GMO products should be labeled and I think the U.S. goes above and beyond to do that.
BH: What additional products, if any should be regulated?
JW: We don’t believe any regulations are done at all. It’s too lax for GMOs. Crops are being sprayed more and cancer is now at number six for most deadly disease.
BH: Transitioning to Gilbert, is cancer linked to GMOs?
SG: Our population has never lived longer. Food is challenging and very much in front of us as a potential cause, but I don’t find a correlation. There is air, sun, alcohol and everyone looks to food, but consider that there are other causes.
BH: Are social economic impacts positive?
JW: For food companies using a lot of soy and sugar it has its positives, but I don’t think business growth impacts positively. What is wrong with an apple browning?*
SG: I believe they are. People in developing countries should get nutritious foods. One of the challenges is how we judge our food. Another problem is the amount of food waste we have.
*See Pro-GMOs section above on Gilbert's insight about apples browning.
GMOs in Moderation
Howard’s final question brought the two debaters to answer in unison. He asked if either person would eat GMO foods if there were a food shortage for conventional foods in the future. Gilbert, being pro-GMO answered yes. Warady’s response was also a yes for the sole purpose of surviving starvation.
“All things in moderation,” said Howard.