SITE VISIT: Fielding Questions on Biotech Crops

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Science  17 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5448, pp. 2227
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5448.2227c

The often vitriolic debate over the risks and promise of genetically modified (GM) foods—are they “Frankenfoods” or a boon that will allow farmers to slash pesticide use?–has generated a flood of Web sites, many partisan. Here are two that strive for a middle-of-the-road perspective.

Aiming to “provide a balanced view,” especially on the ecological risks of transgenic crops, is this site sponsored by Virginia Tech and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One standout feature is a monthly newsletter in which scientists write brief articles summing up the latest research and policy news. (December's coverage, for example, includes a study of gene flow between cultivated and wild beets, and a widely reported meeting in Chicago on altered corn and monarch butterflies.) The site also taps a database of proposed field trials of GM crops. Monsanto leads with over 1500 requests, one can learn; crops in the pipeline range from drought-tolerant Kentucky bluegrass to virus-resistant grapes. Other sections cover risk assessment, from workshop proceedings to biosafety committees.

For policy news in the United Kingdom, try this university site, where you can read Prince Charles's 10 questions about transgenic foods posed in the Daily Mail last summer—along with a scientist's response—or learn which stores have offered GM products. (The list includes Marks and Spencer, which has sold jelly beans made with transgenic corn.) The site also contrasts regulatory approaches in the United States and Europe, and offers a ton of links, from Greenpeace to biotech companies.

The U.S. government has lately launched a campaign to address fears about biotech crops. For speeches, public meetings, links to agencies, and the like, visit this site.

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