News FocusProfile: Carol Mallory-Smith

Scientist in the Middle of the GM-Organic Wars

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Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 168
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6026.168

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For Carol Mallory-Smith of Oregon State University, the migration of genes in agricultural crops is not just a research topic or a matter of policy debate. It's the cause of a vexing quarrel among her neighbors: the farmers of Oregon's Willamette Valley. This valley, because of its mild climate and ample water for irrigation, is one of the world's great seed-growing centers, supplying farms, gardens, and golf courses worldwide. Because pollination is at the heart of seed production, the valley is now the scene of heated debates—and one far-reaching lawsuit—over the consequences of genetically modified pollen or seeds drifting into fields filled with sexually compatible non-GM crops. Organic farmers who fear contamination of their crops are on one side; the growers of seed for genetically engineered sugar beets are on the other. And Mallory-Smith is in the middle. Her publications have found an avid readership among biotech industry lawyers and activists opposed to GM crops.

  • * Dan Charles is a writer based in Washington, D.C.