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The Ethics Center

Altered eating

From The Collegian Online

On Feb 11, 2008

By Jonathon Rezonable

Jim Prince, Ph.D., a professor in molecular biology on campus, discussed a full spectrum of topics regarding genetically modified food, a prominent issue in agriculture, in an Ethics Center lecture at Fresno State on Wednesday.

Genetically modified foods refer to foods that have had the DNA changed. Prince said that one of the major reasons crops are genetically modified at the moment is to resist insects and herbicides to allow plants to grow better.

Any goods containing soybean, canola or corn likely contain genetically modified crops, Prince said. According to his research, this includes commonly consumed goods such as Pepsi, Trix cereal and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

According to Prince, genetically modified crops also have the possibility of curing some Third World problems. Crops such as golden rice have been genetically modified to contain vitamin A. Rice is a staple in Third World countries, where many go blind due to lack of vitamin A. Prince said that scientists are working on food pharmaceuticals that would both feed and give malnourished people vitamins at the same time.


Prince said that the public is hesitant to completely adopt “Frankenfoods,” a term given to the genetically modified foods. Prince is skeptical of even organic foods because of wind currents and pollination.

“Fields of [genetically modified organisms] might be right next to organic fields, so you can never be sure if pollen is transferred,” he said.

Prince said that the companies that are making these crops are looking to move forward carefully.

“Companies making food are very interested in safety,” he said. “I think there is pretty good evidence that there aren’t acute health problems.”

But the long-term ecological side effects may cause need for alarm, Prince said. According to his lecture, genetically modified crops have the potential to poison the environment from an unexpected toxicity.

“I think the environmental consequences are probably more real to worry about,” Prince said. “I think you have to be careful about that.”

Toxicity can sometimes emerge in later generations, although strict regulations and safety practices make the likelihood of the toxicity affecting the public extremely low.

Prince also said that in the best case scenario, genetically modified crops could do a lot of good. Prince thinks that the crops could lead to an overall improvement in the health of plants and people.

Prince said that new technologies, such as this one, are not generally accepted quickly.

“This technology, like most technologies, gets a chilly reception at first,” he said.

Prince said that in retrospect, people will probably look back at this technology very similarly to the way we looked at televisions and microwaves.

“I think we can feel pretty good about what’s out there now in terms of general safety,” Prince said.

Junior biology major Nathaniel Bliss sat in on Prince’s lecture, and though he said his eating habits wouldn’t change, it is certainly a good thing to be educated about.

“I think it’s good to research,” Bliss said. “It’s important to know what’s going on.”

Additional reporting by Kyle Lazarus.

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