I'm a reporter in NYC doing an article on genetically engineered foods for a national newsletter, Women's Health Advocate. I'm trying to answer a couple of questions:
Some places just say that broccoflower is a "hybrid". You're the first reference I've seen to say this a GENETICALLY ENGINEERED hybrid. Is this true of all broccoflower, or are some cross bred the traditional way?
Secondly, I'm trying to determine what, if anything, Americans should be concerned about regarding this new practice. A few years ago, practically no products were genetically engineered. Now I understand the numbers are more significant.
Do you have such numbers? Are there any other products you can list for me? And as I asked earlier, anything consumers should be concerned about? Questions they should ask in the store?
It is my understanding that broccoflower is a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower. I do not know of any "genetic engineering" (i.e., direct gene transfer outside of sexual means) that has gone on in producing broccoflower. I suspect that we are witnessing one of the greatest problems with GMO labeling - what does "genetically modified" or "genetic engineering" actually mean? Technically, I would say anything derived from a traditional breeding program is genetically modified - you would never find anything that looks like a typical commercial tomato in the wild! When people think of transferring genes (non-sexually) then I think most agree this is genetic engineering, but when you talk about doing a cross that normal would not happen - but is sexually viable, like broccoflower - then you get in a gray area. Certainly humans have intervened which would in my mind say some genetic engineering has taken place - but not what most think of in terms of GMO again, direct gene transfer).
As for other crops, certainly a substantial percentages of the maize, soybeans, and cotton grown in the US are GMOs (20 - 50 %). Specifics could probably be gotten from the USDA or even Monsanto, Pioneer, DuPont (though might be considered less neutral sources). As far as I know currently the amount of GMO vegetables on the market is minimal.
As for health concerns I can only relate the types of arguments made....
1) the genes and resulting proteins produced are degraded during digestion.
2) often they represent compounds that have biological activities specific to plant (herbicide resistance) or insect (BT) metabolism and thus have no targets and no effects on humans.
3) considerable amounts of transgenic maize and soybean have been on the market the last few years and there are no signs of at least short term-impact on human health (of course there is the "20 years from now we may all have 4 heads" argument).
One concern that is often raised and is legit (though low probability) is that any new protein might elicit an allergic reaction in somebody.......the counter to this argument is that traditional breeding could (and has) have the same potential. Other arguments that are often forgotten is that BT for example results in reduced pesticide application.....this certainly could be viewed as a health/environmental plus.
I would suggest you contact a breeding/seed company such as Seminis for their response. Their address is
Seminis Vegetable Seeds, Inc.
37437 State Highway 16
Woodland, CA 95695.
Their research phone number is (530-666-0931).
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