Alison Van Eenennaam, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Sciences at UC Davis, said research has shown that genetically engineered crops do not pose a risk to human health.
"There's a recent review paper where they summarized data from 1,700 different studies, and about half of those are publicly funded. And basically the results of those studies have been that there haven't been any unique risks or hazards associated with the use of this breeding method in the production of crops," she said.
The counter point was offered by Thierry Vrain, a soil biologist and genetic engineer with Agriculture Canada. He focused on the fact that more than 90 percent of the genetically engineered crops now in use were altered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. He said this fact results in overuse of the herbicide.
"In terms of specific toxicity of the molecule glyphosate, which has very little acute toxicity - as it is advertised, it is safer than table salt. But in terms of chronic toxicity over time, over weeks and months, it will damage the microbiome and induce all kinds, all kinds of symptoms. In mice, and probably in humans," Vrain said.
Van Eenannaam tried to keep the discussion focused on the safety of GMOs.
"I think the most misunderstood thing is it's a breeding method that can be used to introduce all sorts of crop traits into crops and animals, and we always seem to get discussing the one particular application rather than looking at how it could be used to address many different problems that are associated with agriculture, including things like drought tolerance, disease resistance, biofortification of crops," she said.
Vrain agreed with most of Van Eenennaam's points.
"I agree with you, Alison, that GMOs are not necessarily toxic, et cetera, et cetera," he said. "There's all kinds of benefits, it's a very powerful technology. Used properly, it's probably very beneficial to humanity.
At the end of the debate Vrain reiterated his concern that the preponderance of GMOs are for glyphosate-resistant crops.
"We're all in a fish bowl built out of a magnifying glass," a Berkeley City Councilmember told the panellists, referring to the national attention and strong community interest in the initiative.
Berkeley taxes sugar-sweetened beverages one cent per ounce. The tax generated $116,000 in its first month of operation.
The UC ANR panelist is Pat Crawford, the senior director of research for the Nutrition Policy Insititute, an organization of experts from throughout the University of California system brought together to share, synthesize, develop and collaborate on nutrition policy research.
In a recent Q&A with the UC Food Observer, Crawford commented on efforts to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
"We have strong evidence of sugar's contribution to diabetes, heart disease, obesity and dental caries," she said. "Hopefully educational materials for the public, including MyPlate, can begin to include water as the beverage that is first for thirst."
Sonia Rios, a recently hired UC Cooperative Extension Subtropical Horticulture Advisor in Riverside and San Diego Counties was honored with a Dean's Graduate Medalist award from Fresno State University. Annually, the dean of each college at CSUF presents one Dean's Graduate Medalist award and Sonia was the 2015 recipient from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.
Sonia was advised by Dr. Anil Shrestha at CSUF (who also was honored this year by the University) and her graduate research focused on glyphosate-resistant weeds. Over the past few years, she worked closely with a number of weed scientists at CSUF, UCCE, and UC Davis as well as the members of the pest control industry in the San Joaquin Valley in her position as a CSUF graduate student and weed research associate in Tulare County.
See below for the announcement of the awardees (or access directly from CSUF at http://www.fresnostate.edu/studentaffairs/commencement/honorees-awards.html )
Sonia Inez Rios of Wasco, completed an M.S. in Plant Science with a 3.79 GPA. Having struggled in her undergraduate program due to a variety of personal situations, she persevered and has amassed an impressive list of academic, professional, and volunteer accomplishments. She balanced her graduate studies while working almost full-time as a staff research associate with the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE). As a graduate student, she was the first-author on 11 oral and eight research poster presentations and was a co-author in three peer-reviewed journal papers. Her thesis research on Palmer Amaranth was so paramount that she was interviewed on a radio program and gave talks at professional venues. She won a highly competitive international travel grant to present her work at the Weed Science Society of America's annual conference in Vancouver, Canada, and numerous other scholarships. She was selected as a United States Department of Agriculture Graduate Fellow in 2014 and was a recipient of the University of California's Milton D. And Mary M. Miller Plant Science Award and the Bill and Jane Fischer Vegetation Management Award. She is a subtropical horticulture farm adviser with UCCE serving Southern California./span>
A brief FYI for those of you who have seen this bug in your strawberries. It's not uncommon this year.
This is a Say stink bug, Chlorochroa sayi and can cause deformation depending on the stage of the fruit. Note the orange stripe around the outer edge of the body. The triangular area in the back has four yellow spots. This species is a pest in tomatoes, but this year there are high numbers of them in vegetable fields.
Rather than re-writing what is already written on this pest in the UC IPM guidelines, we provide this link from tomatoes:
Say stinkbug out of strawberry.