Interview with Margaret Mellon at MOSES

Back in February, Frank & I went to the MOSES Organic Farming Conference, and while Frank was quick to put up his pictures, and I got one video up, I’ve been a bit lax in getting the rest of the material up and annotated. While discussing genetic engineering over at Grist, Doug Gurian-Sherman from the Union of Concerned Scientist popped in to say a big hello and a response to my comment. One of the issues he brought up was that I criticized his report Failure to Yield as not being peer reviewed, which he dismissed as a “smokescreen.” His comment reminded me that the issue of peer review seems to be a sore point for the folks over at UCS. (They also keep bringing up Brookes and Barfoot without prompting, probably because they have been peer reviewed, but I’ll get to that later.) They’ve probably heard this criticism a lot. Actually, this is not the first time I brought it up to someone from the Food & Agriculture program at UCS.

The director of the Food & Agriculture program at UCS Margaret Mellon, graciously agreed to do an interview with me while at MOSES. This immediately followed her keynote speech, which I referred to in a couple of my questions. (might be required watching if you want to appreciate it fully.) For instance, she excluded mentioning commercialized GE traits that were not Bt and herbicide resistance, trying to say that that is all there was. I also asked her about Golden Rice, knowing full well that she was a critic of it in its early days. What is the position of the UCS on it today? I also asked about Failure to Yield, and how it was that so many people seemed to think that it concluded that there was either no increase in yield due to genetic engineering, or that the opposite was true. (3-4% estimated increase in yield due to Bt) I ended by saying that although there are a few things that I disagree with the UCS on, they are doing a better job of being critics of GE than pretty much anyone else. And then I expressed something about peer review… and something happened! I thought about editing it to put the goodbye’s at the end, but you know what, I decided that the flow of conversation should be preserved how ever it turned out.

Have a listen, and let me know what you think! (Music by the eminent Carl Winter)

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Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.