Video: Hilary Clinton endorses GMOs, solution-focused crop biotechnology

| July 3, 2014 |
Image via Times of San Diego Image via Times of San Diego

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her support for genetically modified crops and crop biotechnology. In a 65-minute keynote appearance at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention in San Diego in late June, Clinton conversed with Jim Greenwood, BIO president, on a wide range of topics including GMOs.

“I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record,” Clinton said, adding that biotech professionals need to continue to try to make the case for GMO-skeptics. “There is a big gap between what the facts are, and what the perceptions are.”

Clinton noted that there are unwarranted fears surrounding GMOs because many people do not understand science or biotechnology and are easily swayed by code words and misguided perceptions. “Genetically modified sounds ‘Frankensteinish’ – drought resistant sounds really like something you want,” she said.

Clinton’s full talk is available in the video embedded below. Her comments on biotechnology begin at approximately 29 minutes in.

Clinton noted her own experiences of promoting drought-resistant seeds in Africa and meeting resistance to her efforts.

“We talk about drought-resistant seeds, and I’ve promoted them all over Africa. By definition, they have been engineered to be drought-resistant, I mean that’s the beauty of them. Maybe somebody can get their harvest done and not starve, and maybe there’s some left over to sell. And yet I’ve been involved in a lot of the political debates in other countries about whether or not to accept certain kinds of seeds,” Clinton said.

Clinton emphasized the need for a comprehensive educational effort to help farmers, governments and the public accept genetically modified crops.

“We created a program called Feed the Future, which is trying to help the farmers be educated enough to know that drought-resistant seeds, for example, are not going to hurt them,” Clinton said. “And this is painstaking work, doesn’t get solved overnight. You have to be working at the top with the departments of agriculture, with finance ministries, with prime ministers and presidents’ offices, and you have to be working from the bottom up. I don’t see the short cut for it.”

Clinton called for a new vocabulary in conversations about biotechnology that focuses on the benefits of improved crops.

“‘Genetically modified’ sounds Frankensteinish. ‘Drought resistance’ sounds really – something you want. So how do you create a different vocabulary to talk about what it is you’re trying to help people do,” Clinton said, encouraging biotechnology companies to be more thoughtful about the way their research is being communicated.

Clinton also said that she did not want to see the U.S. lose biotechnology companies as they move out of the country to elsewhere that might have a friendlier tax and regulatory system for biotechnology.

“I don’t want to see biotech companies or pharma companies moving out of our country simply because of some perceived tax disadvantage and potential tax advantage somewhere else,” she said.

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  • Cormac Sheridan

    Nothing very genetically literate about Hilary Clinton’s comments as reported above. There are no GM drought resistant seeds in Africa or anywhere else – the concept is great but it has yet to be realized. Drought resistance is a complex trait involving many genes, not all of which are yet understood.

    • respons(er)

      Comac, you’re wrong, there is actually at least one GM drought resistant crop in the US. It’s called droughtgard. And it’s performing. Look it up.

      • Angry Scientist

        Performing poorly, according to UCS.

        Monsanto’s “DroughtGard” Corn Barely a Drop in the Bucket

        Report Finds Limited Prospects for Genetically Engineered Crops to Combat Drought and Conserve Water

        WASHINGTON (June 5, 2012)— Monsanto’s new drought tolerant corn, DroughtGard, reduces crop losses only modestly during moderate droughts, and will not reduce the crop’s water requirements, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The report found that traditional breeding and improved farming practices have done more to increase drought tolerance, and that further improvements in genetic engineering are unlikely to solve the drought problem in coming years.

      • susan

        Why Genetically Modified, Drought-Resistant Seeds Are a Waste of Time and Money

        Monsanto Fails at Improving Agriculture. “Monsanto’s products—and the practices they promote—may sustain the company’s profits, but the evidence shows that they stand in the way of truly sustainable solutions to our food and farming challenges.” “Research has shown that organic farming methods could improve drought-year yields by up to 96%.”

        GM Crops Do Not Increase Yields

        All Wet on Drought Tolerance.. “If farmers want to conserve more water, Monsanto’s DroughtGard corn isn’t the right tool. A recent UCS study found that DroughtGard won’t help farmers reduce water use..”

        Over 800 world scientists agree: GM crops are BAD. “The scientists are extremely concerned about the hazards of GMOs to biodiversity, food safety, human and animal health, and demand a moratorium on environmental releases..” “They call for a ban on patents of life-forms and living processes which threaten food security..”

        • Jon Entine

          Susan, all of the sites you post from are “junk science” sources. If you can find a source from a reputable INDEPENDENT (university based) or government site, fine, but quoting from the flying yogic fraud site ‘responsible technology” of from Doug Gurian-Sherman, the science denier recently canned from the Union of Concerned Scientists (an anti-GMO NGO), is not convincing to those of us who ascribe to INDEPENDENT evidence.

        • agliterate

          Susan, your comments and these non–“studies” try to make us believe – incredulously — that GE crops don’t increase yields, and don’t improve agriculture. Do you really think our farmers are just plain shambling idiots who have no idea what they’re putting in the ground? Of course they do, and that’s why they buy them. Are YOU a farmer? Or have you ever talked to a farmer about why they use GE seeds?

  • Mike

    XiaoZhi Lim is a pro GMO wanker. Anyone before buying this spin watch the movies “Food Inc.” and “Seeds
    of Death” to hear the other side of this topic. GMO’s are bad OK.

    • Carver

      And those films were both produced by people with no science background or education.
      And “pro GMO wankers” have plenty of good reason to be.
      Pr9moting pseudoscience and ignorance on a page that encourages literacy is bad, ok?

      • Angry Scientist

        Carver, do you have any knowledge of Gary Null at all? Aside from what you might have garnered from the so-called quackbusters? No science background or education? Pardon me, your ignorance and faith in pseudoscience is showing. There’s no science to back up the claims of benefits of GMO crops, whatsoever, except for pumping up the profits of the genetic engineering companies, and plenty to show the risks of this mad experiment with DNA. Or maybe biodiversity is a dirty word in your eyes?

  • Mike

    I’d like to stick a GMO potato up her nose.

    • yourewrong

      There’s no commercialized GM potato anywhere. At all. can’t find it if you wanted my friend. Amazing how people like you believe anything. And that there’s no GM potato commercialized is actually a shame.

  • David Smith

    “We talk about drought-resistant seeds … Maybe somebody can get their harvest done and not starve, and maybe there’s some left over to sell …”
    What a typical politician with a two faced response! Take away the $20 billion per year farming subsidy the USA hands out and see how long US farmers will remain productive.

  • susan

    She also thinks we need to eat fukushima radiation food… Link in the image. What did we do to deserve to be poisoned? GMO and Radiation…


    DNA from GMOs can pass directly into humans, study confirms

    One of the 20th Century’s ‘Most Influential People,’ Former Presidential Candidate Speaks

    Out: “GMOs Have Not Yet Been Proven Safe”
    ‘Time Magazine Man of the Year’ Ralph Nader recently came out in support of the growing movement for organic, healthy, and non-GMO food,

    7 Ways Organic Farms Outperform Conventional Farms

    They lie!
    Myth #1: No One Has Ever Proven That GMOs are Harmful to People
    Myth #2: GMO Crops are the Only Way to Solve World Hunger
    Myth #3: GMOs Need Less Pesticide Spraying
    Myth #4: GMO Technology is Comparable to the Cross-Breeding That our Ancestors Did to Create Hardier Versions of Heritage Crops.
    Myth #5: The FDA and the USDA allow GMO’s, They Must Be Safe To Consume


    This is my biggest fear.. When they finally admit that gmos cause health problems and cause dire environmental damage, it may be too late..
    “David Suzuki is a geneticist. He’s one of the top scientists in Canada, his textbook is one of the most widely-used in the world, he’s published more than 30 books. So when David Suzuki speaks, I listen..
    Putting genes back in bottles.. How do you clean up a potential GMO mess? You don’t.
    The difference with GM food is that once the genie is out of the bottle, it will be difficult or impossible to stuff it back. If we stop using DDT and CFCs, nature may be able to undo most of the damage – even nuclear waste decays over time. But GM plants are living organisms. Once these new life forms have become established in our surroundings, they can replicate, change, and spread; there may be no turning back. Many ecologists are concerned about what this means to the balance of life on Earth that has evolved over millions of years through the natural reproduction of species.”

    • Jon Entine

      Susan, you are quoting junk science sites again!!! Stick to real independent science–university or government–not propaganda sites, and we can have a genuine discussion here.

  • anonymous

    It’s one thing to cross an apple with a pear and get a new fruit and a whole other thing to take a gene for a pesticide from a plant or animal “humans DON’T eat” and stick it in a plant that “humans DO eat”. If nothing else, we need to know what is GMO and what is not GMO so that we can all participate in a scientific experiment on humans and see what the difference is between those who eat manipulated toxic genes, and those who don’t. Granted no one is perfect and no one will be able to completely avoid the toxic GMO foods, it’s not a perfect scientific experiment, but studies are done all the time on huge populations using imperfect medical records and surveys (people lie). Humans are used as guinea pigs for new medications all the time too.
    If you think Americans are too stupid to read and understand GMO labels, I tell you what…..I will volunteer to be one of the intelligent humans who will read the labels and avoid GMO foods, and I’m sure we could find some more. And all the stupid ones can continue to eat GMO foods and we can see who spends more on health care.
    Ready? Up for the challenge? Let’s go. Label the food.

  • CS

    Now we know who’ll be funding her upcoming campaign