Podcast: GM salmon coming soon? Food ingredients you can’t pronounce are safe; Monsanto patent lawsuit myths

chemicals in food
An ingredients list for bananas, which demonstrate how foods can contain ‘scary-sounding’ chemical names that are actually completely safe and natural
Monsanto never sued farmers because their fields were accidentally contaminated with the company’s GM seed. AquaBounty’s genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon may be headed for grocery stores in early 2021, despite ongoing activist-group litigation. Ignore the food gurus; food ingredients are safe—even if you can’t pronounce them.

Join geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English on this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies as they break down these latest news stories:

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Anti-GMO groups and reporters have for years claimed that Monsanto wrongly sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, helping fuel the public’s skepticism of biotech crops and the scientists who develop them. But when this idea was put to the test in court, it failed spectacularly.

In March 2011, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) sued Monsanto to stop the company from suing farmers whose farms were ‘contaminated’ by genetically engineered seeds. The biotech giant argued it had never sued growers because its GM seeds accidentally landed in their fields, and the court agreed. “After a careful reading of the decision, and looking past the necessary niceties of legalese,” writes GLP contributor Marc Brazeau, “one gets the very clear sense of a plaintiff being laughed out of court.”

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After 30 years of development and regulatory review, AquaBounty’s fast-growing GM salmon is poised to hit grocery stores in 2021, making it the first genetically engineered animal to be approved for human consumption. But even as the biotech startup nears the finish line, it (alongside the FDA) is battling activists in court committed to keeping the fish off the market. Led by the Center for Food Safety, these anti-biotech groups claim the salmon poses an unprecedented threat to its wild relatives, should it escape into the ocean. How likely is it that AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon will makes its way into the wild?

We’ve all heard this rule of thumb: don’t eat any food ingredient you can’t pronounce, the assumption being that anything with a complex, chemical name must be unnatural and thus potentially harmful. In reality, this shortcut to reading food labels makes little sense. The safety and nutritional qualities of food don’t change based on how complicated the ingredient list is. Don’t believe us? Try reading the names of chemicals in a banana.

Related article:  CRISPR creates 'smart' hydrogels that could lead to therapies capable of fighting multiple infections, diseases

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Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow Professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta

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Cameron J. English is the GLP’s managing editor. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

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