science facts and fallacies

Podcast: COVID vaccine fears mirror GMO skepticism; coronavirus and pregnancy; GM crops in organic farming

, | February 11, 2021
Cameron English: GLP Senior Agricultural Genetics Editor    More details
Kevin Folta: University of Florida plant geneticist    More details
The growing opposition to coronavirus vaccines bears striking resemblance to anti-GMO fears that have circulated online for more than 20 years. Pregnant women who catch COVID-19 are likely to pass on long-term immunity to their unborn children, but not the infection itself, a new study suggests. A team of scientists says it’s time to allow genetically modified crops in organic farming.

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:

What’s the difference between GMO skeptics and COVID vaccine opponents? Very little, as it turns out. Both groups share a deep distrust of corporations and the regulatory process by which new scientific innovations are introduced. As a rule, keeping a watchful eye on government officials and pharma companies is perfectly reasonable. But when this healthy skepticism morphs into cynicism fueled by fear of the unknown, society runs the risk of forgoing life-saving technologies. So, how did we get here? Did the anti-GMO movement lay the groundwork for vaccine skepticism? Or do both groups happen to attract the same kind of supporters?
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Expecting parents, breathe a sigh of relief. According to a recent study, pregnant women who catch COVID-19 may pass on long-term SARS-COV-2 immunity to their unborn children—but not the virus itself. This could also mean, the researchers suggest, that vaccine-generated immunity protects developing babies. While additional research is needed to validate the results, the study offers more encouraging news as we struggle to bring the pandemic to its end.
Related article:  India says it will take "appropriate action" to stop farmers from planting unapproved GMO insect resistant and herbicide tolerant crops

“Organic farming is agriculture that makes healthy food, healthy soils, healthy plants, and healthy environments a priority ….” writes the Organic Farming Research Foundation. The industry can advance these goals by introducing genetically engineered crops into organic production, which can cut pesticide use while also helping farmers combat plant diseases and pests. The result: more sustainable farming practices and higher yields. “By incorporating GM technology into organic agriculture,” a team of Purdue University researchers argues, “biodiversity and soil quality could be maintained, while increasing product yield through rapid selection.”

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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

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

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