Look Closer at Biotechnology

In what appears to be an attempt to help the nation’s children understand—and even embrace—emergent biotechnology via companies like Monsanto and Dow’s genetically modified seeds (mainly corn, soy, canola and cotton), the companies have employed the power of story to convey a positive message about the controversial agricultural practice to our nation’s youth.

The Council for Biotechnology Information has published an activity book targeted at children. Called the “Biotechnology Basics Activity Book,” the CBI and companies including Monsanto and Dow are aiming to have the book used in schools by science and agriculture teachers across the country.

The Natural Society, a consumer advocacy organization that is highly critical of the book, claims it is “full of misinformation and propaganda that completely ignores scientific research surrounding genetically modified organisms.” Such misinformation, says the organization, includes statements about genetically modified organisms and biotechnology like that they “improve our health,”  ”grow more food” and “help the environment.”

Biotechnology is described in the children’s activity book as a way for scientists “to look closer at genes and make improvements in them.” And, it also states, “scientists can now insert a specific gene into a plant that will help it adapt to its environment, make it more pest resistant, or even make it more nutritious.”

But The Natural Society claims just the opposite: “According to 900 scientists, GMO crops actually do not grow more food than traditional farming practices. In fact, they are simply not an effective tool to fight starvation in any capacity, thanks to their excessive costs and immense failure to yield crops.”

The largest petition in the history of the FDA was recently submitted to the agency on the issue of labeling GMOs. But due to a technicality, the one million signatures counted as fewer than 500. The FDA has said it has not yet reached a decision on the petition’s request.

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Image: CBI