Plant scientists sign petition asserting that GM technology is a safe tool to help meet food supply demands.

February 19, 2016

3 Min Read
Plant scientists sign petition in support of GM tools

More than 1,000 scientists from nonprofit, corporate, academic and private institutions agreed that public doubts about genetically modified (GM) food crops are hindering the next "Green Revolution."

In a letter published in the journal Science, six researchers from three institutions explained their recent petition in support of science-based criteria for guiding the safe and effective employment of genetic modification technology.

The petition, which is the first organized by individual scientists in support of GM technology, yielded more than 1,400 signatures from plant science experts who support the American Society of Plant Biologists' (ASPB) position statement on GM crops as "an effective tool for advancing food security and reducing the negative environmental impacts of agriculture."

ASPB is the world's largest organization of plant biologists.

Although there is broad support in the scientific community for GM crops, the petition organizers feel that too much confusion about the issue is hindering effective deployment of these technologies.

“To meet our current and future food supply demands without destroying our planet, we need every efficacious tool available,” the organizers wrote.

The authors of the letter include Jose Dinneny at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Noah Fahlgren, Rebecca Bart and Daniel Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and Luis Herrera Estrella and Rubén Rellán Álvarez of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity in Mexico.

The signatories of the petition represent a knowledgeable consortium of scientists who have published more than 17,600 scientific papers on subjects such as plant breeding, the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying plant growth and development and plant responses to environmental stresses. The petitioners' goal is to demonstrate to the public that there is consensus within their scientific community about the safety and efficacy of using GM technology in agriculture.

“Our petition gives voice to the individual scientist,” Chitwood explained.

Carnegie president Matthew Scott, one of the petitioners, said, “GM crops, deployed appropriately in light of scientific knowledge and societal and environmental imperatives, can improve food and health substantially without detriment to the environment. In fact, there is considerable potential for preserving the environment through use of GMOs (GM organisms) to reduce excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers.”

The document adds a voice to the existing position statements in support of GMOs from other scientific organizations, including the American Medical Assn., U.S. National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science and World Health Organization.

“We hope that the consensus among plant scientists presented here is heard by policy-makers, the business community and, more importantly, the general public and initiates a new conversation on how best to implement GM tools to improve crops for sustainable agriculture,” Dinneny said. "We invite advocates of the responsible use of such tools to read the ASPB position statement, sign our petition and make your voice heard to encourage the use of the best-available scientific information in setting GMO policy and evaluating individual agricultural products."

The ASPB position statement and the petition can be found at

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology and Earth and planetary science.

Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. The center's work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

ASPB is a professional scientific society based in Rockville, Md., devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences worldwide.

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