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GMO Players: A Look at Who Is Shaping the GMO Debate

Should it surprise us that the president of McDonald's is pro-GMO? Should it surprise us that the president of McDonald's is pro-GMO?


The use of GMOs in our food supply is a subject of global debate. Here are a few of the key activists and decision makers who are shaping the future of farming


Dr. Herbert Boyer, Biochemist, University of California

Boyer was the first scientist to make a GMO using recombinant DNA, otherwise known as “genetic material not found in nature.” In 1976 he co-founded Genentech, the granddaddy of biotechnology companies. Two years later, Genentech released a genetically engineered E. coli strain that produces insulin for human use. Boyer sits on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and is a member of the California Inventors Hall of Fame. Although Boyer is an obvious supporter of GMO, he’s uncomfortable with the lack of regulation in its application and use.

Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative

The Office of the United States Trade Representative, or OUSTR, is full of GMO pushers. Previous U.S. Trade Reps Mickey Kantor and Clayton Yeutter were instrumental in establishing U.S. biotech industry GMO crops around the world. Now Kirk sits at the president’s side and represents the U.S. at the World Trade Organization, where he is continuing the tradition. When the European Union tries to say, “Hey, we don’t want your weird corn,” it’s Kirk’s job to put on the pressure. Trade sanctions, anyone?

Dr. Robert T. Fraley, Monsanto Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Fraley oversees the monster seed and matching deadly chemical sets sold by Monsanto. He is the smart fellow responsible for developing the infamous Roundup Ready line of Monsanto products. Fraley also sits as a technical advisor to numerous government and public agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, Office of Technology Assessment, Agency for International Development and National Academy of Science.

Peter Mandelson, British Labour Party

Former European commissioner at the World Trade Organization, Mandelson supports the U.S. political movement urging Europe to get on board the biotech train or risk being left behind. “Unless we can close the gap between GMO approvals in the EU and in feed-exporting countries such as the U.S., Argentina and Brazil, we may have hungry cows and struggling farmers,” he says. While Mandelson was the EU Trade Commissioner, the first of many EU bans on GMO crops was lifted due to a ruling by the WTO.

Janice L. Fields, President of McDonald’s USA

McDonald’s feeds close to 70 million people worldwide every day, with cheap food containing GMO ingredients. Fields, who started her career at Mickey D’s in 1977 as a crew member, now earns close to $6 million a year in her role as president, and she has stock options worth $9 billion. She also sits on the board of Monsanto, the largest supplier of GMO food crop technology in the world.


Percy Schmeiser, Conventional Farmer

Schmeiser has been farming for more than 50 years in rural Saskatchewan, saving his own seeds and minding his own business. In 1999, Monsanto’s patented GMO canola plants were found growing among Percy’s self-bred crop. Monsanto sued him for patent infringement and won. Then, after spending his entire retirement nest egg to battle the industry giant, Schmeiser went back for more and sued Monsanto for contaminating his fields. “We did nothing wrong,” he says. “We’re going to stick this thing out because we want to be free.”

Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends

Rifkin is the bestselling author of many books that discuss the impact of science and technology on the economy and the environment. He says, “It’s a little bit disingenuous for some of the life scientists to say they want to feed the world when they create terminator genes designed to make a seed sterile so it can’t be reused by a farmer. We are already producing enough food to feed the world … Here, in the U.S. and in Europe, we pay farmers not to produce … The issue here is, how do we create the effective mechanism so the fruits of the technologies we already have in place can be shared equitably?” Good question, Mr. Rifkin.

Dr. Christian Velot, Molecular Biologist, University of Paris-South

French researcher Velot is the author of OGM: Tour S’Explique, a book that explains the pitfalls of genetic modifications (en français). He has also appeared at trials in support of anti-GMO activists. Velot believes industry and government are holding a veil around the dangers of widespread GMO use, and he wants to pull it off. When the university where he works suggested he keep his mouth shut on the hot topic, protestors quickly gathered 50,000 signatures in his support, and Paris-South fell in line behind its popular professor.

Dacian Ciolos, European Union Agriculture Minister

Ciolos, a former agriculture minister from Romania, supports the right of individual countries to ban GMO technology without the threat of a big sanction stick waiting to whack them into economic submission. He wants government policy that he can defend to the farmers he speaks to on the ground. “Our approach cannot be efficient on trade, development and sustainability if we are not coherent and transparent,” says Ciolos.

Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association National Director

Cummins is a grassroots lobbyist fighting against the industrialization of food production. He founded the OCA in 1998. It is now a network with more than 1 million members. Cummins also champions the OAC’s Safeguard Organic Standards Campaign and fights for consumer rights regarding food standards and labels. He recently filed a historic citizens ballot initiative in California calling for mandatory labels on GMO food. His initiative will be on the ballot in November 2012.

Bill McDorman, International Seed Saving Institute Founder

Bill has been a seed steward in the U.S. since 1979. He founded the International Seed Saving Institute, a nonprofit NGO, to teach the seed rituals he believes are largely responsible for creating civilization. His organization sends volunteers around the world to spread the good seed word. He calls them “seed angels.” McDorman and his gang of heavenly helpers fight to protect the natural genetic makeup of the world’s plant population and denounce the products of unnatural GMO seeds.


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Why is the president of McDonald's pro-GMO? Because everything on their menu contains GMOs!
Last modified on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 12:07

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