Food Tank recently shared an Op-ed article by Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD, an independent consultant with Strategic Trainings and Expansion (STE). The opinion piece examines a recent documentary titled Food Evolution, which discusses the hotly debated topic of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Food Tank has received a number of comments on this piece.
Food Tank would like to share several of the responses we received.
Doug Gurian-Sherman, Strategic Trainings and Expansion
The Institute for Food Technologists has disputed several points made about their organization in my article “Food Evolution” Documentary Supports GMOs, but Not Science, posted Tuesday, October 24. Here are some corrections and clarifications about their points. As the author of the original op-ed, I welcome the opportunity to ensure its accuracy, make corrections, or clarify content.
My op-ed linked to a source that noted that the IFT president-elect and previous president worked for GMO companies. Further research shows that in fact one of those presidents, Janet Collins, who was in office from 2013 – 2014, had been an executive with Monsanto and DuPont. The other, Cindy Stewart, is apparently the President of the Board of Directors, and previously was an executive with DuPont.
My op-ed incorrectly stated that IFT is “also funded” by GMO corporations. This is a misstatement of an article from US Right to Know that noted that IFT is partially funded by large food companies.
Institute of Food Technologists
I’m reaching out from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) regarding the article published by Doug Gurian-Sherman in FoodTank yesterday on the documentary, Food Evolution. IFT commissioned this documentary to inspire discussion and debate about the use of sound science to address food security and sustainability. As an organization, we believe debate and discussion about the film are critical to generate a more positive public discussion on how we can solve future challenges, such as feeding nine billion people worldwide by 2050. With this in mind, we have welcomed the varying opinions on the film from the public and media. However, we do want to ensure that we as an organization are accurately represented and there are several inaccuracies in the piece by Gurian-Sherman:
- The author claims, “The film was funded by the Institute for Food Technologists (IFT) which includes academic scientists (such as Nestle), but is also funded by the GMO industry.” IFT is not funded by the GMO industry. IFT is a non-profit, scientific organization of 17,000 individual members from the food science community. Our membership includes scientists and science of food professionals from 100 countries, representing multiple disciplines from academia, government, and the food industry, who all share a commitment to science. Food Evolution was funded entirely from our financial reserves and without contribution from any other organization or company. Our financial reserves are made up of additional revenue generated primarily through the membership dues of individual members, scientific publishing, events and advertising.
- The author states, “IFT’s most recent president was an executive from DuPont and Monsanto.” This is not true. IFT’s most recent President is John Coupland, a Professor of Food Science at Penn State University.
- The author states, “…and the President-Elect is from DuPont.” This is not true. IFT’s President-Elect is a retired senior scientist from NASA.
Our official statement about the movie, as well as a detailed Q&A on Food Evolution, lives on our website here: http://www.ift.org/about-us/food-evolution.aspx.
Patricia Nanteza, Science Communicator, National Banana Research Program
Banana research in Uganda is on course
I was recently sent a link to Food Tank’s story entitled, “Food Evolution Documentary Supports GMOs, but Not Science”, and after reading it I felt compelled to respond. I have watched Food Evolution and am well familiar with the banana bacterial wilt disease problem documented in the film that is devastating Uganda’s bananas (matooke). And that is because I am the communication specialist for the National Banana Research Program in Uganda and I am therefore intimately knowledgeable about the efforts that have been made by African scientists to develop a genetic solution to this problem in the form of a disease-resistant banana.
So, when I came to the paragraph in Doug Gurian-Sherman’s story that stated, “… The former [banana] is an important African staple, but the GMO banana is not yet available to farmers. It faces many hurdles exemplified by previous GMO failures like GMO virus-resistant sweet potato in Kenya, protein-enhanced cassava, and cassava-resistant to mosaic virus, or the extensive technical and other problems encountered by beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) enriched “golden rice” 20 years after it was first developed…” I became angry – really angry.
How dare the author insinuate that our banana is not with farmers because we are delayed or failing? This is unacceptable! Someone, somewhere in the US or wherever does not have the right to tell lies about and tarnish our hard work. Doug Gurian-Sherman, let me educate you: Our bacterial wilt resistant banana is not yet in farmer fields because the research cycle is still on-going. I hope you know that research goes through a cycle?! One doesn’t wake up and release a new variety – GM or conventional!
As the National Banana Research Program (NBRP), we are very excited about the results of our research, “the plants tested 100% resistant to the disease” – Dr. Jerome Kubiriba, head of NBRP says here and I repeat it here. Doug Gurian-Sherman, I hope you heard that, 100 PERCENT RESISTANT. Earlier this year we planted our first multi-location field trial. And earlier this month Uganda finally voted the National Biosafety Bill of 2012 into law. This law will allow Ugandan farmers to finally grow GM crops in their fields.
Food Evolution is not propaganda. It documents the story of our banana fairly. It asks for people to get the real facts before they make a decision. It suggests that if you hear something, you should corroborate that information with data.
Sir, please, stop mudslinging our continent (Africa) and country (Uganda) and ability (scientists). We are only an email away – write to us and get the truth from people living and working this truth – African scientists carrying out this research. However, I hope this will be the beginning of a proper two-way conversation – one that is based on truth and real concern.
Doug Gurian-Sherman and everyone out there: If you want to help Africa, in this case Uganda cheer us on by:
- Helping to fund our banana research until the end. Our intended end is to get the disease-resistant banana to the farmers’ gardens.
- Help build our scientists’ and communicators’ technical capacity
- Most importantly, do not spread falsehoods about us.