GMOs 'A Women's Issue,' Insists Author Of New Book (16/8/2007)

EXTRACT: "We will go to any extent to make sure we have healthy food for our children, and we are doing the right thing for our family. Do you want us to just not ask anymore?"


GMOs 'A Women's Issue,' Insists Author Of New Book
Calls For Food Labels In U.S.
Randall Osborne, West Coast Editor Released : Monday, August 13 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - The stronger side of the still-percolating U.S. debate over genetically modified organisms in food is driven by motives that are "blatantly economic, tossing aside safety," said Moira Gunn, National Public Radio host and author of a new book.

"I'm concerned about a society in which one can get a significant change - no matter how tiny this fragment is - into the American food supply without scientific testing," she said. "That's wrong."

Gunn's book, Welcome to Biotech Nation: My Unexpected Odyssey into the Land of Small Molecules, Lean Genes and Big Ideas (Amacom Books; $24.95) chronicles the "BioTech Nation" host's adventures in the industry.

Equipped with advanced degrees in science and engineering - she was the first woman to earn a PhD in the latter from Purdue University - the former NASA employee started her biotech radio show after more than a decade doing NPR's "Tech Nation," which deals with the impact of technology in other areas.

The wide-ranging book, likely to be useful for industry newbies and amusing for biotech veterans, is written in a gee-whiz, Alice-in-Wonderland style (first chapter: "Down the Biotech Rabbit Hole"), and makes the complex science understandable for just about anybody.

Gunn wrote the 258-page book in seven weeks. Interviewing experts, she took an approach that differs from the methods of traditional science reporters. "They're trying to understand so they can explain," she told BioWorld Today. "I never did that. I said, 'You explain. Pretend it's a Fourth of July barbecue, and you have to explain it to your neighbor.' And they were all able to do it. They all wanted to do it."

Although troubled by the rise of diabetes and hepatitis C, Gunn also gets excited about GMOs, and snickered about assertions made during a panel talk at the Biotechnology Industry Organization annual meeting in Boston in May.

Officials at the meeting cited a poll of men and women that found a high acceptance of GMOs in U.S. foods, "but then, a little later on, they said 93 percent of all the food in the U.S. is bought by women," Gunn recalled. "If we asked [women], what they think about that rules change in the upcoming Super Bowl, don't you think they would say, 'Uh, fine with me'?"

Panelists remarked that some activists have tried to make GMOs a "women's issue," thereby hitching the GMO wagon to a larger, stronger lobbying group.

"But it is a women's issue," Gunn said. "We will go to any extent to make sure we have healthy food for our children, and we are doing the right thing for our family. Do you want us to just not ask anymore?"

She recommended the U.S. "GM away the corn for ethanol," and keep modified organisms out of corn as well as every other food, meanwhile labeling those edibles that do contain them. People in other parts of the world "say they would rather starve than eat our corn," she said.

"This is total kitchen research, but all people have this issue with choice, and when you're talking about women and the people they take care of, the people whose children have now gone off to college are even more vociferous," Gunn said. Parents with young children often are too busy and harried to worry much about it, she said, but "women, when they get past that point, go into the organic [foods]."

GMOs in agriculture is "something we've got to clean up, whether we're prepared to do it or not," she said - if not with a ban, then with better regulated research and clear labeling. "We need to show we're changing our ways."

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