At Farmers Night, Penn State experts give props to genetically engineered crops

Posted: February 6, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Genetically engineered crops: Something to be feared or something to be encouraged?

Two Penn State professors presented the pro side of the genetic engineering debate at the Fogelsville Volunteer Fire Company Thursday night as part of Rep. Gary Day's (R-Lehigh/Berks) annual Agricultural Town Hall Meeting.

About 60 constituents, many of them local farmers, turned out for the meeting and sandwich buffet.

Before introducing the speakers, Day said the 187th district he represents, which includes Upper Macungie Township, was historically predominantly agriculture but has shifted in recent years as farming has given way to residential and commercial development.

He said the topic of Thursday's informational meeting, traditionally referred to in his office as "Farmers' Night," surfaced when he visited his alma mater to learn more about Penn State's work with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

GMOs are organism that have been altered to produce specific characteristics such as cold tolerance or pesticide resistance in plants by extracting genes responsible for certain traits from the DNA strands of one organism and inserting them into another.

"You rely on your university to give you the facts so you can make decisions," Day said in introducing Richard Roush, PhD, the new dean of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, and Troy Ott, a reproductive biologist in Penn State's Animal Science Department.

Roush said genetic engineering is not that much different from traditional plant and animal breeding where you select for a desired trait, it's just faster.

"Genetic engineering uses proteins found in the natural world to edit, copy and paste DNA," he said, adding that the evolving technique has the benefit over traditional breeding of being more specific and more rapid.

Restrictions on GMOs vary across the globe. Many European countries are restrictive with regard to growing GMOs within their borders but are more relaxed about importation.

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At Farmers Night, Penn State experts give props to genetically engineered crops

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