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Better Than Nature

Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland)
May 27, 2000

Gazeta Wyborcza: I don't believe that genetically modified food, designed in a laboratory, can be as tasty as traditionally cultivated food from the field.

Channapatna Prakash: But you can't distinguish one from the other. What differs in them are just a couple of genes.

GW: Then why should we improve nature?

CP: Genetic modifications can help us increase crop yields which will solve the problem of starvation in impoverished countries. The genetically modified food lasts longer than the traditionally grown. Among many other things, biotechnology enables us to produce tomatoes of the same size, which makes them easier to pack and lowers the cost of transportation. We can also design crops that are cheaper to produce and drought-resistant. But first of all, the genetically modified food is healthier.

GW: How can we know what effects a gene spliced in a plant will bring about?

CP: I can cite many examples to support what I'm talking about. The genetically modified corn produced in Spain is blight-resistant which means it is not invaded by fungi that are cancerous.

GW: Perhaps biotechnology could help us design trees that would be resistant to acid rain and polluted air here, in Silesia?

CP: I can't say for sure whether it's possible. But biotechnology can help protect forests in another way. The genetically modified crops give higher yields, so we don't need more and more land to produce sufficient food, which means we don't have to cut down forests for arable land.

GW: When you eat modified cauliflower, aren't you afraid that the side effects can be felt years after because researchers have not found the whole truth behind it?

CP: Nothing can be excluded. But so-called natural food is not even in a small degree so thoroughly tested as the modified crops. Do we know how much food from pesticide-sprayed fields we eat?

(Professor Channapatna Prakash, Tuskegee University (USA), born in India, specialist on transgenic or genetically modified food, director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research, was Gazeta Wyborcza's guest yesterday.)