New Horizons in Science

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Navigating a minefield: Seeking and telling the truth about genetically modified crops

Yann Forget
Sunday, October 19, 2014 -
11:00am to 12:15pm

Since crop breeders first picked up the tools of modern genetic engineering, scientists have been on the front lines of political and cultural strife over both the safety and environmental effects of modified crops. Research results are quickly turned into press releases by alarmists on one extreme and alliances of commercial interests and agricultural innovators on the other. 

Allison Snow is an ecologist who has worked for decades on the interaction between modified crops and weeds. Regulation and a limited range of applications have minimized environmental impacts to date, she says, but new technologies could radically accelerate the applications of biotechnology. She worries about pressures to suppress discussion of certain issues and findings within the scientific community. The principles of good science and good journalism clearly will be essential to working out these issues at every scale from local to global. What do science writers need to know to navigate this minefield? After giving a glimpse of the scientific frontier, Snow and colleague Carol Mallory-Smith, a weed scientist working on the front lines of the environmental debate, will be joined by science writer Emily Waltz for a dialogue about the challenges for both science and science writing.

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