Ronald of UC Davis, who is married to an organic farmer and whose lab has genetically engineered rice for resistance to diseases and flooding, wonders why more consumers don't worry about unintended consequences arising from conventionally bred crops. One type of celery, for example, was conventionally bred to resist insects. But it caused allergic reactions in farmworkers during the harvest.
"Everything we eat has been genetically improved by some method," she said. When crops are altered by genetic engineering, she added, the process is regulated. Conventional breeding methods are not.
"The most important aspect isn't how the seed is developed — but can it be used to increase food security, reduce insecticide use, foster good soil and improve the lives of farmers and communities?" she said. "I would like to see barcode labeling where you see, 'This conventionally bred cotton shirt was grown using insecticides. This genetically engineered cotton shirt was not.' But I don't see us getting that information."