In this half-hour special, QUEST Northern California explores genetically engineered crops in the wake of Proposition 37, the 2012 ballot initiative that would have required foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled in California. Prop 37 lost, but some 6 million Californians voted in favor of labeling, signaling that many aren’t completely comfortable with genetically engineered food.

Are the benefits of genetically engineered foods worth the risks?

Next Meal: Engineering Food explores how genetically engineered crops are made, their pros and cons, and what the future holds for research and regulations such as labeling.

Ever wondered what genetically engineered crops and other foods are in the pipeline?

Click through the map below and find out what’s in your next meal… or in the forest on your next camping trip.

For a bigger version of this map, click on the link below.

View Genetically Engineered Foods in the Pipeline in a larger map


Conventional plant breeding vs. genetic engineering – 5 differences:


1. When did we start using each technique?

Plant breeding is some 10,000 years old – as old as agriculture itself.

“The ancestors of tomatoes were the size of my thumb and they tasted very bad,” said Eduardo Blumwald, plant biologist at the University of California at Davis. “And breeding gave us what we have right now.”

Tomato paste made from genetically engineered tomatoes in the mid-1990s.
In the mid-1990s, tomatoes genetically engineered in California were made into a tomato paste that sold well in England. But the tomatoes were short-lived. Photo: Alan McHughen.

The first genetically engineered food to be commercialized, the Flavr Savr tomato, was sold by Calgene, a Davis company, starting in 1994. The tomato was engineered to stay firm on the vine for longer, but it was short-lived.

Monsanto, the Missouri-based seed company, started selling genetically engineered soybeans and cotton in 1996. The soybeans tolerate the herbicide Roundup, so that farmers can spray it on weeds without hurting their crop in the process. The cotton keeps away pests like the bollworm.

2. How do these two techniques work?


“Classical plant breeding involves taking the female eggs from one plant and bringing them together with the male parts of another plant,” said Peggy Lemaux, plant biologist at the University of California at Berkeley. “And then all that genetic information gets mixed up. Half of the information in the progeny – or children – of that cross comes from the mother and half comes from the father. And it just all gets mixed up.”

Depending on the plant, breeders use different strategies to cross them. Corn breeders, for example, gather pollen from female plants and shake it onto male plants. Plants such as cucumbers usually contain both female and male flowers on each plant. Breeders remove the male part from one flower and attach it to a female flower.

"Gene gun" at the University of California-Berkeley
Plant biologist Peggy Lemaux, at the University of California-Berkeley, uses a “gene gun” to genetically engineer crops like corn.

In contrast with breeding, genetic engineering involves only one or a few genes.

“With genetic engineering, it’s just moving very small parts of the genetic information. You might take it out of one plant and move it into another plant,” said Lemaux.

In genetic engineering, genes can be transported into a plant by a type of soil bacterium. Or they can be injected into a plant using a tool called a gene gun.

3. What can you do with each one?


Classical plant breeding allows scientists to do things like breed disease resistance or a higher-protein content into crops like wheat, said Jorge Dubcovsky, leader of the wheat breeding program at the University of California at Davis.

But when they’re breeding, scientists have to cross plants that are closely related to each other.

“Classical breeding is done between closely related plants, so you might take a wild variety of rice, for example, and you could cross that with modern cultivated rice,” said Peggy Lemaux. “However, maybe there are traits that you want, that you can’t find in a wild variety of rice. Maybe you want to introduce some vitamin or mineral, and you can’t find a wild rice species that would give you that particular trait. So what you have to do is you have to go and find some other organism that does make, let’s say, vitamin A, and you can pull that information out from that plant and put it in.”

In that scenario, genetic engineering would be required. Engineering would also be required to tweak a gene in such a way that it produces more or less of a desired trait.

4. Is conventional plant breeding low-tech, while genetic engineering is high-tech?


Genetic engineering can be more expensive than conventional plant breeding, and is usually faster. But this doesn’t mean that breeding is as low-tech as you might think. In the past 15 years or so, plant breeders have been able to speed up the crossing process by using genetic markers.

“The markers allow me to see the genes that I have bred into a plant,” said Jorge Dubcovsky.

Many genes that scientists set out to breed into plants are difficult to see and expensive to find within the plant. A genetic marker is a piece of DNA that is easy to see and inexpensive to find within a plant. So scientists identify the markers that are on either side of the gene they’re trying to breed into a plant. This way, when they have crossed their plants to contain that gene, they can easily and inexpensively find out which plants contain their gene of interest by looking for the markers, rather than for the gene. Markers are like tiny flags on either side of the gene that make it visible to researchers.

5. Do scientists do either one or the other?


Usually, some researchers specialize in plant breeding and others in genetic engineering. But both types of scientists work closely to improve crops, said Eduardo Blumwald, who is genetically engineering rice to be drought-tolerant.

“We are placing new genes in those varieties which plant breeders have bred,” said Blumwald.


Next Meal: Engineering Food 17 December,2015Gabriela Quirós
  • California JM

    It appears that Quest is not as objective as I have thought. Tonight’s program on GMO was informative, yes. Good information was provided from the standpoint of those who produce GMO crops. The other viewpoint, which in my view is characterized by those who wish to have such crops and food products labeled, was poorly represented. This imbalance was quite stunning at the close of the program, with a comment accompanying a video of people with signs asking for GMO foods to be labeled. The comment referred to these people as “anti-GMO.” In my view, people who want to know what is in the food they are eating and feeding to their children are simply citizens who want to know. They are not anit-anything, unless that might be “anti-igorance.” I’m deeply disappointed with the producers of Quest. And so I now wonder if this program was funded by those who produce GMO products.

    • SidD

      I totally agree with the above comment! How one-sided. I have a degree in Health Science and am not anti-science, but I am willing to fight for a safe food supply, and GMOs are NOT safe. Why was there no mention of the current independent studies showing these GMOs and their pesticides to be toxic?, We are looking at organ damage, infertility, Parkinson’s, cancer… Why were these researchers not interviewed? Was it not to offend Monsanto? It is becoming rare in the US to find people who are “healthy.” What has changed? Maybe the fact that in the 90’s, our corrupt government started secretly allowing GMOs to enter our food supply – UNLABELED with NO long-term testing. We are even feeding this to our babies and children. The ONLY testing done for approval is conducted by the corporations that PROFIT off of GMOs (Monsanto, Dow…). How is that not a conflict of interest? Also, it would have been nice if it was explained how Michael Taylor, our current FDA food safety czar, was a Monsanto VP. Again, maybe a conflict of interest? This appointment was done by Obama. Prior to his election, he stated that GMOs should be labeled. It’s unreal. After watching Quest, I’m all the more looking forward to 5/25’s March Against Monstanto.

  • Mark Squire

    I am aware of a number of credible scientists who are both concerned about the health impacts to us from eating GMOs as well as the lack of independent testing of these food crops. Why were these scientists so conspicuously absent form this Quest segment?

    • Casey Miller

      Who? “credible” please share

  • Joel Hill

    Some details which were absent from your program are that Monsanto spent $7,100,500 on misleading TV ads against Prop 37 (one ad had to be pulled; after Stanford University objected to the spokesman claiming he worked for Stanford); Du Pont; BASF; Bayer; Dow; and Syngenta each spent over $2,000,000; while Pepsi; Coca Cola, Nestle; and ConAgra each spent over $1,000,000. The “Right To Know” side spent a tiny fraction of that amount; and actually won in Santa Cruz and one other county. Monsanto’s safety studies (which found no problems) only covered a 90 day period; while the only long term study (which ran for 2 years); found liver cancer, kidney damage, and skin cancer which only showed up AFTER 90 days. It is ironic that Monsanto terminated their safety studies at 90 days. The European Union, Japan, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries now require mandatory GMO labeling. About 70% of processed foods sold in the U.S. now contain GMO ingredients. There are about 90 ingredients in food which can be GMO; including baking powder, canola oil, condensed milk, sugar, corn syrup, fructose, Equal, food starch, MSG, soy milk, tempeh, tamari, tofu, vegetable oil, and too many more to list here.

    • kim hunter

      Then there is the small matter of the missing 1 million Prop 37 ballots. When suspicious arose, the cost of a recount was increased beyond budgets, making recounts unaffordable to small districts. Today, I see Kelloggs, Nestle and 32 other GMO peddlers “illegally laundered millions in donations” to hide their participation in keeping GMO a secret. “Food” policies dictated by the inventors of Agent Orange, nothing surprises me.
      Thank you for caring and sharing this important information.

    • Casey Miller

      And Joe Mercola spent Millions funding this prop.37 too. but I guess you don’t care about quacks and frauds funding your pet bullshit? Joe Mercola has been fined by the FDA 4 times for making false claims on his product labels… But if you trust him, by all means, let’s throw Science under the bus and return to the dark ages!

      • DDL

        You are such an idiot. He spent 1 million, not millions and that paled in comparison to the opposition as you know…oh wait you do not really read things, just make snap judgements. You must have gotten your check from Monsanto this month already. Oh yeah & the FDA has your best interest at heart with Michael Taylor at the helm…ex-Monsanto VP in case you do not know! Amazing! I look forward to seeing you writhing in your sick bed from GMO related issues.

  • ValoraTree

    How could Quest do a program on GMO seeds and food production without including the research which has been done on the bad effects of the Roundup chemical Glyphosate if taken into the body? But I am even more concerned with how non-gmo seeds are going to grow (in the future) in soil with concentrations of Roundup in it. The cemical inhibits or kills plants, limits root spread if it does not kill. If sprayed above, some will get into the soil each time. I think there is an echo disaster in the making if millions of acres of agg. land can only grow GMO seeds.

    • Philip Bowles

      I’m just guessing, but I suppose Quest did not choose to include “research” that was not subject to peer review, or which was the product of over active imaginations. The LD-50 of roundup is the same as that of table salt. It has absolutely no persistence in soil. The chemical has been around for nearly 30 years, and has been studied extensively. You could look it up.

      • ValoraTree

        I don’t own any roundup, but I’m going to buy some and do my own experiments. I do know that salt and salt water has a bad effect on plants. When a high tide covers coastal agg. land with sea water, the fields are ruined, or so it has been reported.

        • Philip Bowles

          Please don’t try eating roundup, or waste money buying a chemical you probably don’t need at home. LD-50 is a standard measure of mamallian toxicity, used as one way of quantifying the danger of ingesting chemicals. Soil activity is another matter altogether. Table salt in sufficient quantity is an effective herbicide ( although it is pretty indiscrimanent).
          Roundup is applied at a rate of a few ounces per acre, far lower than the concentration of table salt which would have an effect on plants. It is not applied to soil, but to growing plants, where it interferes with an enzyme pathway which has no analog in mammalian biology. Obviously, some roundup does get onto the soil, but it has no biological activity whatsoever there, and degrades within hours. This has been studied extensively. Using roundup to replace more persistent or dangerous chemicals is a good thing, not a bad thing. Using no herbicides at all would be nice, but many of the weeds that would choke out the crop are harmful to animals, and waste resources. If we are going to divert water and cut down trees to make farm fields, we have a responsibility not to waste those resources growing weeds.

          • ValoraTree

            If glyphosate and other roundup additives are biodegradable, if would be advantageous for Monsanto to note this on the container. I am not illogical in thinking what kills above ground will do the same to sprouts and roots below. My experiment is just to see how seeds come up in soil mixed with it.

          • Philip Bowles

            Sure, give it a shot. Just remember that in order to make your experiment realistic, you need to use a very tiny amount of roundup relative to the volume of soil. Try a second flowerpot or whatever with a generous dollop of roundup, just to see side by side. Roundup does kill roots, which is why folks like it for controlling things like ivy and poison oak. However, it reaches the roots through the vascular system of the plant, not through soil contact.
            Interestingly, the chemistry and modes of action (there is a great variety) of residual herbicides (the ones that stay active in soil, and prevent weeds from germinating) are usually quite different from the “contact” herbicides that are sprayed on plants. Some herbicides work both ways, but that is unusual. Residual herbicides are active only in a small part of the soil profile, the top half inch or less.
            I agree that Monsanto has been pretty brain dead in telling its story. Of course, there are people out there who would hate Monsanto if they developed a cure for HIV, brought peace to the middle east, and ended global warming.

          • ValoraTree

            I’ll leave a message here when some seeds come up.

          • ValoraTree

            It is a few weeks since the Quest show was on, and a week since I planted my test seeds. This is a preliminary report. First, I got soil from a nearby hillside & used fresh “American Seed Co.” seeds: radish, corn, and bean. I made a roundup-free pot, and today all the seeds planted in it have come up. The radish surprised me by appearing two days later! I expected four at the least. The roundup container (Roundup for grass and weeds) had 1 teaspoon roundup mixed into a third cup water and then into a cup of dry soil. A spoonful of water was given twice a day. In this pot, none of the radish seeds sprouted (I searched for them today), the bean has yet to show itself, and the corn did sprout and come up, but slower than in my roundup-free pot. In a third container, I added even more roundup to the soil, and in this, radish did not germinate either, corn germinated but did not show itself above the soil, and bean didn’t germinate—looking at these seeds today. The seed pkg. says it happens in 8 days, but in my test pot, the bean peeked above soil on Friday and has leaves today. I took a pic. of this pot, and also of the corn kernels which had retarded germination. I have started another few pots with only 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon roundup in the soil, and I may be able to report more comprehensively on this experiment somewhere on the web in the future. For now, I feel confident I have proved, most of all wth the radish seeds, that roundup is not inactive in soil. The issue is accumulations of it, encouraged by GMO seeds, and what the future may hold because of it.

          • Philip Bowles

            Sorry not to have checked in sooner. I suspect what happened is that some of the Roundup solution came in direct contact with the seed. If it made it through the seed coat, it may have killed the seed. This is not how Roundup is used or applied. It is sprayed on the soil surface, either before or after planting, and never comes in contact with seed.
            Considering that Roundup has been applied for decades on hundreds of millions of acres of farmland, do you think that those of us who make our livings from healthy crops would not have noticed it it had any detrimental effect on germination or plant growth?
            I applaud your independent spirit of inquiry. Most of the Kool-aid drinkers (some represented here) are content with fairy tales about giant international conspiracies, the Koch brothers, suppressed “research”, and so forth. Arguing with religious conviction is a waste of time.
            Should you like to get in touch with me, and perhaps see where and how some of these technologies are used, the producers of Quest can put you in touch.

          • ValoraTree

            You mentioned earlier that Roundup degrades in the earth. The container says not to plant before 1-3 days. I have noticed, after waiting 5 days to sow, radish seeds did not sprout in soil with a good lot of Roundup mixed in. So waiting a short time is questionable. Lesser amounts, 1/8 t. per cup of soil and more than that produce various results from no problem to evidence of problem. Yes, I have an “inquiring mind”, and haven’t yet come to a satisfactory conclusion on this.

          • ValoraTree

   now has a report with photos of my experiment sprouting seeds in soil containing Roundup.

          • DDL

            Here is the thing ValoraTree, a plant that has been GMO’d with round up is a very different situation from one that is just sprayed with it. Go here for more info:

          • ValoraTree

            Thanks for telling me about bibliotecapleyades. I’ll go back there later. One thing I’ve been contemplating lately is the how the essential unity of life seems to be showing certain plant reactions in animals—-i.e., that retardation of growth shows up in both if they contact roundup-style chemicals. Taken in via the roots from soil, or from leaves and stems above, plants INCLUDING potatoes are causing glyphosate to turn up in urine tests. Perhaps future generations will be dwarfs!

          • Philip Bowles

            That is a neatly done report, but I’m afraid it does not substantiate your conclusions. On a purely statistical level, does it not surprise you that after we have had experience with Roundup being applied to soil surfaces (it is not incorporated into the soil, although doubtless in cultivation and planting, some may become mixed into the deeper layers as well) for decades, on many millions of acres, by trained people whose economic livelihoods depend on healthy crops…NOBODY ELSE noticed this? On that level alone, it does not stand to reason. The two completely discredited European studies claiming to show deleterious effects have been laughed off the stage, and that is not because every soil scientist, farmer, and plant pathologist is an idiot, or paid-off by Monsanto.
            On a more direct level, your experiment has introduced too many variables, and failed to account for others. For instance, you ought to have started with identical sterile soils, such as you might find at a garden center. This eliminates the possibility of pathogens, and different soil types, both of which greatly affect germination and seedling growth, varying between what you dug out of the hillside. Second, planting depth, moisture levels, and soil temperature are critical determinants of germination and early plant growth. I do not see where you made absolutely certain that both test plots had identical conditions. Third, you appear to have bought several different formulations of Roundup, which may or may not have other herbicides mixed in with them. I’m sorry I do not know the “garden center” concoctions you cite, and how they are formulated. I can get you a small quantity of commercial grade glyphosate if you wish. Finally, you must remember that in a commercial setting, glyphosate is applied at a rate of about 56 grams per acre. Since your plots are maybe one square foot, you would need to apply 56g./43,560ft, or approximately 1.3 miligrams of glyphosate on your plots. Even using a diluted commercial formulation, this would require access to an accurate chemical scale, such as a normal high school or chem lab might possess.
            As to the safety of consuming Roundup, it has a mammalian toxicity equivalent to table salt. In other words, your daily toothpaste is vastly more toxic. The Roundup-ready plants simply produce more of the naturally occurring enzyme that Roundup suppresses, so that Roundup does not kill them. There is absolutely no evidence that this presents any health hazard whatever.

          • ValoraTree

            Philip, I clearly stated that I used Roundup for grass and weeds. I’m glad you viewed my report. If you don’t think it’s genuine, copy my methods and do for yourself. Cost: under $10, and time, less than two weeks. My experiment is to show what happens if roots contact Roundup in soil.

          • Casey Miller

            Glysophate is made by hundreds of companies , and no patent exists on it.. But maybe Alex Jones is right and the government is run by Lizard Aliens!

      • Casey Miller

        Those “studies” were bullshit and funded by homeopathic quacks!
        “Serious defects in the design and methodology of a paper by Séralini et al. mean it does not meet acceptable scientific standards and there is no need to re-examine previous safety evaluations of genetically modified maize NK603. These are the conclusions of separate and independent assessments carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and six EU Member States following publication of the paper in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology on 19 September 2012.”

        • Philip Bowles

          Unfortunately, we are dealing with a matter of faith, not materiality. Just as we ought to respect that some religions have dietary rules different from our own, we have to respect the fears of the anti-GMO folks, or we will not get anywhere with them. After all, isn’t is a waste of everybody’s time to tell an observant Jew that pork is actually nutritious?
          I just with the anti-s would stop trying to make the rest of us live by their rules.

    • Gary Lewis

      Hi, Valora, I totally agree and earnestly hope that those moneyed and power political interests who control so much of our beautiful planet’s destiny listen to your prescient and heartfelt plea for science-based common sense and desist from reckless practices from which there is no retreat and for which we and future generations must inevitably pay

  • mjd

    Why didn’t you interview public plant breeders working in organic systems, and get their perspective on classical breeding for nutrition, drought, disease resistance, etc…? Starting and stopping with UC Davis is like starting and stopping a conversation on the economy with the Koch Bros/Fox News.

    This program makes it look like genetic engineering=innovation and without it there are no other options. In fact classical breeding is still innovating, and doing it well, with less cost, and less risk.For example, Pioneer(DuPont) has drought resistant corn that is as solid as Monsanto’s GE drought corn (and better in non-drought years), but was done with classical breeding.

    Really subpar work for KQED.

    • Casey Miller

      Did you pass high school biology?

  • Ellen Doudna

    Your program made genetic engineering sound like a different form of traditional breeding, which is far from the truth. Hybrids are crosses of the same or similar species of plants, while genetic engineering creates genetic mixtures which would never occur in nature. I don’t see how Peggy Lemaux can say with any confidence that genetically modified foods are safe for consumption–the truth is these foods are untested for long term exposure. We don’t actually know how the body will react to something which it has not evolved to encounter–it’s not the same as eating “fish with your tomato”–I found her comments condescending, and felt angry that her perspective went unchallenged.

    The program characterized regulation as cumbersome and costly, when farmers and consumers in Asia and elsewhere are wise to be cautious–once these genetically modified plants are out it will be impossible to take them back. GM corn and canola have crossed with non-gmos, and farmers have been held accountable for growing plants whose seeds belong to a large agribusiness. The farmer who said “I am free to purchase the seeds or not,” obscures the way in which the patents on the seeds are enforced, and the fact that many farmers especially in the third world rely on seed saving, in part to preserve heritage varieties and because they can’t afford costly seeds. I wondered how the sorghum project at UC Berkeley would affect poor farmers in the target countries, and if they can’t afford the seeds, who would actually grow the crop they are developing.

    The topic of genetically engineered food is a very important one, and deserves more and balanced coverage. Your program was biased and contained misleading and one-sided information. If you did a companion show explaining the concerns, you might interview Ignacio Chapela and other academic scientists who understand the technology and can elucidate the complexities and concerns of genetically modified foods.

    • Casey Miller

      Do explain breeding to us. tell me why chemical and radiation mutagenesis is okay for organic.

  • shigmas

    This show brought to you by Monsanto.

    KQED: Were you targeting this segment at the 49% of Californians that voted against Prop 37? I suspect that a large portion of your membership is in that 49%, and I think they would want their voice heard and not as a bunch of ignorant Neo-Luddites.

    I was flabbergasted that you showed the false ads that Monsanto ran in the weeks before the polls. You showed all those newspapers against 37, when, in fact, those newspapers were actually for prop 37, and only ran arguments for and against.

    I know this wasn’t about truth in advertising/politics, but you ran only the lies.

    It was infuriating to see you switch between genetically modified, and then using genetically engineered, a much more vague term, as the support for the entire argument. That was very deceptive.

    • Casey Miller

      Only 12% of biotech is for agriculture! Pull your head out of your ass and read a biology book?

  • swmer

    KQED, you dropped the ball on this one. Do your research. Did Monsanto give KQED a bid fat donation to produce this?

  • Ruth R.

    At one point the story line says that the University of California genetic engineering scientist is not receiving money from Monsanto, but instead from the Bill & Linda Gates Foundation. So what is the difference here, when this foundation, or Mr. and Mrs. Gates, owns a significant amount of Monsanto stock?

    • Sylvia Walker

      Ag departments at many universities, such as UC Davis, are heavily funded by biotech companies. So indirectly these UC scientists involved with spreading the word about GMOs are funded by companies such as Monsanto.

  • DDL

    I am shocked at the low level of information in this program. This is an outrageously biased program that miss out on so much of the issue with GMO’s that I am speechless. How someone who claims to be scientific can not understand that creating roundup ready plants (so it is easier to control weeds) has a definite effect on whatever/whoever eats that plant, is beyond me. Another thing is there are several types of GMOs spoken about without defining the differences. Sloppy excuse for journalism (?) as I have ever seen. I will never watch Quest again now seeing how they have skewed the truth with that objective sounding voice of the announcer. I have loved this show before but now see exactly what they can do now. The science showing the issues has already been done in Europe but has been kept from people in the USA. Really,”Eating fish with your tomatoes”…who is paying her salary, anyway. WOW!!

    • Philip Bowles

      Please elaborate on the statement that GMO plants “( have) a definite effect on whatever/whoever eats that plant”. What are these effects? Where has research demonstrating this been published? Has it survived peer review?

      • DDL

        The reason the EU decided to label GMO’s was because the head geneticist, Dr. Arpad Pusztai (pronounced Poos-tie) (who did the original experiments to establish a protocol for test GMO’s in the UK) found major issues in his 10 day study using potatoes that were gmo’d with a pesticide. Among other things, the stomach linings of the rats who were fed the GMO potatoes were 2 times as big as they should have been. When He announced his findings he was fired and issued a gag order (that should be a clue right there). When his gag order was lifted (about 7 months after his discovery) the European press interviewed him & published 58 column feet the first week, 750 articles the first month & the Europeans demanded labeling and got it almost immediately. You need this history because to understand the overall picture. Here is a link to his story: His information was finally published in the renowned scientific journal, The Lancet. However he was never allowed access to all the research information he had discovered. He has been peer reviewed as much as is possible under the circumstances. And this was never allowed to see the light of day in the USA.

        I am not sure how much space I have but there is so much more that has been shown in other experiments. Unfortunately adrian dubock above does not know the history of this & is taking everything at face value from the program and thinks because he/she has some scientific background they understand the particulars of this situation and that terrible program. If I did not know better, it would seem very logical the way Quest presented it, but they left hugh holes regarding the regulatory process (basically nonexistent) and the science. Monsanto has stated that they are beginning to wage a campaign to “educate” the American public on GMOs and I think this is just the first installment.

        Yes, and being paid by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is tantamount to the same thing as Ruth R points out. They both have a very vested interested in this technology that has been shown in India to have devastating consequences already. An Indian cotton farmer kills himself every 30 minutes……. by drinking the pesticide because his crop yield is half what his old one was and he paid 4 times as much for the patented seeds that were never developed for the draught conditions that he has. So this technology is not helping the very situations it professes to be created to address. There is so much more but I will stop now. Hope this begins to answer your questions Philip. Thank you for taking such an interest and keep it up.

        • DDL

          NO, that is not the study. Obviously you may not be gullible but you seem not to be very well informed. You go ahead & eat those gmos the rest of us just want them labeled so you will know what to eat and we will know what not to. You obviously did not even bother to go to the link I provided or you would notice the date discrepancy. You also need to know about the studies you are reading about to see their bias just like this program. There are several other studies through the years that have shown major problems with GMOs but I will leave that to you to find out about if you are really interested in the truth.

          It would be nice if you could be a bit more respectful in your language also. Your anger and disrespect only serves to underline your ignorance.

  • LA in California

    I was not impressed with this show at all. Little research seem to be done on the research coming out of Europe on GMOs. I don’t recommend anyone wasting a 1/2 hour of their time on this one.

    I trust KQED to provide worthy, accurate and unbiased information and this show did not live up to that standard.

    When I changed my diet to only eat organic foods, I dropped 80 pounds and all my body aches went away. The GMO food we are producing is poison to us all, that includes the animals (check your pet food), the land and water. The line of attack is the weeds but the land and plants is the first part of our direct food chain.

    I guess that comment is not the point of my rant, KQED; please hear this; you really let me down on this show.

  • adrian dubock

    Thanks for your programme, which I just got a chance to

    It must be disappointing for you to read the comments of
    viewers who just can’t accept the science and the assertions of all the
    national academies of science and even the EU that there is nothing more or
    less dangerous – to man or the environment – about crops created with or
    without genetic engineering technology.

    The argument which should come out is that ‘conventional
    plant breeding’ often involves induced mutagenesis of genomes. Chemical and irradiation induced genetic
    mutation is commonly use in plant breeding, and has been for decades. There are
    more than 16,000 mutant varieties of rice for example ( Mutagenesis is a
    useful technique for inducing variation in plants from which to select useful
    characteristics. Mutagenesis can have
    very significant impacts on hundreds and thousands of genes, or even delete
    whole chromosomes. Yet if useful
    characteristics are selected the progeny from these mutagenized crops can be taken forward without any detailed
    knowledge of the changes which have occurred, or the implications of those, and
    be sold and consumed. This is as it
    should be. Not only for those crops!

    The critics of genetic engineering do – as your last
    interviewee said – confuse their suspicion of big agribusiness companies with a
    seed breeding tool. Paradoxically, it is
    this suspicion which has caused the overregulation, which has caused the costs
    which mean that only big agribusinesses can afford it. And at the same time
    delayed public sector projects with huge potential for good.

    The marketing tool which is “organic agriculture” made a big
    mistake. They should have embraced
    genetic engineering – what could be more organic than plants making their own
    defences against insects for example, rather than using very old ineffective
    products. Patrick Moore, founder of
    Greenpeace, talks about this is Chapter 16 of “Confessions of a Greenpeace
    Dropout, the making of a sensible environmentalist.”

    As an addendum: organic agriculture poisons, and sometimes
    kills people (in Europe and USA) , is not sustainable because it takes more
    from the soil than it puts back, and cannot feed the current population of the
    globe. None of the foregoing applies to
    conventional agriculture including genetically engineered crops. Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug thinks
    3 billion could be supported by organic agriculture: “which 4 billion volunteer
    to die?”

    People who wish to farm organically and those which prefer
    to eat that food should be allowed to do so.
    Even if it is inefficient. But to
    halt choice for others, who want to farm ‘conventionally’, is immoral.

    Adrian Dubock ( )

    • Rob Bright

      Boy, have you ever been brainwashed.

      • Ripshed

        You’re calling one of the people who is trying to help cure malnutrition in the third world “brainwashed”?

        • anonymous

          That is obviously not the only intention corporations have in mind for genetically modified foods. Did you not watch the rest of the video? Enhancing the nutritional value of food in third-world countries was only one topic covered out of many.

    • Harold Steves

      As a long time practising conventional geneticist I have never used irradiation or chemicals to induce mutations and I know of no-one who has. Such practices are totally unnecessary. However, if they were used to induce mutations within a variety, it is quite different from splicing DNA from one species into another. It is quite different from making plants tolerant to poisons that may be left as residue on the food we consume after the plant has been sprayed. It is quite different from splicing in DNA for poisons from other species that become an actual part of the plant to kill insects. Bees are insects and we deppend on them for pollination. We may even be affected by the poisons.

  • gbossa_25

    Wow! The spokes people for GM is safe and wonderful are altruistic “scientists” and the opposition are the folks in sun dresses and funny hats from the farmer’s market. A very nice form of “balance” if the by the word “balance” you mean corporate propaganda. Not ONE citation of research with even questionable health outcomes in animals? No discussion of the research into Roundup’s actual toxicity. Nothing but the corporate party line. With this kind of “public interest” programing, it is easy to see why prop 37 was defeated in California. Oh, and by the way, yes the corporate Capitalist system WILL find ways to PROFIT from climate change while it insures we do NOTHING to stop total alteration of earths climate systems. As we over fish the salmon stocks here in Alaska of course the next battle will be, not to live within the earth’s systems and ability to feed us, but rather how to genetically modify salmon to mature more quickly, of survive at higher rates as we raise them in pens. We remain mired in a worship of our ability to alter every aspect of life on our planet, yet lack the wisdom to see where it is leading us.

  • Jenny

    In your description of this piece, you state
    “Are the benefits of genetically engineered foods worth the risks?”
    I heard a lot of talk about the benefit, but I didn’t hear anything about the risks. Where are the scientists on the other side of the argument? This special doesn’t even try to be serious. I am amazed that KQED would put something like this on the air.

  • Jenny

    Moms Across America Appeal to Monsanto by Publishing an Open Letter and Coordinating Nationwide Events on July 4, 2013

  • Cindi

    Unless this half hour program addresses the allergen and health problems associated with GMO’s, unless it addresses the reduction of seed diversity by the chemical companies goals, unless it addresses how our economic bottom line will be adversely affected due to other countries of the world not wanting our exports that are GMO tainted, unless it addresses how Monsanto has been systematically sueing the family owned farms for seeds that have blown into their fields claiming patent infringement, Unless all these topics are addressed which I can’t imagine you are able to do in a half hour program, then I believe you are doing us, the consumer and environmentalist a disservice! And shame on you for airing this program which DOES NOT give enough information to be helpful so close to an election that is so pivotal in Washington! This is not a balanced piece of journalism, you have sold out!

    • Casey Miller

      Go ahead and show us the peer-reviewed science that it causes harm, and try and avoid quack sites …

      • Concerned Citizen

        And why does she have to show you or anyone in a brief comment box peer reviewed research. It exists. Why don’t you watch the documentary: “Scientists Under Attack: When Corporate Interests control Research.” The GMO industry controls the context and outcome of the GMO studies used to establish so called safety.

  • Rodney Evans

    This is definitely a one-sided pro-GMO video with one minute of a counter argument from the dairy farmer. PBS has lost its focus

  • trisha

    Where is the representation of the other side of the question? Why support the public broadcasting system if it does not represent all the people? I will rethink my subscription.

  • kim hunter

    This GMO commercial was brought to you by GMO peddlers Bechtel Foundation. Watch with a grain of salt then research yourself. With so much independent research proving the dangers of GMO, despite industries attempts to silence the facts, GMO is banned in 30 countries. Last line of this commercial: “animosity” is the least of the reasons why GMO is being rejected. Research yourself, do your own experiments. With a 300% increase in “food” related hospital admissions of children and up to a 300% increase in some intestinal disease in Canada since the introduction of “novel foods”, the statistics are stacking up. Latest study suggests it takes approx. 1 week for the intestinal lining to heal once GMO is removed. Try removing the GMO from your diet and reintroduce the organic version of the offending “food”. I bet dimes to dollars you will heal. Stay healthy.

  • SusanStop

    For shame PBS this video is so full of lies and deceit (usual Monsanto stuff). I shall never again contribute to PBS!


  • Sylvia Walker

    This is not a balanced report and is definitely slated in favor of companies like Monsanto. I am disappointed with Quest and PBS. And, yes, where are the scientists presenting the other point of view? To name just a few of these, where are Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman who tells us that GE crops do not increase yield; Dr. Charles Benbrook of the Washington State University, who tells us that pesticide use has increased since the advent of GE crops and not the converse, as claimed by the industry; Dr. Don Huber who tells us that these herbicides are destroying the beneficial and necessary microbes in the soil, increasing plant diseases and is not sustainable; Dr. Judy Carman and Dr. Art Dunham (veterinarian) who tell us of the harm to farm animals that are fed GMO grains; and Dr. Arpad Pusztai, who was involved in the pioneering research on the Bt potato, who tells us of the harm he reported to rats when fed Bt potato and that genetic insertion causes mutations and that you can’t say where it [the genetic bit] landed.

    • Casey Miller

      You have no idea that Bt is used on organic farms do you? Take a science class…

      • Diana_Reeves

        It seems that it is you that should take a class. Bt toxins used by organic farmers are used only as needed and are applied topically. Many organic farmers never use Bt toxins at all. When applied topically as needed, Bt toxins wash off and break down in sunlight. This bears absolutely no relationship to the Bt toxins expressed by every cell of a plant – toxins that have been engineered to be hundreds of times more powerful than those used in organic farming and don’t wash off. Another troll spouting biotech propaganda folks. Nice try but we’re not buying it.

  • Rob Bright

    This is the most desicable, disgusting, misinformed, deceitful, one-sided piece of propaganda I`ve seen in a long time. Corporate shills like yourself need to be held accountable.

  • Rob Bright

    Here is the other side to this blatant piece of corporate propaganda:

  • Abe

    PBS Public Brainwashing System!

  • Concerned Citizen

    How unethical for KCTS in Seattle and KYVE in Yakima to broadcast this
    irresponsible 30 minute program 4 times within a week of the I-522
    initiative election on November 5 in Washington State. Truly the GMO
    industry researchers are arrogant and grossly uninformed on the precautionary
    principle. Sadly a very unbalanced report on GMOs; reputable scientists,
    not financed by the GMO industry, are threatened with lawsuits and have their
    careers and reputations systematically destroyed by GMO corporate forces when
    their research shows the harm of GMO technology. I hope PBS one day broadcasts “Scientists Under Attack: When Corporate Interests
    Control Research.” However with the corporate control of PBS, I doubt it.

  • Charles Mish

    I am incredibly disappointed to see that PBS has joined the mainstream press in their
    pro-industry bias and in their refusal to face the hard questions on the issue
    of GMO safety.

    Instead, what we get with Next Meal is corporate scientists regurgitating industry talking points while anti-GMO viewpoints are trivialized.

    I wouldn’t have minded PBS airing this documentary before the election had it been followed by Genetic Roulette or The World according to Monsanto. Then voters would have gotten a good look at BOTH sides of the issue, not just one.

    For instance, in those documentaries voters would have learned:

    · The FDA has required ZERO long-term, peer-review, independent scientific studies on the effects of GMOs on laboratory animals.

    · there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMO foods.

    · the few peer-reviewed, long-term, independent studies around the world have ALL shown harmful effects on laboratory animals.

    · since GMOs were introduced in 1996, incidences of allergies and intestinal problems have spiked 19%.

    · hospital emergency-room admissions for food-related allergy attacks has spiked

    Remember, I-522 lost by a narrow margin– 49 to 51 per cent. Had 19,500 more people voted yes, the initiative would have passed. With labeling in place, we could have begun the epidemiological studies tracing the impacts of GMOs on human health.

    PBS’s stated mission is to inform voters, not sway elections. Airing this infomercial to a potential audience of 2.4 million TWICE before the election did NOT help the public make
    an informed choice. It is a bloody stain on the reputation of KCTS.

  • anonymous

    To play the devil’s advocate, the vast majority of people do not even understand what happens to genetically modified crops or how they are formed, and will be blindly afraid of any fruit or vegetable that has a “genetically modified” label. This is the result of ignorance: fear. Before we require companies to label their gm produce, maybe we should educate the public on what this actually signifies. However, I for one, do believe that everyone has a right to believe they know what they are buying and eating, whether or not they truly understand the process it undergoes.

  • Pingback: GM foods: What’s all the fuss about? | Anuja Sawant()

  • Ida Ng

    I just saw the Next Meal program on KQED. I am incredibly shocked and disappointed in KQED for producing this program. This program is one-sided and irresponsible. It sounds like it’s straight from Monsanto’s PR department. The whole time I was watching the program, I was wondering if KQED received donations from Monsanto. Because of this program, I will not renew my membership with KQED.

    • yma

      It is out Montsantos PR department. They sponsored it. Public radio is officially propaganda.

  • yma

    I am FURIOUS that KQED sponsored this Pro-Montsanto story, sponsored by Montsanto. I will NEVER give money to KQED again and am spreading the word to all the listeners I know on Facebook, Twitter, etc. How disgusting to spread these lies for corporate sponsorship.

  • Guest

    < Hi dear's do you earn money at home on computer so try it……= HERE’S MORE DETAIL



Gabriela Quirós

Gabriela Quirós is a video producer for KQED Science and the coordinating producer for Deep Look. She started her journalism career 25 years ago as a newspaper reporter in Costa Rica, where she grew up. She won two national reporting awards there for series on C-sections and organic agriculture, and developed a life-long interest in health reporting. She moved to the Bay Area in 1996 to study documentary filmmaking at the University of California-Berkeley, where she received master’s degrees in journalism and Latin American studies. She joined KQED as a TV producer when its science series QUEST started in 2006 and has covered everything from Alzheimer’s to bee die-offs to dark energy. She has won five regional Emmys and has shared awards from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Independent from her work in KQED's science unit, she produced and directed the hour-long documentary Beautiful Sin, about the surprising story of how Costa Rica became the only country in the world to outlaw in vitro fertilization. The film aired nationally on public television stations in 2015.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor