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Debate at UCSB to Tackle Use of Genetically Modified Organisms in Food

On Wednesday, May 20 at 8 p.m. in Campbell Hall, UC Santa Barbara’s College of Letters & Science will present the 2015 Arthur N. Rupe Debate: The Use of Genetically Modified Foods, a free event that will open a conversation on the increasingly polemic topic of genetically engineering the foods that we eat.

This scientifically informed debate about the use of genetically modified organisms in food features Dr. Pamela Ronald, a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis and co-author of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food, and Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, a senior scientific researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Techonology and co-founder of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility. Paul Voosen, a senior reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, will moderate.

The Use of Genetically Modified Organisms in Food

The use of GMOs, living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, continues to be a subject of increasing controversy and misunderstanding. Scientists have long been working to alter the genes of crops to boost food production and make them resistant to pesticides, droughts and cold weather conditions.

Proponents say that farmers who grow these crops are able to use fewer environmentally damaging pesticides and that the increased yields of GMO crops are essential to feeding the world’s growing population. Proponents also point to studies that have shown that GMOs are safe to eat.

Opponents say the claims of these benefits are exaggerated, and that farmers growing GMO crops have actually increased their use of herbicides. They also argue that there is no scientific consensus on the long-term safety of GMOs. Questions of the safety, ethics and practicality of GMOs will be up for debate on May 20.

About the Speakers


UCSB Arts & Lectures photo

Dr. Pamela C. Ronald is director of the Laboratory for Crop Genetics Innovation & Scientific Literacy at UC Davis. She is a professor of Plant Pathology, a faculty member of the Genome Center and also serves as Director of Grass Genetics at the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, California. Dr. Ronald’s laboratory has engineered rice for resistance to disease and tolerance to flooding, which seriously threaten rice crops in Asia and Africa. In 1996, she established the Genetic Resources Recognition Fund, a mechanism to recognize intellectual property contributions from less developed countries. She and her colleagues were recipients of the USDA 2008 National Research Initiative Discovery Award for their work on rice-submergence tolerance. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair Award and the National Association of Science Writers Science in Society Journalism Award. Dr. Ronald has written opinion pieces for The Boston Globe, The Economist, The Boston Review and The New York Times and is a blogger for Scientific American’s “Food Matters” blog. She is co-author with her husband, Raoul Adamchak, an organic farmer, of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food, which is hailed by Bill Gates as “a fantastic piece of work” and “important for anyone that wants to learn about the science of seeds and challenges faced by farmers.”

Dr. Angelika Hilbeck is a senior scientific researcher in the Institute of Integrative Biology at the Swiss Federal University and co-founder of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility. Her research focuses on ecology and biodiversity, including sustainable farming practices and insect-plant interactions. Her recent work centers around biosafety issues of GMOs and the development of concepts for environmental risk assessment and post-release monitoring of GMOs. She has been involved in numerous research and capacity-building projects in Africa, South America and Vietnam. Her research and conceptual work have contributed to the implementation and shaping of the UNEP Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Through her international work, she has been increasingly involved in broader issues of technology development, working towards a democratically legitimated, sustainable global future and actively contributing to the debate on biosafety, international agriculture and the alleviation of hunger and poverty.

About the Moderator

Paul Voosen is a senior reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education. His stories have appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American and GreenWire, with reprints in The New York Times. He has been called “one of the top journalists working today” by Andrew Revkin of The New York Times. A graduate of the M.A. Science Journalism program at Columbia University, Voosen has done graduate level work in geoscience and nuclear physics. He is the recipient of the David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Journalism from the American Geophysical Union.

About the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation

The Arthur N. Rupe Foundation is dedicated to achieving positive social change by shining the light of truth on critical and controversial issues through the support of scholarly studies, education, research, public debates and the dissemination of the results via a variety of media to all segments of the public. The foundation supports numerous projects that advance civil and reasoned public debate at the high school, university and civic level. ANRF-sponsored debates are non-partisan and accessible to a general audience with the intention of educating and exposing audiences to all sides of a particular social issue. It is the foundation’s hope to increase the number of Americans actively involved in debate, as the foundation believes it forms the cornerstone of an informed electorate in a free society. Learn more at www.rupefoundation.org.

The 2015 Arthur N. Rupe Debate is presented by the College of Letters & Science at UC Santa Barbara and made possible by an endowment from the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation. The event is co-presented by the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center through their series, The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities, and UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Admission is free and located at Campbell Hall. For more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805.893.3535 or visit www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

UCSB Arts & Lectures thanks lynda.com for its major corporate support of the 2014-15 season.

— Daniella Alkobi is a publicist representing UCSB Arts & Lectures.


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