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In 1998 Glenn Roberts, a Charleston-based historic restoration consultant and thirty-year veteran of restaurant and hotel concept design, took his career in an entirely new direction.  He founded a company,[…]

The Anson Mills farmer is “leery” of modified foods, but “it’s not going to go away.”

Question: Is genetic engineering a bad thing?

Glenn Roberts: Genetic engineering is not a bad thing rnbecause even if it were, it’s not going to go away.  I have geneticist rnfriends who have no barriers whatsoever moving from conventional rnbreeding... which means we’re using a microscope and we’re taking rngenetics out of one thing and putting it in another thing, that’s rnconventional breeding.  Whereas we’re bombarding something with rnradiation from something else and splicing genes and doing all kinds of rnnanotechnology, they have no trouble walking back and forth.  I don’t rnthink that genetic engineering is a bad thing if we know its impact.  rnAnd I think that just as much on the conventional side, I can raise rnissues about invasive species on a conventional basis that are more rndeleterious.  Bamboo. We all love bamboo, don’t we?  It is a threat in rnthe South because of just people planting it just for fun.  Well, it rnnever goes away.  Dig 100 feet down, it’s still there. 

We have rnweedy rice in the South that’s still there from before the Civil War rnthat took down rice fields where you can’t farm the rice fields.  So, I rnhave examples that are every bit as deleterious as what we might imaginern from genetic engineering that have been here continuously for our rnexistence here in America, certainly.  And so I could say "Do I want to rnfocus on genetic engineering?"  The answer is, I don’t at all.  I don’t rnhave time.  Am I kind of leery of it?  Yes, I am.  I was trained in the rnsciences as a college student.  So, I’m concerned about the long-term rnprocesses and how we evaluate this and whether the evaluation is rnthorough or whether we are trying to satisfy a profit motive in a rnbusiness stream.  I’m sensitive to that.  By the same token I think rnthere are things being done in research that may be rushing... may be rnperceived as rushing the results, to put it in lay terms.

Recorded on April 28, 2010
Interviewed by Priya George