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New food research lab to open


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Cassandra Tomlin/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Ecological activist and researcher Brian Tokar speaks about 'Gene Traders: Biotechnology,
By Danielle Rideau
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
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The UA should wait before allowing researchers to change the genetic makeup of crops, a lecturer said, because more research needs to be done on the long-term health risks these foods may have.

Brian Tokar, the director of the Biotechnology Project at the Institute for Social Ecology, spoke about how genetically altered food lacks adequate research and is supported by big corporations that produce crop pesticides, in last night's speech "Gene Traders: Biotechnology, Globalization and the Future of our Food."

An audience of about 70 people heard Tokar explain how scientists use biotechnology to "(simulate) basic life process" of a plant's cells and inject the artificial strands of DNA into food.

Tokar's visit was scheduled in light of a new food engineering research facility, BIO5, which will be home to the UA Plant Sciences Department's research for agriculture biotechnology. The facility is scheduled to open in April 2006.

At the facility, scientists will perform research on Genetic modification of food, which has become increasingly popular and some say it is a way to "feed the hungry," Tokar said.

Along with producing more food for less fortunate countries, companies make alter seeds so they are more tolerant to pesticides and chemicals, Tokar said.

He argues, however, the scientists who are advocating the genetic engineering of plant seeds are lacking the research of what could happen to people if they continue to consume food that has been altered.

Tokar's second focus was how the practice of genetic alterations of seeds is mainly driven by corporate force in pesticide companies.

"Companies behind the biotechnology have roots in agriculture chemicals and chemical warfare," Tokar said.

While genetically altered food has become increasingly popular in the past 30 years, Tokar urged the audience to ask their community leaders to pass legislation banning the genetically altered food in farms and crop production.

"Communities have the right to make basic decisions that affect our lives," Tokar said, "not politicians or Wall Street."

Some students and community members attended the speech to further their basic education on the future of genetically altered food.

"I thought it was very informative," said Jeremiah Maillah, a psychology junior who came to spread word about his involvement with a new magazine called Abre Los Ojos, which is published to inform the community about local issues.

Annette Patterson, pre-architecture freshman, attended Tokar's speech for an extra-credit assignment but found it to confirm her decision in eating organic foods.

"I already eat organic food," Patterson said. "This taught me more about the dangers (genetically altered food)."



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