An internationally recognized genetics researcher who visited the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station said he is confident that the European Union eventually will accept genetically modified foods. But in the meantime, he is focusing his work on third-world countries.
Dr. Paul Christou of the University of Lleida in Spain said he has been part of a team that works to introduce genes into corn, causing the plant to produce higher levels of multiple nutrients.
He said many Africans will not eat yellow corn that has higher levels of nutrients, preferring less nutritious white corn. But because they will eat processed corn that has been colored, he set out to genetically engineer a dark colored corn containing increased levels of important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, beta carotene and folate.
Rice also can be fortified through genetic engineering, Christou said.
Christou said the European Union has decided to ban fungicides on wheat in five years.
“I suspect that in several years, there won’t be many wheat farmers in Europe,” he said.
A genetically engineered corn has the potential to produce a substance that could be used to prevent the transmission of the AIDS virus, Christou said. But he said resistance against transgenic crops has prevented it from being studied fully.
Opponents of transgenic crops have yet to show proof of any ill effects from genetic engineering after millions of acres of transformed crops have been grown, said LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Dr. Chuck Rush. China and South American countries are introducing genetically engineered crops, he said.
Christou said increased acceptance of genetically engineered foods in the rest of the world could make Europe “an island.”
“This is going to happen sooner or later,” he said.
In the meantime, Christou said, groups such as Greenpeace are relying on emotion and unsound scientific arguments to oppose transgenics.
Ironically, Christou said, the European Union will allow transgenic cattle feed but not transgenic food for humans.