2015 William R. and Linda K. Cotter Debate

The 2015 Cotter Debate focused on broad-ranging issues associated with the development of genetically-modified (GM) foods. New technologies may offer the promise of better foods, including nutrient-enriched rice and potatoes that can be fried without producing the carcinogen acrylamide. Many feel that GM crops are needed to feed the world’s ever-growing population. At the same time, concerns about the adoption of these technologies without public vetting and comprehensive risk assessment are widespread. Unease about the heavy use of Monsanto’s Roundup-ready crops in the U.S. increased this spring when the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the active ingredient in the Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen. Just this summer, Congress debated a right-to-know GMO labelling bill, Scotland banned GM crops, and Pope Francis issued an encyclical urging caution on the use of GMOs.

In this discussion, four panelists debated the question, Should we genetically modify foods?

SMooseStephen Moose
is a Professor of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. He conducts research on the genetics of nitrogen utilization in maize, sorghum, sugar cane and other crop species, and teaches a course entitled Biotechnology in Agriculture. He recently participated in a panel discussion on GMOs, sponsored by Highland Community College in Freeport, IL.


JChambersJudith Chambers, Ph.D. is the director for the Program for Biosafety Systems International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Washington, D.C., a USAID-funded collaboration that focuses on the responsible development and use of agricultural biotechnology in countries in Africa and Asia. Chambers holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She conducted postdoctoral research on the molecular characterization of Bt genes for biotechnology applications. She has served as a senior advisor in Biotechnology and Government Relations at USAID, and worked in the private sector.

JLathamJonathan Latham is the co-founder and executive director of the Bioscience Resource Project, based in Ithaca, NY and dedicated to conducting independent scientific analysis of food and agriculture, and their impacts on health and the environment. As part of this work, Latham edits the Independent Science News website. He holds a Master’s degree in crop genetics and a PhD in virology. He was a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

JKoberinskiJodi Koberinski is the 2015 Oak Human Rights Fellow at Colby whom Oak calls a “frontline activist who supports farm families, rural communities, and those living in poverty in their fight for food sovereignty.” Koberinski was executive director of the Organic Council of Ontario for six years, working to create change from within the corporate-industrial food complex. Currently, she is launching a chapter of Beyond Pesticides in Canada. Beyond Pesticides is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that, according to their website, “works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides.” Koberinski has spoken publicly against the use of GMOs in agriculture.

The moderator is Gail Carlson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Colby College and current Associate Director of the Goldfarb Center. Carlson teaches courses that explore how the environment impacts public health.

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