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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    BIO5 set to open tomorrow

    With the opening of the BIO5 Institute set for tomorrow, students and local activists gathered to discuss concerns with biotechnology and its effects on the economy and local agriculture last night.

    Brian Marks, a geography and regional development graduate student who organized the event, said he is mostly concerned with biotechnology in regards to the genetic modification of foods that could allow corporations to sell produce below cost value, effectively putting local farmers out of business.

    “”The BIO5 Institute has objectives to feed the hungry, save the environment and cure disease,”” Marks said. “”We are concerned about the world’s problems, and many actions should be made to resolve them, but this is not the way to go about it.””

    Funded by the Graduate and Professional Student Council, the event featured a group on social aspects of biotechnology that addressed its concerns to about 100 students, professors and biologists.

    Teresa Leal, guest speaker and a member of the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, said big corporations have a history of taking advantage of products.

    “”There is a lot of secrecy involved also, so we must try to simplify and bring information into the open so we can balance our community awareness with their technology,”” Leal said.

    Cassava, a carbohydrate used primarily for food in Africa, is also of particular interest because biologists and corporations are attempting to develop it into a type of ethanol, Marks said.

    “”It’s just not a good thing for a source of human nutrition to turn into an industrial material,”” Marks added.

    David Galbraith, a plant sciences professor and member of the BIO5 Institute, said he thinks biotechnology is necessary in order to meet the demands of a growing, hungry global population.

    “”We are living in a world that is running out of resources,”” Galbraith said. “”Anything we can do to help the population survive is applicable.””

    In regards to cassava, Galbraith said the main interest of BIO5 members who work with the product is to improve yields and help the carbohydrate resist viral infections.

    “”I think (biotechnology) is controversial mostly in countries where the population is well-fed,”” Galbraith said.

    Emma Jeffries, a women’s studies senior, said she attended the discussion last night to lend her support in the criticism of biologically engineered produce.

    “”I believe there is a sense of urgency in attending and mobilizing people to actively question the authorities that dictate global food security and safety,”” Jeffries said. “”Where does your food come from, and who are you stepping on to get it?””

    Food is life, but the ongoing pattern where people see food as a commodity and not as an element of life could have devastating effects, said guest speaker Carlos Marentes, director of the Border Agricultural Workers Project based in El Paso, Texas.

    “”When I give my grandchildren an apple, we wash it off first because we’re worried about chemicals,”” Marentes said. “”Should we also be concerned about a watermelon with no seeds?””

    The BIO5 Institute is a collaborative bioresearch institute that brings together scientists from medicine, pharmacy, basic science and engineering. Its dedication ceremony will be held tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., with registration beginning at 1 p.m.

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