The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is “one of the world’s largest environmental organizations,” headquartered in New York City. Unlike many NGOs that explicitly denounce crop biotechnology, EDF says that it “does not support or oppose broad categories of biotechnology products, such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), arguing instead that “products resulting from the application of biotechnology …. need to be evaluated for their risks and benefits …. before they are deployed.”
Despite this more nuanced position on biotechnology, EDF was still embroiled in recent controversy surrounding GMOs. One of the group’s contributing scientists, Christopher Portier, served as an “invited specialist” at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015, when the agency determined that the weed killer glyphosate (Bayer’s Roundup) is a “probable carcinogen.” Experts by and large have rejected IARC’s conclusion, and further suggest that Portier’s involvement at the agency created a conflict of interest, since EDF was established to campaign against pesticide use.
Portier was also a paid consultant to lawyers who sued Monsanto following the release of IARC’s review of glyphosate. His deposition in the lawsuit indicated that Portier was in contact with the attorneys two months prior to the release of the IARC monograph, suggesting the outcome of IARC’s deliberations about glyphosate were known in advance.
EDF also argues that Sub-Saharan Africa could benefit from organic farming because “products that can help maximize yields aren’t always available or affordable …. Using organic sources of nutrients …. along with non-chemical pest and weed control methods can significantly boost crops.” Experts, in contrast, suggest that crop biotechnology can help farmers in the developing world substantially increase their crop yields.
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