TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The biotech and chemical company Monsanto is no longer asking Pima County to help it get a tax break but it's still moving ahead with plans to build a seven acre greenhouse near Marana where it will experiment with genetically modified crops.
Genetically modified organisms, GMOs for short, are one of the main reasons there has been a lot of opposition to Monsanto operating in Pima County.
Opponents say they are unnatural and unhealthy. Advocates say GMOs are safe and help grow more food on less land.
Monsanto is a leader in developing genetically modified crops and promoting their use around the world.
Monsanto says by editing the genetics of plants they can add beneficial traits so the plants better resist disease and insects, require less pesticide and produce more food per acre. The company asserts that its products are safe.
Monsanto says the greenhouse it plans to build near Marana will further that research. But opponents fear the company's crops and the chemicals used to grow them.
Stephanie Stark is a doctor who specializes in natural medicine. She says genetically modified crops are unnatural, unhealthy and hard to avoid.
"I have in particular one patient that when she gets GMO corn or soy she breaks out in full body wide hives and has to go to the ER.”
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: “And regular corn or soy is okay?”
Dr Stark: If it's not genetically modified she's okay with it; so there's a component in there she's not able to tolerate."
Douglas Taren of UA's Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health sees GMO's as generally positive. He says we've been eating lots of GMO foods for 10 or 15 years with no connection to deaths or higher cancer rates but a strong connection to better health.
"Especially what we've seen in Africa. We've seen orange flesh sweet potatoes increasing Vitamin A status. We've seen orange, yellow corn maize they have a lot more beta carotene in it. That is also improving Vitamin A status. We're seeing some plants that are more efficient at absorbing zinc from the soil to prevent zinc deficiency."
But the GMO issue is full of conflicting claims. Opponents and advocates both say they can back up their views.