Genetically Modified crops - GMOs – are not popular with organic shoppers and anyone else obsessed with the naturalistic fallacy. When program topics at a food conference include "Enforcing the consumer’s right to be stupid", you can be sure they are not talking about raw milk. Wednesday, April 9th, Queen's University Belfast will see the Food Integrity and Traceability Conference - ASSET 2014 - take place.

ASSET 2014 exists to criticize anything they believe is a threat to the integrity of the food chain and is organized by Queen's Institute for Global Food Security and safefood. They have two pro-GMO people against two people who are anti-GMO, as if those are equal positions. It's like having two UFO believers on a panel with astrophysicists and declaring it balanced.

The debate will feature Owen Brennan, Chief Executive of Devenish Group, the Belfast-based global agri-technology company and Professor Klaus Ammann from the University of Bern, against Dr. John Fagan, Chief Executive of Annapurna Global Inc, a vegetarian advocate who has long insisted that all GM foods are unsafe by default and should be banned immediately, and Dr. Michael Antoniou of King's College London, one of the few in the science community to defend the widely discredited anti-GMO study by Gilles-Eric Séralini. The debate will be chaired by Irish media personality Ella McSweeney, host of RTE's Ear to the Ground.

This is a big topic in Northern Ireland. 11 percent of the population claims on surveys that they check food labels for information on genetic modification. That doesn't sound like much, though it is a lot more percentage-wise than the 7 percent of Americans that care, but for them it is also far more than the 3 percent who check for organic content and 2 percent who check for allergy advice.

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's, said,  "Genetically Modified essentially means altering the genetic make-up of plants and crop in the laboratory, by removing or adding genes to the plant's DNA to give it a new characteristic. It can be used to increase productivity, to make crops more resistant to disease, or to enable plants to survive in hostile environments. While some people argue it opens the door to a more plentiful, sustainable and cheaper food supply, others contest that nature should not be interfered with and that we can't be sure of its effects on farm animals, humans and other plant and wildlife. 

"As pressure continues to grow on governments, food producers and scientists to provide the world's growing population with a sustainable, safe and secure supply of high quality food, the GM debate looks set to continue well into the 21st century. Today, Queen's will be at the center of that debate and I look forward to what promises to be a lively, robust and highly interactive discussion."