Nina Fedoroff is currently serving as the President-Elect of the American Association for Advancement of Science, a position she has held since 2011. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1942, Fedoroff holds a dual degree in chemistry and biology from Syracuse University (1966) and a PhD in Molecular Biology from Rockefeller University (1972). Following her dissertation, she conducted research at the University of California in LA, the Carnegie Institute, and Johns Hopkins University. In 1995 she joined the faculty of Pennsylvania State University as Professor of Life Sciences. During this period she also served as the Director of the Biotechnology Institute and directed the first Life Sciences Consortium. In 2003 she became a member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute. She is a 2006 National Medal of Science laureate. She received an honorary doctorate from the Rockefeller University in 2008. Fedoroff served as the Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State and to the Administrator of the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington DC from 2007 to 2010. In addition to her post at AAAS, Fedoroff is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia.
Books – In addition to appearing in numerous academic journals, she has authored two books on genetic engineering: “Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View on Genetically Modified Food” and “The Dynamic Genome: Barbara Mclintock’s Ideas in the Century of Genetics.”
Has served on the board of – International Science Foundation and International Scientific Advisory Board of the Englehardt Institute of Molecular Biology, Science Steering Committee of the Santa Fe Institute, Evogene, Sigma-Aldrich, Council of the National Academy of Sciences, Genetics Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Science, BIOSIS, and the National Science Board. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, the International Academy of Food Science and Technology and the National Academy of Sciences.
“Monsanto and the other big ag-biotech companies have developed reliable, biologically insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant commodity crops that benefit people, farmers and the environment, and are nutritionally identical to their non-GM counterparts.”
“If the popular mythology about farmer suicides, tumors and toxicity had an ounce of truth to it, these companies would long since have gone out of business. Instead, they’re taking more market share every year. There's a mismatch between mythology and reality. Maybe it's worth remembering that technology vilification is about as old as technology itself. What's new is electronic gossip and the proliferation of organizations that peddle such gossip for a living.”
“There are all kinds of things that are either in the pipeline or in development that could improve sustainability – and many, many more that could be if we could dismantle the regulatory thicket that is choking it off”.
“ . . . instead of promoting the development of genetically modified organisms for environmental applications, the Government is creating legal obstacles. Instead of assembling scientists with relevant expertise to figure out what organisms and what genetic modifications do and do not need to be regulated, we're behaving as if we knew nothing.
Instead of calling on a decade of experience with transferring genes between organisms and centuries of experiments with genetically modified organisms, we proceed as if genetic engineering were brand new, as if every genetically modified organism were potentially hazardous.”
Nina Fedoroff has been a fervent advocate for the global proliferation of GM (genetically modified) foods throughout her career. As a professor, former Science & Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State, and prominent figure in the bio-tech industry, she has touted the pro-GM agenda in the public and private spheres.
When Fedoroff stepped into her appointment at State in 2007, she was already affiliated with two agricultural bio-tech firms – Evogene and Sigma-Aldrich – that provide services to companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. Throughout her tenure at State she met with government officials from various countries (including Ukraine, India, France, and Brazil) where she encouraged further bio-tech research and policy initiatives. In a March 2009 meeting between Fedoroff and Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Jacques Diouf, she made clear “ . . . that the FAO could help bridge the gap between international and private sector research work, and could be an important promoter of biotechnology to address climate adaptation.” On more than one occasion she mentioned pushing bio-tech into Africa, noting in a meeting with the Secretary of State of Ecology in France, Chantal Jouanno, that “Africa is the real focus of GMO research.”
Federoff has frequently denounced the credibility of anti-GM activists, referring to widespread criticism of GMOs as “urban myths” and “electronic gossip.” She has lead the scientific community in criticizing the various regulatory bodies involved in GM food, writing in 2011 to Lisa Jackson that “ . . . it is astonishing that the EPA would attempt such an expansion of its regulatory activity in this sphere . . . None of the hypothetical risks articulated at the dawn of this era has been realized and caused new environmental problems.” That same year she co-wrote an article in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal with Robert Haselkorn and Bruce Chassy entitled “EPA's Proposed Biotech Policy Turns a Deaf Ear to Science.” This is the same Bruce Chassy (Food Science professor at University of Illinois) who compares the failure to distribute genetically modified Golden Rice to people with VAD (vitamin A deficiency) to the Holocaust. Fedoroff recommended in a 2013 Science Direct op-ed, “if you are mired in the urban myths that proliferate around GM crops, you will find some rational analysis on Bruce Chassy[’s] . . . excellent website.”