From testimony Tuesday by R. James Cook, a plant pathologist at Washington State University, before the House Science subcommittee on basic research:

Genetic modification of plants for food, agriculture and the environment is nothing new. In the United States, for example, we grow some 200 different crops, nearly all of which were imported as alien species over the past two to three centuries and then genetically modified by plant breeding to make them more adapted to our farming conditions, resistant to local pests and diseases and accepted by U.S consumers and our foreign customers. . . .

The use of plants as crops to produce food, fiber and other products has an amazing record of environmental safety. . . . I am not aware of a crop plant having become an invasive weed because of plant breeding. In fact, just the opposite occurs: through plant breeding and selection, wild plants with their tendency to be weeds are made into high-yielding crop plants increasingly more dependent for their survival on human nurturing. . . .

Of the risks to the environment and our natural resource base that have been associated with crop plants, virtually all are the consequence of the management practices needed to grow our crops. This includes the soil deterioration, erosion, and demise of earth worm populations because of tillage used to form a seedbed and control weeds; and the effects of pesticides on nontarget organisms. . . . Genetic modification of crop plants is the best route to mitigation of these environmental impacts.